This is a guest post by Zak.
Separate from, but an important component of, self-esteem, self-efficacy allows ourselves to set goals, plan into the future, and see those goals as possible achievements.
High self-efficacy individuals say yes to projects and ambitions that play into their values and goals. They are the types of people who always seem to be moving forward, even after experiencing failures. They see themselves as effective at what they do and at least capable enough of achieving goals to at least go after them.
Low self-efficacy people suffer from seeing themselves as incapable of setting and achieving ambitions and improving themselves over time into the future. If you’ve ever heard anybody say, “I can’t do this,” when thinking of difficult or ambitious tasks in front of them — even tasks like getting married, having a happy family, or completing community projects — you have witnessed low self-efficacy in action.
Self-efficacy can be developed over time through a process similar to strength training. Just as muscle strength is build through increasing starting with easy loads and gradually increasing those loads as strength increases, self-efficacy is built through starting with easy tasks and gradually increasing the difficulty of the tasks at hand. You build self-efficacy by doing harder stuff.
Here are three habits I built with clients as interventions to build self-efficacy. These are the building blocks to allow them to set more ambitious goals and become who they are around those goals.
Write Regularly and Publish Your Writing
Hannah is an advocate for the usefulness of journaling activities and programs and for good reason. Writing and journaling programs (particularly around introspection and goal setting) have measurably positive results for participants.
The positive effects of regular writing exercises go beyond writing for oneself. Writing openly and publicly creates a following, engages a community, and provides an opportunity for a relatively quick constructive feedback loop while simultaneously making use the knowledge one already possesses.
A few years ago, when I first started experimenting on self-interventions to increase self-efficacy and conscientiousness, I set out to write once a day upon receiving a challenge from a friend whom I considered high-efficacy.
Many days, I wrote nothing more than a mishmash of thoughts at the front of my mind or a poem. Other days, however, I developed long pieces on the nature of education or reviews of education books I read at the time. The end-result was well over 30,000 words in content at the end of the month and minor expert-status in the field of alternative education.
Through the process, I watched my writing improve and developed the rapport and confidence to write more authoritative pieces, allowing my content to be promoted to a wider audience.
Consider a similar challenge for yourself. Write once a day, three times a week, or once a week for a month. Write about those things which you know.
If you need prompts, consider setting up an account on Quora and answering questions about your job or field of study.
Increase Your Physical Fitness through Strength Training
Improving your physical fitness shows yourself that, if you can set a goal, research how to achieve that goal, schedule in execution of that goal, and follow through on that execution, you are capable of literal physical transformations.
Consider the inverse: failure to lose weight, gain weight, or gain strength are major contention points around depression and isolation. Individuals who see themselves as incapable of basic physical improvement often fail to see additional opportunities due to these limitations.
Much of self-image is literally self-image (i.e,, what the individual sees in the mirror every day), so making reasonable improvements on physical fitness tends to have a cascading effect for self-efficacy. I have noticed this to be especially true of my clients who are young men. For them to gain or lose ten pounds of weight is often the first step towards landing a promotion, improving their grades, and figuring out what they want to do with their lives.
Take Control of Your Schedule and Your Day
A feeling of control over one’s life and one’s future emerges at the center of self-efficacy. As such, feeling at the mercy of the day or other people’s schedules undermines the individual’s ability to set his own plans and execute on those.
Many people allow their schedules to form reactively to the demands of the day and of other people’s schedules. Phone calls, meetings, and obligatory commute time fills the schedule before time dedicated to the highest-payoff activities. Rarely are the highest-payoff activities these obligatory commitments and often do these get in the way of writing time, development time, or the other kinds of work that are required to make substantive progress on goals.
Getting out of reactivity mode in scheduling your day allows you to take a proactive stance towards crafting not just your workday and your week but also your goals and your plans to create these goals. Use a system to do this so that you do not have to rely on memory or willpower at the beginning of each day.
One such system is Organize Tomorrow Today from the book of the same name.
Do not depend on the mercy of others’ schedules to create proactive efficacy in your day. Before you go to bed, identify the highest-value activity you must complete tomorrow and schedule it into your calendar of choice.
Schedule meetings and calls around that activity, not the other way around. Try to schedule it as early in the day as possible so that it does not get pushed down the calendar when fires pop up or your psychological willpower is limited. Schedule in at least two more high-payoff activities in the remaining space. Higher-priority activities come earlier in the day.
Making these interventions into habits builds self-efficacy and makes engaging in other activities like ambitious goal-setting and pursuing those goals easier. Developing that self-efficacy is the first step towards building a flourishing and healthy future.
Zak Slayback is an entrepreneur, writer, and speaker focusing on education and professional development. He writes at ZakSlayback.com and is the author of the forthcoming book, How to Get Ahead When You Have Nothing to Offer.
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