Advertising
Advertising

Published on July 3, 2019

What Is Self Efficacy and How to Improve Yours

What Is Self Efficacy and How to Improve Yours

I wont lie Self efficacy is not a word I usually use, but when I looked it up to check its true meaning, I was happy to see that it’s basically what I do for a living.

How had I missed that!

Self efficacy according to the Oxford English Dictionary says:

• A personal power or capacity to produce an intended effect (rare).
• A person’s belief in his or her ability to effect change in his or her life, achieve goals, or produce desired results.

So can you say you truly believe you will get the results you want?

Do you have faith and trust that you are going to get where you want to go?

And why does it even matter?

In this article, we will look into the definition of self efficacy and how you can improve yours.

What Is Self Efficacy?

Let’s start by looking at 5 signs that you don’t have the right level of self efficacy.

  • You stop taking action and procrastinate over things.
  • You don’t like to set goals.
  • You fear failing.
  • Your internal dialogue is always moaning at you.
  • You don’t do anything about the things you hate in your life.

Self efficacy is really about what you believe. And when you appreciate how powerfully your beliefs impact on your actions and results in every area of life, it can be enough to make you never want to think again!

Improving your self efficacy is critically important to your success, happiness and even your health. If you don’t believe it is going to work, why would you bother to take any action?

Self efficacy also means that even when things go wrong, you still believe it can go well. As Michael J. Fox said,

“One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.”

He’s right, when your self esteem and self respect remain in tact no matter what, you will find a way to get what you want.

Advertising

A lack of self efficacy can be the difference between failure and success. Take the client I am working with at the moment, (I’ve their permission to talk about them) who wanted to work with me to grow their business.

We started by looking at their strategies and plans, and even their goals, but ultimately the biggest Eurekas that have led to the biggest sales and successes came from boosting what they thought about themselves:

  • How can a thought make you sell more?
  • How can a thought help you get your dream job?
  • How can what you think impact on your time management?

Scary, right?

How to Improve Your Self Efficacy

So now we are starting to see why self efficacy is so important for us all, how do we improve it?

1. Check What You Currently Think

It’s no good improving something unless you have a bench mark to compare it with!

So ask yourself honestly on a scale of 1 to 10 these questions (10 being awesome and 1 being awful);

  • How much do you believe in your ability to get the result you want?
  • How much do you believe people respect you?
  • How likely are you to get where you want in life?

You don’t need to be scoring 10 across the board, however, if you gave yourself consistently low scores, then the key to being more successful could lie in improving your self efficacy.

It’s worth remembering a little doubt is good for you. If you score 10 for questions like these, it’s possible that you haven’t really appreciated what is involved or what is going on.

A little healthy doubt is good for you because it means you worry about the outcomes. You want things to go well and you want to apply yourself.

There’s a big difference between being a little nervous about chairing your first meeting (7 out of 10) and being petrified and assuming its going to be the worse experience of your life (1 out of 10).

A little drop in your scores makes you work harder, learn more and practice. All things that mean you then have more control over the result any way.

2. Learn to Love Yourself

You don’t need to go around the streets shouting “Hello, I’m awesome.” However, you do need to internally believe that you are wonderful just the way you are.

A good tester is to say to yourself these sentences (which are highly likely to make you squirm) and see how you feel:

  • I love being me.
  • I’m fabulous.
  • I’m great at what I do.
  • People adore me just the way I am.

Was that an unpleasant experience?

Advertising

The thing about self efficacy is that if you lack it, then your self confidence takes a nose dive. And of all the questions I get asked even more than “how do I make more money” is, “how do I build my confidence?”

While most of understand a lack of confidence can impact on your happiness, health and success – few truly invest in building it up.

Not all dips in confidence are obvious. A lack of confidence does not mean you are shy. Plenty of extroverts lack confidence. It’s not about what’s on the outside it is about what is happening on the inside.

The quickest way for me to build someone’s confidence is to help them see who they really are. It’s only in a coaching session do people really get challenged to notice the facts and not the emotive thoughts and beliefs that tear you down. The reason for this is often because you are on this automatic way of thinking that you’ve developed over many years.

And remember, lots of people who have oodles of confidence in some areas of their life can still feel completely exposed and un-confident in other areas of your life. So watch out for that too.

Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre said,

“I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.”

Challenge how you perceive yourself.

Is it true what you believe or are you holding onto a belief that you feel will keep you safe?

3. Challenge Your Comfort Zones

Comfort zones feel good because we feel safe in them. The issue is when we are not safe but trapped by them.

