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Achieving Goals: The role of self-efficacy and action orientation

Kevin Nourse, PhD,
January 14, 2021
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It's that time of year when so many of us endeavor to set goals and resolutions for the New Year. Despite best intentions, many people never actually achieve their goals. While there are many factors that enable goal achievement, two of the most important ones are self-efficacy and an action orientation.

Self-efficacy, a concept identified by psychologist Albert Bandura in the late 1970s, are the beliefs you hold about your ability to achieve a goal or manage a challenging situation. People with high self-efficacy are more likely to set higher goals, procrastinate less, and demonstrate greater tenacity in working toward their goals. 

Psychologist Joachim Brunstein identified action orientation nearly 20 years ago consisting of a trait enabling decisive and rapid action to achieve a goal. People who posses this trait have the ability to regulate the emotions that might keep themselves stuck overanalyzing an issue or planning how to achieve a goal.  

Consider the following options to build your self-efficacy:

  1. Reflect on past challenges you faced or goals you achieved to identify the skills, mindsets or abilities you tapped to create success.
  2. Recite positive affirmations aloud when facing a goal or setback to shift your mindsets and self-beliefs (e.g., “I have all the skills I need to conquer this challenge successfully").
  3. Ask three people who know you well to describe your biggest strengths and the impact of using those strengths. 
  4. Surround yourself with highly accomplished people who have a strong belief in their capabilities.
  5. Read biographies about people who have achieved great things to understand their process and approach better.  

Here’s some tips on building your action orientation capabilities:

  1. Set concrete time limits for your planning and goal setting.
  2. Engage friends and colleagues to hold you accountable for taking action, such as designing a consequence if you do not take action (e.g., write them a check for a substantial dollar amount they will cash if you do not take action by the agreed upon date). 
  3. Experiment taking action without any planning; learn to trust your instincts.
  4. Chunk your big goals into microgoals - small actions you can take with minimal effort and resistance.
  5. Identify the conditions that cause you to get stuck in analysis paralysis (e.g., exhaustion, overwhelm, frustration, etc.).

People who achieve a lot in life and work do so because they set stretch goals, take action and celebrate their achievements. Self-efficacy and an action orientation are integral to effective goal setting. The good news is that everyone can enhance these skills and achieve greater levels of success.

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Dr. Kevin Nourse has more than 25 years of experience developing transformational change leaders in healthcare and other sectors. He is the founder of Nourse Leadership Strategies, a coaching and leadership development firm based in Southern California. For more information, contact Kevin at 310.715.8315 or kevin@nourseleadership.com

(c) 2021 Kevin Nourse

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