Improving Self-Efficacy or "How to Get Shit Done"

04 October 2021
A picture of a female person with open hair wearing sunglasses looking towards the seaside
By Endi Guza
Steward at Samaṇa

Self-efficacy refers to the belief in our capacity to succeed in life and accomplish our desired goals.

It holds a substantial impact on our disposition to undertake challenging tasks, cope with failure and negative feedback, and set goals for ourselves. The desire to have an impact on the world is part of our human nature, and our levels of self-efficacy determine how much effort we are willing to put into bringing our intentions to life.
A picture of hands through which runs red sand
The desire to have an impact on the world is part of our human nature

How is self-efficacy regulated?

There are four main sources through which feelings of self-efficacy emerge and develop.

The first one is performance accomplishments. This refers to our past experiences related to personal achievements. When we succeed at a certain task, such as winning a math competition, the confidence in our ability to succeed at that task is boosted. We are more likely to believe that we are good at math, therefore we start participating in more competitions and we are more motivated to work on our math skills. The same phenomena, however, may happen with failures; a single failure may severely impact the belief in our ability to succeed at that task again.

The second source of self-efficacy is vicarious learning, which refers to social learning from indirect sources, such as observing someone’s behavior, reading books, watching videos, and so on. A toddler will say “please” and “thank you” because they hear their family members say it. In a similar fashion, having self-efficacious role models has a great influence on our own self-efficacy, as we are more inclined to absorb those positive beliefs about ourselves and adopt self-efficacious behaviors.

The third source of self-efficacy is verbal encouragement, or evaluative feedback. Think about a time during your childhood when someone praised a drawing you made or your athletic skills. At that time, their words might have motivated you to become the next painter or football player. As we grow older, we learn to regulate our reactivity to feedback, but nevertheless, its impact remains substantially significant. Your favorite subjects in high school or university were probably the ones that you felt like you were really good at. If a professor made a remark about how great your contribution to their class is, your confidence in that subject would rocket, and so would the efforts you would put into maintaining that positive feedback constant. Being praised for our performance will enhance the belief that we are able to succeed, and will make us work harder to achieve success.

Lastly, the fourth source of self-efficacy is emotional states. This is related to our self-esteem and core beliefs that we hold about ourselves. People with high self-esteem have a stable sense of self-worth. Having a positive evaluation of ourselves will enhance our belief in our abilities to succeed and perform well in different tasks. Core beliefs, on the other hand, represent assumptions about ourselves that we hold to be true. Statements such as “I am too shy to sing in front of a crowd”; “I am great at telling stories” are core beliefs that we may have internalized since childhood and which guide our decision-making. Having positive core beliefs about ourselves is essential to self-efficacy. For instance, believing that you would be a successful artist will make you dedicate your time and energy to achieving your goal of becoming an artist. Whether you believe or not that you would be good at it, does not really reflect if you are actually good at it; but it will definitely influence the choices you make to accomplish your aims.

How do I put this into practice?

Now you know where the roots of self-efficacy lay. So how do you boost your self-efficacy in practice? The journey takes patience and dedication. You can start with taking a free test with detailed, personalized results to determine how self-efficacious you are.

Consider keeping track of your accomplishments and writing down your goals. Our brains are prone to negativity bias, which means they are wired to recall and focus on failures more than achievements. Take a moment to recall all the goals you have accomplished and write down those that you plan to fulfill in the future.

Another way to enhance your motivation is to watch videos or read stories of people that succeeded in something you are trying to achieve, be it successful students, entrepreneurs, artists, and so on. Notice their positive qualities, behaviors, and approach to achieving their goals. What role models do you think are worth having?

You can also try working on your core beliefs, by first recognizing negative beliefs that you may be holding about yourself. Beliefs such as “I would probably not make it”, “I wouldn’t succeed so I won’t even start”, or “I will fail no matter how hard I try” may be holding you back from working on your goals and achieving them. Try replacing these beliefs with positive ones and continuously remind yourself of their meaning, to eventually internalize them.

Working on your self-efficacy will not only enhance your performance, but also help you set more difficult goals, expend more effort, persist for longer with challenges, and show resilience in the face of adversity. So why not start your quest with Samaṇa or get the latest news via our newsletter?
The information in this article is provided as an information resource only and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult a professional for guidance about a specific condition.