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Last Updated on December 14, 2020

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

More Tips About Building Self-Worth

Featured photo credit: Marcelo Matarazzo via unsplash.com

More by this author

Mandie Holgate

International Coach, Best Selling Author & Speaker inspiring people around the world to success.

How to Control the Uncontrollable In Life 6 Types of Fear of Success (And How to Overcome Them) Self Awareness Is Underrated: Why the Conscious Mind Leads to Happiness 20 Life Coping Skills That Will Help You Stay Strong How to Effectively Set Goals in Life to Get Where You Really Want to Be

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Published on April 15, 2021

How To Be an Optimistic Person When the Odds Are Against You

How To Be an Optimistic Person When the Odds Are Against You

When life gets tough and you are facing big obstacles, it is so hard to be an optimistic person. As we try to deal with these challenges, our feelings tend to be consumed by fear, frustration, and disillusionment. Inertia and indecisiveness overwhelm us, and being optimistic is the last thing we feel like being.

“I think I am going to have to supercharge my optimism to arm myself for the battle ahead.”—Rebecca Bloom

Why Is It Important to Be an Optimist?

Being optimistic is one of the best ways in which you can deal with the hard knocks in life. Having an optimistic outlook on life also has amazing health benefits as well.

Scientific research shows us that staying in a place where we feel fearful and disillusioned—where we have no energy and no hope—is not good for our overall wellbeing.

“Optimism helps people cope with disease[s] and recover from surgery. Even more impressive is the impact of a positive outlook on overall health and longevity. Research tells us that an optimistic outlook early in life can predict better health and a lower rate of death during follow-up periods of 15 to 40 years.”[1]

Your Power of Choice Is Key to Living an Optimistic Life

Although you may not be born a natural optimist, using your power of choice wisely can help you develop an optimistic attitude that will enable you to defy any odds that are against you. You are the only person who has control over whether you want to be optimistic or not! As the Dalai Lama has said, “choose to be optimistic it feels better!”

I love this quote from Neale Donald Walsch as he explains very clearly how the power of choice can be used by you to get the results you want:

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“Therefore, be honest with yourself as to why you are choosing to do a particular thing. Then, do it gladly, knowing that you are always getting to do what you want. The statement “I have no choice” is a lie. You can choose. You simply do not prefer the alternatives available to you, for whatever reason. So you select the outcome that you most prefer.”—Neale Donald Walsch

Being an optimist opens you up to exploring new ideas, new experiences, and new possibilities. It frees you up to consider new options for how you can live your life for the better. It helps you look to the future with hope and positivity.

What Is Optimism?

The definition of optimism, according to Elizabeth Scott MS, is that it is “a mental attitude characterized by hope and confidence in success and a positive future. Optimists are those who expect good things to happen, where pessimists instead predict unfavorable outcomes.”[2]

However, being an optimist does not necessarily mean that you will be able to successfully deal with the challenges of life. Having a positive mindset along with an optimistic outlook enhances your chances to defy the odds and challenges you face in life.

What Is Positive Mindset?

The Oxford dictionary definition of optimism is “hopefulness and confidence about the future or the success of something” while positivity is defined as “the practice of being, or tendency to be positive or optimistic in attitude.”

Positive thinking looks for solutions, whereas negative thinking dwells on the problems and obstacles. Positive thinking is an emotional and mental attitude that focuses on the good and expects results that will benefit you. It’s about anticipating happiness, health, and success—essentially, training yourself to adopt an abundance mindset and cultivate gratitude for your own successes and those of others

Optimism and positive thinking go hand in hand. You can’t be an optimist and not have a positive mindset.

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To defy the odds and sustain an optimistic and positive outlook Gabriele Oettingen, a motivation researcher at New York University and author of Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation, believes that it is not just about having happy thoughts—but it is actually planning for and anticipating those positive outcomes that get us results.

She describes optimism as having positive expectations about the future based on past experiences and positive thinking as wishful dreaming, which is not a bad thing if applied correctly!

She believes that if we apply optimism (which is a personality trait), we inherit with positive thinking (which is a choice we make) what Oettingen calls “mental contrasting,” which is important for motivation and setting in motion unconscious cognitive processes that are important in goal attainment.[3]

3 Strategies on How to Be an Optimistic Person

Applying these 3 strategies will help you to defy the odds you face in life while still being an optimistic person with a positive mindset.

