With every new client it is the same initial question: Why are you here?
The answer is inevitably highly variable among clients.
From wanting to lose weight to wanting to become a professional triathlete, I have been the recipient of the whole spectrum of answers to that initial question. But it is in the first several sessions that I can predict whether someone will actually achieve this goal. This prediction is not based on their strength nor is it based on their fitness. It is based on one simple thing: their commitment.
In my opinion commitment and self-efficacy are equally the most valuable predictors of success. No matter the level of the achievement, these two ideas play an important role for several reasons. For one, commitment breeds consistency. Consistency in training inspires adaptations in the muscles and the neuromuscular systems at a more efficient and effective rate. Strong commitment is defined by hard work, resiliency and ambition. Additionally excellent commitment entails that a person is willing to go above and beyond to achieve their goals .They are not there to make excuses for lack of effort, missed workouts, poor nutrition, etc. They take ownership and get the job done. Commitment to a goal indicates that the goal is important to the individual. In an earlier post we discussed motivators and how internal motivation is vital to stay on the path towards your goals. Obstacles in the journey are inevitable. Committed individuals find ways to overcome these barriers because instead of letting the obstacle define them, they let their work ethic and adaptability define themselves. But why does self-efficacy matter?
To illustrate my point, have you ever made a New Years Resolution that you knew was so far-fetched that you were never going to be able to stick to it? What happened one week in, two months in, half a year in? You gave up on the New Years Resolution or completely forgot about it, am I right?
Self-efficacy is important because if an individual does not perceive that they are capable of accomplishing a goal, they are likely to "under-work", cut corners, give up, or sell themselves short. Because if someone has low self-efficacy their brain functions by telling them "What's the point in even trying, I'll never be able to lose that extra 20 pounds" or "I'll never be able to play football at a division one university". If you don't believe it at the get-go, you fall into complacency because when you fail, your brain believes this was expected, destined, meant to be.
But, how do you change someone's commitment or self-efficacy?
Let's start with self-efficacy because, as my quote alludes to, self-efficacy can promote commitment. Self-efficacy can be improved by targeting the main sources of self-efficacy. Mastery experiences is one source of self-efficacy. Mastery experiences simply put are previous experiences where a person was successful. For example, if you've lost 20 pounds before, you are more likely to believe you are capable of losing the 20 pounds again. Thus, it is important to keep track of previous successes, both large and small. This is easily done in a log-book that clients and athletes can carry around with them at sessions or record in following a session. This serves great purpose when adversity arises. People are able to reference the log books to demonstrate to themselves that they were resilient once before and can do it again, allowing them to overcome the new adversity and continue on their journey.
A second source of self-efficacy is vicarious experiences. This means that if a person witnesses someone they perceive to be similar to themselves achieving a similar goal, they will feel more capable of completing the same goal. This is often the case in high school athletics. If Billy's best friend, who is the same size as him, same speed, and similar skill level, gets recruited by a NCAA Division I university, then Billy will feel he has the same shot. It helps in this case to surround individuals with people who they perceive to be similar to. This is where small-group or partner training can be very effective. Next time you commit to losing weight, grab a friend who wants to lose a similar amount of weight and hit the gym! Log your progress together and you can feed off of each others' successes.
Another source of focus for improving self-efficacy is social cues. Encouragement and support from others is vital in helping someone develop their belief in themselves and stay on track towards their goals. Social media platforms have offered a great outlet for this. But it also helps to keep people informed about what your goals are and the progress you have made towards them. I often refer to this method as finding your "rock". This is the person who has your back and offers you encouragement when you start to doubt yourself. They are also the person whose voice outweighs the voice of any doubters in your life. It needs to be someone who is also not afraid to give you tough love to get you back on track if you've fallen off the wagon a bit.
By targeting mastery experiences, vicarious experiences, and social cues it is possible to dramatically improve a person's self-efficacy. Improved self-efficacy leads to improved commitment because the goal seems ATTAINABLE, though still challenging! People are willing to fight something that they A) find important to them, B) they believe to be attainable, and C) can envision a "payout" or a benefit to achieving such goal. Additionally, self-efficacy that is strengthened through social bond improves commitment because someone is holding them accountable.
This all leads to the "Circle of Success" as I refer to it. The Circle of Success means that success fuels more pursuit of success. The more successful a person becomes, the more confident they become. The more confident they become, the more committed they become to future goals. The more committed they become, the more successful they become in those future endeavors. We are also creatures of habit so working hard towards one goal ingrains the habit of working hard and committing to excellence in other areas of our life as well.
So, you have a goal, you want to fight for it, but what should you do now?
1. Make a log-book. Track your progress towards your goals. Set up little checkpoints so that you can boost your confidence by achieving little successes along the way to your big goal. Remember this log-book can serve as a reminder of what you've been able to overcome if you should reach a roadblock later on.
2. Find a training partner. This person should be someone you perceive similar to you. This will help hold you accountable, but you will also be able to feed off of each others' success. When one succeeds, it will motivate the other to do the same.
3. Choose your "rock". Select this person wisely. Whether it is a parent, friend, boss, or certified trainer, it needs to be someone who is honest with you. It should be someone who encourages you, believes in you, but also challenges you to do more than you ever thought possible.
Once your confidence is up, and consistency is impeccable, the naysayers will have no choice, but to commend your efforts and applaud you as you realize your greatest dreams.
If you want something, fight for it. Nothing is handed to you. Realization of your dreams is earned. Day in. Day out. People will doubt you, they'll tell you that you're crazy, they'll tell you you'll never make it. But trust me when I say that if you fight, fight with everything you have - every ounce of sweat, every fiber in your body, every bit of passion in your bones - you will silence those critics. You will prove many people wrong. You will be relentless. You will be confident. You will be an inspiration. And you, you will have earned every bit of satisfaction and glory that comes with achieving your greatest dreams. It is then you will crave more, you will do it all over again because you have developed a belief in yourself and a willpower so undeniable that everything seems within your reach. So get out there and fight for it. Day in. Day out.