As with a dip in confidence, it can be hard to spot a comfort zone. Successful people will often tell me they have no comfort zone and then as we work together, it becomes obvious that they have an automatic no thought way of thinking and working; that means they have not pushed themselves in that area for years.

The successful professional speaker who told me that they never picked up the phone because “in their industry,” everything is done via email. Guess what happened when we challenged that!

The point was that through the coaching process, we discovered their self efficacy was taking a heavy hit because they believed that if they phoned people, then they’d say the wrong thing and lose out on the contract – far better to email and be able to pose what you want to say, right?

However, what was happening is that their emails were getting lost in a very busy office. The phone call pushed them out of their comfort zone but with coaching so, they believed in the results. Practised what they would say and knew the outcome they wanted, they were able to confidently make the call and stand out for the right reasons.

Advertising

Challenge your comfort zones. In my experience, some people like to jump out of their comfort zones and do something scary; and others like to break it down and do tiny little moves that get them out of their comfort zone. Look for clues in your past to advise which would work best for you.

4. Get the Evidence Flowing

One of the reasons we lack self efficacy is because we believe things that aren’t true. We don’t want to look at the evidence that says that no matter how scared we are, we can achieve great things. It feels better to hide from the truth – it’s easier right?

Take at leat 10 minutes to write down on paper all of the amazing things you’ve done.(We want evidence.) This is a confidential document. It’s not showing off, it’s giving yourself proof that you have the skills, attributes and tenacity to get the results you want.

I was working with a person who felt they were not reaching their true potential at work. There were some very formidable people in the work place that they felt they could never live up to. Helping them see that they didn’t need to be someone else and that to do that, they needed to get the evidence at the front of their mind. And then, they could push themselves out of the comfort zones and into the goals they aspired to had a massive impact on their results.

Marilyn Monroe said it beautifully,

“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.”

So get the evidence that proves you really are that good.

5. Let Other People Build You up, Not Tear You Down

We all know someone that could sap the joy out of a theme park; and we know why we need to keep them away from us. When you build self efficacy it doesn’t matter who you are around, they can’t hurt you any more.

As you become more aware of how you talk to yourself and how you let other people’s words impact on you, you will be able to keep negative people away.

For one client, every time they were with this happiness vampire, they would in their head sing their favourite song. Their favourite song reminded them of the perfect holiday — sunsets that don’t look real, powdery pink sands and palm tree fronds clacking in the distance. It was hard to get any negative energy into that person’s mind when they sang that song.

Know how you will keep other people’s negativity out of you life and know the people who you can rely on to help you improve your self efficacy.

The good people will help to inspire, motivate and support you to see how awesome you are; and that builds faith in what you can do and achieve.

6. Visionary

Lastly, to really improve your self efficacy, you need to challenge what you want;

  • Are you thinking big enough?
  • Have you set big goals?
  • Have you created a plan of action to get you there?
  • Have you drawn a time line to show what will happen by when?
  • What tiny bite size actions need to happen to make your goals a reality?

I’m often told I’m lucky to have achieved what I have.

Advertising

Really? Luck?

Could it not be a plan?

If you ask anyone that has achieved what they wanted to in life, yes, there was an element of luck but it was far more about the plan of action. I was lucky to have one of the UK’s top non-fiction publishers ask me to write a book, however, I had spent 3 years positioning myself as a thought leader and ensured the content I got out there mirrored the ultimate goal.

Don’t rely on luck to achieve big. Work out what matters to you most and, then plan how you will get there.

And if you are struggling for ideas on what you really want, take a tip from Da Vinci, Steve Jobs and Einstein all who famously believed in day dreaming. Day dreaming allows us to play with our thoughts and explore the seemingly impossible.

Don’t take my word for it. In this Lifehack article, Judith Fleyshgakker explores 10 reasons why day dreaming is good for you.

Listen out for the quality of your day dreaming and if it’s helping you explore your true potential. This then enables you to clearly define what you want.

As I tell my clients, you don’t need to know how you are going to get there but, you do need to start by knowing where you wish to go. Building a plan of action is easier when you know the destination.

And building a destination helps you to break this down into a workable and actionable set of tasks. That way, instead of seeing a monumental task in front of you, you are able to see little steps. This means the ability to believe you will get there is broken down too. If you fail, you’ve not failed at your big goal, you’ve just stumbled on one small action. That’s far easier to come back from.

Final Thoughts

Self efficacy may not be a word that springs to mind when we want to achieve more and be happy with our lives, but ultimately learning how to improve yours could have multiple implications.

