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Using Self-Efficacy to Increase Your Wellness Mindset

Dr. Allison Brager
Dr. Allison Brager
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In writing this blog about self-efficacy, I am presently undergoing my own experience with bettering my self-efficacy. Every few years, the military makes its officers advance their professional development and personal growth on the glide path to being promoted.

Because it is that time for me, I have spent the last several weeks away from my home, family, and familiar environment and across the country immersed in how to be more self-efficacious with hundreds of officers whom I just met.

Self-efficacy does not have to be this extreme, as in my case, but there are many principles and practices that I have learned in the last few weeks that will certainly refine the principles and practices of self-efficacy that I have already developed as a leader, scientist, and elite athlete to-date.

Self-Efficacy is thoroughly discussed in chapter 29 (wellness coaching theory) of the NASM Wellness Certification course

What is Self-Efficacy?

Self-efficacy is defined by experts in psychology as the confidence an individual has in their ability to gain and maintain control over their: (a) emotions - such as motivation; (b) behavior - such as the ability to stay visibly calm; and (c) social environment - such as being an active listener (per the theory of Dr. Albert Bandura, the first to acknowledge and define self-efficacy).

Why is It Important?

Self-efficacy is important because it is what directly drives our confidence in our abilities and how we project our confidence onto others. The relationship between self-efficacy and competence is also bidirectional; both too little and too much can be equally as detrimental. This is known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Think of self-efficacy this way. Would you ever follow a military commander into battle if he or she didn’t believe in their mission? No. Also, would you ever follow a military commander into battle if he or she had a reputation of never learning from their mistakes? No. The bottom line upfront is that confidence is what society judges us by regarding our competence.

If we hone our craft and take every opportunity to show it off but also refine it and learn from our mistakes as we go then this ultimately leads to positivity all around, a positive emotional state, a positive attitude towards others, and positive vibes from others.

Steps for Developing Self-Efficacy

Developing self-efficacy is not “one size fits all.” Are you familiar with the debate of whether leaders are born or made? This debate relates to self-efficacy. Developing this system begins during childhood and flourishes during adolescence.

Positive influences and experiences build self-efficacy because the environment is encouraging, open-minded, and focuses on growth. How we grow up and who we choose to spend time with ultimately shaped our early emotional states, attitudes, and vibes towards ourselves, others, and the environment around us. Thus, the first step of self-efficacy begins with self-reflection.

We must outline and answer the following questions:

• Who do we think we are at present (e.g., a good father)?

• Who we want to be (e.g., a great father)?

• What are opportunities for becoming better?

• What are barriers to becoming better?

Once we have this framework, then we need to observe, document, and do more self-reflection which I will talk more about below.

How to Assess Your Self-Efficacy

As I mentioned, there is not a universal model for self-efficacy. Because of my career, I use a model that the military has instilled into me. This model is built from the research-heavy pillars of self-efficacy and consists of two broad components:

Attributes - How do I view myself and how do others view me?

Competencies - How do I perform relative to my own goals and how do others view my performance relative to their goals or some broader standard?

Within the framework of attributes, I assess three additional tenants: a) my character (ethics); b) my presence (vibe); and c) my intellect (open-mindedness). Within the framework of competencies, I assess these three additional tenants: a) my ability to lead (creating a positive, open-minded, and inclusive environment); b) my ability to develop (myself and others); and c) my ability to achieve (my goals as well as the goals of my family).

As I mentioned, assessing self-efficacy is not a one size fits all approach but there should be a framework no matter which one you use.

What is an Example of Someone Who Has a Lot of Self-Efficacy

When I think of someone who has mastered self-efficacy, I immediately think of Tim Ferriss; his intuitive and innovative approach to preserving a work-life balance and optimizing quality without sacrificing quantity came and comes from years of developing this system.

Individuals with high self-efficacy learn their craft by learning from others. Every time these individuals have an opportunity to expand their craft, there is a moment of self-reflection (e.g., taking five minutes to journal in the morning and/or before bedtime).

These individuals also are constant learners. They never let education interfere with their willingness to learn (to paraphrase Mark Twain) from others and mistakes or setbacks of their own. Most importantly, these individuals surround themselves with positively infectious people who seek out positive attitudes, experiences, and vibes always.

How Important Is the Concept in Wellness Coaching?

Ultimately, self-efficacy is one of the critical pillars of wellness coaching. Creating a culture of positivity and finding opportunities to personally grow from one’s actions and actions with others along the way is the path towards wellness. Self-efficacy optimizes psychological wellness through embracing growth and self-efficacy optimizes physiological wellness through minimizing stress and anxiety over if we are good enough and/or perceived by others.

The Author

Dr. Allison Brager

Dr. Allison Brager

Dr. Brager is a subject matter expert in behavioral genetics, sleep, and biological rhythms research. She is passionate about discovering new factors that promote resiliency in extreme environments. She also serves on the NCAA task force for mental health and sleep, contributing to the first edition of the NCAA student-athlete mental health handbook. She is author of Meathead: Unraveling the Athletic Brain, which debunks the myth of the 'dumb jock' and serves as a performance manual for functional athletes. Outside of the laboratory, Allison was a two-time CrossFit Games (team) athlete, a two-time CrossFit Regionals (individual) athlete, and a four-year varsity NCAA Division I athlete in track and field. Dr. Brager has an Sc.B. in Psychology from Brown University and a Ph.D. in Physiology from Kent State University.