What is Self-Efficacy and How to Improve Yours

I won’t 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 investigate 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 acting 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 intact no matter what, you will find a way to get what you want.

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 benchmark to compare it with!
    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 it’s 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.

  1. 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?

The thing about self-efficacy is that if you lack it, then your self-confidence takes a nosedive. While most of us 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.

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?

  1. 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. We all have a space, physical and mental, where we are most comfortable. No matter how successful you are or how outgoing you are. Some of us are very good at hiding these spaces from ourselves and it takes a lot of introspection to ‘find’ that space within ourselves.

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 work out which would work best for you. 

  1. 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 least 10 minutes to write down on paper all 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.

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.

  1. 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 anymore.

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. Perhaps try singing your favourite song in your head when you are with such and energy vampire or imagine your perfect holiday. Anything that will remind you of the beautiful life you have and want.

Know how you will keep other people’s negativity out of your 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.

  1. 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. 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. They set their ultimate goal and worked every day towards it.

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 daydreaming. Daydreaming allows us to play with our thoughts and explore the seemingly impossible. Listen out for the quality of your daydreaming and if it’s helping you explore your true potential. This then enables you to clearly define what you want.

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 can see the 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.

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.”

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