As Mark Twain shared,

“The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.”

So take a moment to ask if you are truly comfortable around you. It’s the starting point to achieving what you really want to.

Featured photo credit: Marcelo Matarazzo via unsplash.com

More by this author

Mandie Holgate

Coach, International BEST Selling Author, Speaker & Blogger helping thousands around the world.

Positive and Negative Reinforcement: Which Is More Effective? 13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with Them and Enjoy the Ride How to Make Positive Changes Now (And Start Living a Fulfilling Life) What Is Self Efficacy and How to Improve Yours 6 Types of Fear of Success and How to Overcome Them

Trending in Mental Strength

1 Why Am I Not Happy? 5 Steps to Figure Out the Reason 2 How to Use a 5 Minute Journal to Invest in Your Happiness 3 How Self Doubt Keeps You Stuck (And How to Overcome It) 4 Nothing Makes You Happy: Here’s Why and What to Do 5 How to Not Be Sad When It Feels Like Everything Is Going Wrong

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on August 12, 2019

Why Am I Not Happy? 5 Steps to Figure Out the Reason

Why Am I Not Happy? 5 Steps to Figure Out the Reason

In our diverse world, where everyone wants to stand out from the crowd and has their own opinions just about everything, there is a rather universal idea we all – regardless of age, race, location, gender — embrace…

We all want to be happy.

We want to feel that we matter, are loved, appreciated, problem-free, care-free, and financially secure. And this has become one of the most obsessive quests of our society—to be happy, at all cost, by all means.

Happiness has undisputed benefits—supported by countless studies—to about pretty much everything in our lives—from our mental or physical state, to careers, relationships, finances.

Although the self-help industry is still having a sunshine moment with its advice on how to get to this coveted state, no one (that I’m aware of) has come up with The Magic Potion—that one thing or action or thought—that can make us all content and whole for good.

Of course, we also all are knowledgeable enough to recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. And that it’s often a combination of things that each one of us should intentionally do daily in order to reach that enchanted place where everything is intensely bright and upbeat.

The reason that there are multiple antidotes to feeling gloomy is that there may be a million different explanations and their nuances of why someone is unhappy. It’s pretty much a different cause, path and experience for everyone.

Top this with the “hedonic treadmill” phenomenon[1] —and you end up with an incessant (and rather tiring) pursuit of something that, quite frankly, no one has been able to define in concreate measurable terms.

The second problem with happiness is that all of us become so hung up on the goal itself—that utopian state that we want to get to “one day.”

Naturally, you can spend your whole life waiting for happiness to finally come knocking on your door, hoping, anticipating, existing in perpetual discontent—and the moment may never come.

And then, looking back, you may ask yourself—was I truly that miserable or did I fall a victim of the happiness craze?

That is—how can you know if you are really unhappy, if happiness means different things for everyone, it’s impossible to measure directly, and it’s rather fleeting?

So, let’s start from the beginning— and examine the cause of why you’re unhappy, the symptoms and the treatment.

Symptoms of Unhappiness

According to the wellness site Mind Body Green, some of the most common manifestations you are not happy are:[2]

  • Feeling like you’re not as good as other people
  • Feeling like a victim of circumstances that are beyond your control
  • Feeling like your daily life is meaningless and task-driven
  • Feeling helpless, hopeless, or pessimistic
  • Protecting your heart with steel walls
  • Trying to fit in and belong, but rarely feel like you do
  • Feeling beaten down by the challenges you face in life
  • Feeling depressed, anxious, or chronically worried
  • Feeling like you’re not appreciated enough

If this sounds like you, on a regular day, then you are not a happy fella, my friend.

Reasons for Feeling Unhappy

The most important indication that things are not great (at least in your mind) is the sense of “something missing.” You may not know what it is, but you feel hollow, incomplete. And you are aware that something needs to happen to make you come alive again.

Of course, finding the reason for your woes is vital to prescribing (to yourself) the right steps to make it all better.

Advertising

So, here are some of the most common reasons why you may feel heavy-hearted, or “like the joy has been sucked out of my life.”

Lack of Meaning

Everyone who’s someone in the happiness-advice trade will tell you that this is one of the main causes (of not THE biggest) of feeling blah. Especially relevant for our professional lives, lack of significance can be a dream-downer.

An excellent piece in the New York Times talks about Harvard graduates who make $1.2 million a year in salary, but still feeling miserable and trapped in what they describe as “wasting my life” existence.[3]

Simply put—you may feel unhappy because you need the “Why” in your life, as I also wrote in a previous post How to Get Unstuck in Life and Live a More Fulfilling Life.

