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Control Your Life: Self-Efficacy at Work and Home

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Do you take good care of your health? Do you feel you are helpless or do you keep going despite obstacles? Do you enjoy or avoid challenges? Are you strongly influenced by social norms or by perceived risk in your choices? Your responses are affected one way or another by your current self-efficacy.

Self-efficacy as a psychological idea originated with Dr. Albert Bandura, whom many currently consider the greatest living psychologist. The American Psychological Association defines self-efficacy as your ability to “exert control over [your] motivation, behavior, and social environment.” Self-efficacy helps you choose, set, and dedicate yourself to your goals—and feel capable of reaching them.

What Influences Self-Efficacy?

The old joke tells us: “if you can keep your head when everyone else around you loses theirs, you don’t understand the situation.” But just maybe the truth is that you have more self-efficacy, more belief in your power to change and control the situation. The following are the chief influences upon self-efficacy:

  • Accomplishment. Self-efficacy increases throughout your life every time you accomplish a task, from rolling over for the first time through landing your first job and beyond.
  • Role models. If other people like you reach a goal, it seems more attainable. If other people manage their behavior in trying circumstances or crises, you are more likely to manage your own.
  • Social pressures. If you are around people who tear you down and think negatively, so will you. However, if you surround yourself with people who believe in you and your capabilities, you will strive to prove them right. Encouragement works.
  • Emotional control. Stress reduces your self-efficacy and convinces you that situations are beyond your control, too overwhelming to deal with, or resistant to any amount of gritty stick-to-itiveness. When you use SMaRT techniques to control your stress and increase your resilience, you improve your self-efficacy.


How Can You Improve Your Own Self-Efficacy?

A sense of accomplishment is important to self-efficacy and impossible to gain if you merely rest on the successes you have had before and never expand your skills or knowledge. Challenge yourself to experience new roles, skills, problems, and expectations. Trust in your ability to learn and grow.

However, you should shape your goals to take advantage of your existing strengths, build upon past successes, and strive toward new ones. Note the resources or skills you may lack and define your intermediate goals by the need to acquire them.

Taking one small step per day keeps you on track and experiencing success. Avoid comparing your progress with anyone else’s; instead, celebrate the achievement of each step.

Look for a coach or mentor who can give you clear, objective feedback. A mentor can serve as a role model in self-efficacy, especially someone who has achieved in an area where your interests lie. You may have separate coaches or mentors for your professional and personal life, depending on your goals in each area.

Surround yourself with people who believe in you—and in themselves. People who have taken control of themselves or found a way to manage a difficult situation are also role models. Just as important, they will support your own efforts, knowing the importance of encouragement and a support system.

Work on the SMaRT techniques of positive thinking, visualization, and gratitude to help move you out of a situation where you may feel the onset of low resilience, depression, or stress. No one can maintain high levels of self-efficacy all the time; everyone has a breaking point. However, you can prepare yourself with the skills to restore your self-efficacy. If you believe in a good outcome, it is more likely to come about.

Be self-aware. Certain situations, people, and tasks will stress you more than others. Some are challenges you may want to meet. Others are better avoided because they undermine your chances of success, distract you from your goal, or actively interfere with your ability to make progress. You may regularly blame yourself for failure, strive for impossible and stressful goals, or relax into the familiar but boring. By examining those patterns, you can anticipate and mitigate their effect on your self-efficacy.

TIP: As you design a roadmap toward your goals, you are also plotting the growth of your self-efficiency.


How Can You Improve Your Team’s Self-Efficacy?

Because self-efficacy has a strong social component, the standards set by team rules, clearly defined roles, and accountability keep everyone on board. One of those standards should be preferring encouragement over finger-pointing and negativity; the self-efficacy of individual team members will rise as they are encouraged to improve.

Give your team a sense of accomplishment; they should, in any case, be sharing in decision making and problem-solving. Once your team knows what needs to be accomplished and when, let them decide the “how”—micromanaging destroys self-efficacy. Build their self-efficacy by delegating tasks and giving them experience in more and more complex roles. Acknowledge and celebrate team and individual successes.

Redefine failure as a learning process. Challenge the team to discover what they learned from failure as well as from success. Determine what you can salvage, as a team, from minor setbacks along the way.

Watch out for signs of stress. Stress in any one team member affects the others sooner or later. Your emotional intelligence will guide you, as will your knowledge of SMaRT stress fundamentals.

Look for patterns. When you know what stresses an individual team member, try to avoid those situations or to remove that individual from the stressful task or role. Do not repeatedly send someone into situations where they are doomed to fail—they need the right skills, attitude, preparation, and support first. At the same time, when you see a team member constantly limiting themselves to the same role and same tasks, challenge them to stretch their capabilities and their dreams.

TIP: By setting up the team to support each other, you produce role models on the team who can share the burden of keeping everyone motivated, and you create a support group for yourself as well.

Key Takeaways

You are your team develop self-efficacy when you create opportunities for accomplishment, look for role models, find the encouragement you need, and exercise emotional control through SMaRT techniques of mindfulness, resiliency, and self-awareness.

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