The Power of Self-Efficacy…

By Neil Soneson, August 20, 2018

What is self-efficacy? Firstly, efficacy means the capacity for producing a desired result or effect; therefore self-efficacy means how capable a person thinks they are to do something and how effective they will be.  This self-emotion is similar to self-esteem and self-confidence which are basically how someone feels about themselves in general. Self-efficacy is different because it is more goal oriented and requires a specific context for the person to think about themselves in. Climbing is a great example of this. Many people have heard of Mt. Everest and know it is the tallest mountain in the world. Most people only dream of climbing the peak, either because they don’t think they are capable or because it seems too big of an objective. The same people who have low self-efficacy for climbing Everest may have high self-efficacy when thinking about hiking up their local foothills. The power of self-efficacy is centered around knowing yourself and truly believing that you can do what you think you can do, as well as evaluating the situation and developing objective reasons for why you believe in yourself.

When I go rock climbing I usually look for new routes that fit my climbing style and that I feel like I will be able to climb effectively.  In selecting a route that I want to climb I consider the obvious features that I would be climbing. I have high self-efficacy when climbing opposing features like a dihedral corner or a chimney system. This is because I feel confident in the muscles of my lower body and my ability to use technical footwork in order to conserve energy. In contrast I have low self-efficacy when faced with a steep or overhanging section of rock because I know it will require more strength and endurance in my upper body. I am also less confident in my ability to figure out the best technique to use because of my lack of experience on terrain that steep.  There are objective reasons for why I feel I will or will not be efficacious in climbing different types of terrain and different types of rock. This is the essence of what self-efficacy is all about and it applies to everything we do!

It is amazing how powerful this concept can be for people once they understand how it works. Humanist psychologists have determined that self-efficacy is the main driver for behavior change. If you want to change your behavior in any way, whether that be adopting a new behavior or trying to reduce another behavior, self-efficacy has to change. If you want to start exercising more, improve your diet, or simply get better sleep, self-efficacy is the way we make decisions on how we are going to change and what will be most effective. Some people know themselves really well and will be able to choose strategies that fit their lifestyle, such as planning and preparing meals for the week ahead of time.  Other people may need more continuous support from people in their life in order to effectively make a change, like having a partner to cook meals with every night. And some people simply do not know what would work for them and they may need to learn through trial and error.  The key to being successful though is deciding whether or not you believe you will be successful and why.  Believing in yourself is not enough, it is crucial to assess the situation and develop reasons for why you feel efficacious or not.

In conclusion, I believe that we have the power to challenge ourselves on a deeper level by understanding our self-efficacy in different parts of our lives.  It is more than knowing what you are good at and not so good at; it is knowing what you maybe able to do if you push yourself a little further than you have ever been before.  When you decide to challenge yourself and try something you have never done before, you will acting upon your self-efficacy and promoting personal growth.  It truly is amazing to surprise yourself and think, “Wow, I actually did it!  Now what’s next?”


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