Happiness Disruptors

Even perceived problems can feel quite real to many of us. Undeniably, though, any personal, financial, career, physical complications can make your happiness aspirations plummet.

The constellation of all the issues or walls you can run into can be quite vast. For instance, you don’t like the way you look, you don’t make enough money, don’t have any friends or significant other, your health is fragile.

All these can be serious impediments to an undisturbed-joyfulness type of life.

Lack of Self-Esteem and Self-Respect

Few years ago (2003), a paper by the psychologist Roy Baumeister rocked the science world. Titled “Does High Self-Esteem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles?” it presented the idea (supported by research) that self-esteem and happiness are linked.[4]

Specifically, high self-esteem leads to greater happiness.

In addition, according to the famous American author and speaker Gary Vaynerchuk, the main reason people are unhappy is because they lack self-respect—that is, they value others’ opinions above their own. Of course, it makes sense—and surely, it rings true with many of us too.

Personality

Linked to the above is another hindrance to becoming relentlessly upbeat, which may prove slightly challenging to overcome, if even possible—your personality.

Of course, not per the self-help industry which thrives on the assumption that you can, with your own willpower, become a different person altogether. Namely—a much better version of the current you.

But what the Wise Men also tell us is that you are either born to be a silver-lining kind of person or you are not.

You can, of course, work on yourself to start seeing the glass half-full (vs half-empty). But you may never reach the gregariousness of someone who is just born with a more care-free temperament.

Unreasonably High Expectations

Having high expectations of yourself can be beneficial, according to research.[5] It leads to higher performance—a phenomenon called the Pygmalion effect.

Having too high expectations of yourself, though, may be counter-productive. You can run into all slew of mental health issues—depression, self-sabotaging, self-punishment, etc. And it can spill over all areas of your life.

It’s certainly a case for future investigation.

Advertising

Social Trends

It will take perhaps at least few articles to list all the reasons why we can feel unhappy (a book even!).

So, some of the other causes of being disgruntled with your life can be: long hours at work, “always-on” culture bread by the internet, increased screen time,[6] or boredom with one’s life (i.e. lack of excitement).

Addiction to Unhappiness

Apparently, you can also develop an addiction to unhappiness[7] —that is, some people like negative feelings and are “happy to be unhappy.” Rather disturbing, indeed.

Unexplainable Reasons

Or, sometimes, you just can’t put your finger on one thing, or on anything, for this matter—you don’t know for sure what makes you feel unhappy, nor what will make you happy. It feels like it’s everything—your whole life is a mess.

But that’s not the end of the story. The most important questions you should be asking yourself are:

Why? What’s the cause of my unhappiness?

Because you can’t fix it when you don’t know what’s broken, right?

5 Steps You Can Take to Figure Out The Why

So, if you tick most of the symptoms above, it’s very likely that you are not living in Dream-land right now.

Here is my advice on how to find your lumps in the batter.

1. Mull over What “Happy” Means to You

Happiness can take different shapes—hedonic pleasure, life satisfaction, desire fulfillment.[8] All of these—separately or together—can deliver to us sprinkles of joy.

And because our lives are so diverse, the above will translate into different pursuits for each one of us.

For instance, my hedonic weekend happiness means reading a book or writing, while for someone else—it’s socializing, taking a walk, or going on a shopping spree at the mall.

Or, my life satisfaction can be to have a big family and leave a mark in the world this way. For others, it may be going after fame and fortunes. But either way, don’t fall for the society’s “narrative traps”[9]—that a bigger pay check, house, a certain job, person, etc. will give you a never-ending stream of bliss. It won’t, science confirms over and over.

So, once you know what your happiness vision board looks like, you will have a better idea of what’s “missing” in your life.

2. Re-Visit Your Expectations

As I already mentioned, unreasonable expectations you or others have set for yourself can be deterring you from feeling gleeful.

For one thing, aspirations often can become outdated. What you wanted ten or five years ago (or even six months ago) may not be relevant to your situation today and will need to be filed into a mental cabinet.

Another issue is that our culture is putting an exponential pressure on all of us to perform more and better, to try and stretch the 24-hours a day into 30, to chase kudos and recognition. Any outcome that has earned less than the gold is punishable by exclusion for the cool crowd, by receiving less in perks, bonuses, and appreciation even.

Advertising

As a result, anxiety, depression and all their dark friends start creeping into our minds and tint everything else that may be giving us joy and satisfaction.

