An axiom: Setting goals is one of the most necessary steps to effectuating change in your life.
As most of us know, though, it is often quite difficult just to take that first step and make the commitment.
Why is that? Ask yourself these questions:
• Is some particular reason or thing stopping you from taking those first steps on the path to achieving your desired goals?
• Is it just a matter of procrastinating so that you are putting off doing what you know needs to be done?
• Are you worried about the unknown and that maybe there is something you can’t see? Are there missing ingredients?
• Are you worried that perhaps you are not on the right path with the right goals?
• Are you concerned about your follow-through motivation and self-discipline?
Yes, that is correct; motivation and self-discipline are on the list because they are often are absent. However, there is another ingredient that you frequently are not aware is missing. The missing ingredient is high self-efficacy. Lack of high self-efficacy is the most common obstacle I see in working with clients.
What is self-efficacy?
Self-efficacy refers to the strength of your belief in your ability to achieve goals. In other words, does your inner self truly believe that you can accomplish what you want? A lack of self-efficacy can lead to a pattern of dark, hidden, normalizing behaviors, and therefore to the abandonment of the pursuit of desired goals. High self-efficacy, on the other hand, means that you have the ability to take control of your life and be the master of your own destiny. If you have low self-efficacy, you just don’t believe that you can achieve your dreams. Instead, you fail to act and thus consign yourself to a mediocre life without achieving your full potential.
Look for an achievable goal. Setting unrealistic goals doesn’t take you to the pinnacle of self-actualization. Realizing your full potential equals self-actualization, which is the highest component of well-being. That being the case, a lack of self-efficacy is one of the biggest roadblocks to your happiness.
Often we talk about self-esteem and self-efficacy in the same breath. However, although they are both deeply rooted in your childhood and both impact your self-confidence in your abilities, there is a decided difference. Self-esteem is a realistic respect for your ability to achieve and thrive in life, while self-efficacy is how you feel about your ability to function in different situations. You may have healthy self-esteem (I could do it if I wanted to) but low self-efficacy (I probably don’t want it enough to complete it).
High self-efficacy is the optimistic strength of your belief in your ability to complete tasks and produce desired outcomes.
Tired of hearing about the habits of successful people? Me, too. Instead, let’s talk about the habits of unsuccessful people. The main habit of the unsuccessful clients I coach is a continuing exhibition of low self-efficacy. As I stated above, low self-efficacy, or a lack of confidence in the ability to produce and follow through to desired outcomes, is one of the main causes of a lack of success.
According to a saying that has been attributed to many different brilliant figure, “Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.”
By increasing and mastering your self-efficacy, you allow yourself to succeed in life by staying motivated, committed and optimistic about following through without prematurely giving up on achieving your reasonable goals and adjusting your destiny.
So, how does one increase self-efficacy?
When you are aware that you set unrealistic goals, your subconscious can say to you, “That goal is not realistic, why even try?”
A common way to break through is to set reasonable, achievable goals. For example, “I will lose thirty pounds by Christmas” may totally unreachable, while “I will lose one pound this week and then set a new goal for next week” is something you can achieve, and doing so will be a confidence builder for the future. Your goals must be not only realistic to begin with but also constantly readjusted to account for what happens as you go along. This is what I mean by using your self-efficacy in order to change your self-confidence about your own ability and follow-through.
You need to remember what Henry Ford reportedly said, “whether you believe you can or you can’t, you are right.” Make yourself right by believing you can, not that you can’t. By making your goals reachable and specific — and using self-efficacy as fuel to reach them — you will increase your self-confidence and bring success to your life. It is especially important to pay special attention to the self-efficacy part of this formula, because it is only when you transform your big goals into reachable components that you can move forward in a logical and efficient way.
Make sure your efficacy beliefs are in line with your goals and not working against you.
This article was originally published in Forbes.
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