1. Use the WOOP Model

Gabriele Oettingen combined her ideas with those of fellow researcher Peter Gollwitzer, and they came up with a motivation exercise called WOOP.

Using the WOOP Model, you work on goal attainment by applying these 4 steps:[4]

  1. Wishing for something you’d like to achieve.
  2. Imagining a good outcome.
  3. Examining the obstacles that might get in your way.
  4. Coming up with a plan for overcoming those obstacles.

Research results conducted by Gabriele Oettingen have shown that employing WOOP is more successful than positive thinking alone in helping people to fulfill their desired goals.[5]

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Knowing how to activate your positive and optimistic outlook on life to get the results you want is key to you building your resilience to manage the hard knocks and challenges that life throws at you. Having a positive outlook on life takes work and the WOOP model is a framework that you can use to put your goals into action so that you can start to feel good about achieving the goals you set in life.

2. Cultivate a Positive and Optimistic Mindset

Adopting a positive mindset can help us get through difficult times. However, if we are not careful, we can tend to focus on thinking positive thoughts and banishing all negative ones. This can be exhausting and not a realistic way to deal with life’s challenges

I believe that the combination of a positive mindset and an optimistic view of life that is realistic is the secret weapon to successfully dealing with the obstacles and pitfalls we face in life.

Here are 4 things that you could do now that would enable you to grow and sustain a positive and optimistic mindset:

  1. Once a day, share positive feedback with a minimum of three people—work colleague, partner, children, friend, or anyone that you meet on the day. Making other people feel positive has lasting effects on your own life.
  2. Every morning when you wake up and at night just before you go to bed, praise yourself and reflect on all the positive things that happened to you during the day. Keep a journal and note down at least three positive things that you did today or are grateful for.
  3. Imagine a positive future for you – get a journal, and for seven days, write down all the great things you want to happen—tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year! This is the first step to dreaming big with an optimistic outlook on life!
  4. Consider a serious challenge or obstacle you are facing in your life right now and write down at least five possible positive outcomes. This exercise allows you to look at your challenges with an optimistic and positive mindset.

3. Recognize Negative Thinking

When you are dealing with challenging times and it feels like the odds are against you, it is hard to maintain an optimistic outlook on your life. You can’t push away or bury your negative feelings—what you resist will persist.

The best way to be optimistic despite the challenges you are facing is to acknowledge that bad things happen. Ignoring your reality isn’t helpful. Being realistic about your situation is important to you working out how to best work with the difficult situation you are facing. A healthy and realistic outlook of your life is a great way to accept that all you can do is your best and that you will be okay, regardless of the outcome.

When you are thinking negatively, take a moment to assess how realistic your thoughts are. Reframe your negative thoughts into more realistic statements that can help you maintain an optimistic view of the future and potential solutions.

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Final Thoughts

As an optimist, you believe in hope, opportunities, and a brighter future. Choosing to be an optimist is a choice that comes with surprising benefits. Scientific research has shown that an optimistic and positive view of life allows you to live a healthier and happy life, despite the odds that are against you![6] When you are trying to be optimistic, especially when the odds are against you, having a positive thinking mindset is a secret ingredient to you successfully riding that rollercoaster of life!

Optimism and positive thinking go hand in hand. Positive thinking looks for solutions, whereas negative thinking dwells on the problems and obstacles. There is no doubt that the more optimistic you are about life the happier you will be.

Applying the three strategies above will help you to remain an optimist while successfully navigating your way through the challenges and tough times in your life.

“True hopefulness and optimism are what leads one to dare. It is also what lifts one back up to dare again after a failed attempt.”—Bibi Bourelly

More Tips on Being More Positive

Featured photo credit: Hudson Hintze via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Health Publishing: Optimism and your health
[2] VeryWellMind: What Is Optimism?
[3] Positive Psychology: What Is Mental Contrasting and How to Benefit From It?
[4] WOOP: What is WOOP?
[5] Greater Good Magazine: Can Positive Thinking Really Make Dreams Come True?
[6] Harvard Health Publishing: Optimism and your health

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