So, taking periodic audit of your expectations—their validity and importance place on your happiness list, is pivotal to stopping unhappiness spread into your life.

3. Examine Your Way of Thinking

At the heart of the so-called Rational Emotive Behavior Theory (REBT),[10] which was established by the American psychologist Albert Ellis in 1956, is the idea that it’s never the actual event that upsets us.It’s our interpretation and thoughts about it. By inference, changing our thoughts will reduce (and hopefully remove altogether) our anxiety.

Let’s take this a stretch further. Positive (not delusional) thinking has been long proclaimed to be a winner when it comes to mental health. If you find yourself going down the spiral of negative inner dialogue, you must stop yourself immediately. It’s unhappiness trap.

But it’s not easy-breezy, of course, to do such conscious policing all the time. It can become a habit, though, psychologists tell us. We can teach ourselves to quell negativity, and there are many things that can be done: How to Have Happy Thoughts and Train Your Brain to Be Happy

And don’t forget to be grateful. It’s the best happiness shot there is.

4. The Good Old Pros and Cons

Although it may appear to be a less fascinating way to figure out whether you are unhappy or not, the pros-and-cons list has been around for a long time—and it’s still an excellent tool to let you examine things closely, evaluate alternatives and come to satisfactory answers.[11]

Interestingly, as history tells us, this invention is credited to Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century. Notorious for his productivity, he applied the pros-cons exercise to almost everything in his life.

The beauty of the method lies in its simplicity too. So, go back to the drawing board and start penciling down the things that you like and don’t like (make you unhappy) about your life, and the things that you know with certainty to make you happy today.

Of the “things-that-make me-unhappy-about-my-life” subset, have a think what you can do to move these along the continuum—to the brighter side.

You may be surprised to discover that you have much greater say in the building of your own happiness than chance, circumstances or others.

5. Mental Cleansing

Mental health is in the limelight quite often these days. And rightly so.

The way we care about our bodies and minds directly links to many of our life outcomes.

Mental clutter can become a well-being stumbling block. Overthinking, old grudges, past events, can all make it very challenging to feel elevated and content.

Doing a mental cleanse once a month can be the remedy to set yourself on the path to happiness recovery.

Pay a visit to the past to confront your fears, get rid of the people who bring you down, free yourself from any emotional baggage. It will help you silence the bully in your head.

Take a periodic stock of all the things that make you anxious and declutter. Why hold on to the things that you know to bring you grief anyway?

Advertising

Unless you are one of those unhappiness addicts I mentioned above (which calls for a more radical intervention), carrying emotional baggage without doing anything to unload it, is a anti-glee behavior.

Bonus Advice

Finding our Achilles’ heel of happiness can sometimes be a tall order. It takes time, conscious efforts and an honest desire to make it better. It also alludes that we are ready to take the plunge into the self-help territory and take actual steps to improve our situation.

But it’s not a lost cause, the research tells us. It’s possible to make yourself happy on a consistent basis.

Here are few universal suggestions:

One of the things you can do is to inject some meaning back in your life. And the best way to go about this is to flip the narrative. Case in point—the story of John F Kennedy’s visit to NASA in 1962. He ran into a janitor and when asked him what he was doing, he replied: “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”

The happiness guru Gretchen Rubin tells us that there are two major path that lead a more fulfilling life:[12]

One way is through our relationships—having strong bonds and feeling that we belong.

The other route is through developing better self-knowledge—i.e. what things make us us, or glad, or sad. And base our way of living on our own values and goals, not others’.

The feeling that we are not making progress is a definite joy crusher. We should compare wisely, find our passions, and diversify our experiences. These are not magic pills but more so opportunities to make our time here worthwhile and fulfilling.

Final Thoughts

Happiness is notoriously hard to pin down.

There is no one definition of contentment, nor one way to ‘fix’ it. It’s one of those things that you can’t quantify and it’s idiosyncratic.

More and more we hear a murmur from the science world that perhaps the best way to happiness is acceptance—of your failings and shortcomings, of the fact that life is imperfect.

Knowing what makes us disgruntled is, of course, needed to find the right remedy for each one of us. Feeling constantly unhappy is not good and necessitates closer examination.

Finally, beware of the narrative trap that if you are unhappy, there is something wrong with you. It may be normal, for a while at least. Otherwise, how would you appreciate the highlight moments of your life if you don’t see them against the backdrop of the gloomy times?

Or, as the great singer Leonard Cohen tells us:

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

More About Staying Happy

Featured photo credit: Andrew Le via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next