Last week I talked all about my new habit — waking up early and exercising and meditating.
For me this is a big ask. I’ve never been a morning person, and I’ve tried in the past to start up this very same habit, always to give it up for the comfort of my warm bed.
But last week I did really well. On Monday I woke up 2 hours earlier than normal, put on my sweatpants and shoes, and headed out into the subfreezing temperatures for a run.
Tuesday I woke up at the same early hour and was met by 14 degree weather, so I opted for the exercise bike in the workout room of my apartment.
Then Wednesday I woke up even earlier and headed to a spin class with a friend where I crushed it.
It was a good week (I was on vacation Thursday-Monday so I took those days off).
But here’s the deal — in last week’s post I confessed that I probably wouldn’t succeed in making this a habit.
And the reason for this is I didn’t have what is called “self efficacy.” In other words, I wasn’t confident that I’d be able to keep up my goal long term, and that lack of confidence was essentially a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So this week let’s talk about how to build self-efficacy, because believe it or not it’s not a stagnant measurement. In fact it is very fluid!
How to build self-efficacy.
In life we tend to set really big goals. We see a finish line in our heads and we want to be there right now.
So we may see ourselves as marathon runners and think we can go out tomorrow and do one, even though the last time our feet hit pavement was in the 90’s.
We get fixated on outcomes and big lofty goals and think “I can have this right now for free.”
When we tackle really big goals that are not realistic we get discouraged easily. So when you saw yourself as that super fit marathon runner and then laced up the tennis shoes the next morning, you were pretty disappointed when you were completely spent after the first mile.
Defeated, you scrapped your goal the second you got home. You ditched this goal because you have no self-efficacy. In other words, you believe you can’t do it.
The reality is that you likely can do it, you just approached it all wrong.
Essentially you didn’t give yourself a chance to build self-efficacy.
See there’s nothing wrong with setting large, long-term goals, per se. But the crucial step that most people miss is breaking those bigger goals into a series of small, reasonable goals that can grow over time into the really big one.
So you can still wake up tomorrow morning with the goal of running a marathon, but you also need to set your running goal for this week.
If you had said, “in 6 months I’d like to run a marathon. To get there, I plan to run three times this week for two miles each run,” that is a plan to build self-efficacy.
When your goal was “run marathon,” it was impossible to achieve, so you didn’t give yourself a chance to build confidence. But if each week you set a new goal, slightly more challenging than the previous week, all of a sudden you start stringing together victories.
After week 1 when you’ve run your 6 miles, you feel great! Week 2 your goal is 8 miles and you hit that too. All of a sudden you start to think to yourself, “hey! I can do this!”
Weeks keep piling on, goal after goal met, and by month six you are knocking out 50 mile weeks like it’s nothing. Because you invested in the process it takes to get to your goal — in other words, you made small, realistic goals that increased slowly — you were able to build self-efficacy.
Let’s go back to my example, because I actually am starting to think I can do this. When I set my goal, I didn’t say: “I will wake up early and exercise every single day for the rest of my life or it’s a complete failure and I’ll give up.”
That would be an absurd thing to say.
I actually took a much more reasonable approach. I focused on right now. And I took it day by day. I did it Monday through Wednesday, and that built confidence. After spin class on Wednesday I remarked to my friend just how good I felt! Before 9AM I felt amazing, on cloud nine, full of exercise endorphins.
When I crawl out of bed at my normal wake up time I don’t feel amazing. I’m not on cloud nine.
So I started to feel like I could do it long term. But even if I never wake up early to exercise again, I won’t have felt like I failed, because my goal was not that big. My goal was really just to try something new. And in that I succeeded.
Will I wake up early tomorrow to workout?
Will I do it every day for the rest of my life or it was a complete failure?
Set small reasonable goals for yourself, goals you can hit, and build upon. Do this and you will build self-efficacy. You will believe in your ability to attain what you want to attain in life.