Self Efficacy: Tips for Thriving into Adulthood
Updated: Mar 7
“People with high assurance in their capabilities approach difficult tasks as a challenge to be mastered rather than as threats to be avoided.”
One attribute that I hope my children will have in good measure in adulthood is self-efficacy. I've always admired family members, friends and acquaintances who seem to have that extra bit of confidence and resilience, even in the face of hard times. The exciting thing about self-efficacy is that it is something we can continue to nurture and grow throughout our lifespan.
An individual with high self-efficacy exudes confidence in their ability to exert control over their behavior, motivation and social environment. It means believing in your capabilities, and then having the drive to push through challenges in order to complete a task or achieve your goals. What a gift to come out of childhood with a strong sense of self-efficacy to navigate the inevitable ups and downs of adulthood.
Self-efficacy helps an individual feel more prepared for both challenges and transitions to new tasks or environments; something adolescents and young adults experience constantly. Those with high self-efficacy possess a growth mindset which, when faced with challenges, helps them to stay optimistic and able to see them as opportunities to grow. They know that with effort and persistence they can improve their skills and abilities.
The fast paced, achievement focused life of adolescents and young adults can leave many feeling overwhelmed and underprepared as they navigate life's inevitable ups and downs. It is important to recognize that many non-academic skills are related to high self-efficacy and performance in both educational settings and in one’s personal life. Studies show that nurturing self-efficacy helps individuals recover from failure and difficulties faster, stay motivated, feel better about their overall health and wellbeing, and maintain a flexible and optimistic mindset.
Here are four tips for parents to encourage high self-efficacy in adolescents and young adults:
Help your child reflect on their strengths and successes so they can see how they have grown and overcome challenges in the past. This awareness can be encouraging and motivating as they tackle new tasks and goals. Mastery is considered one of the strongest predictors for developing self-efficacy.
Performing tasks successfully strengthens the belief in oneself to stay motivated and work through increasingly difficult things. We have all worked through hard things, no matter our age. If your child is feeling frustrated or stuck, they may need a little nudge to help them discover times when they relied on their strengths, and the resources around them to master similar tasks or situations in the past.
Sometimes our kids need us to help them discover the ability and resilience that lies within them. The more opportunities they have to succeed at increasingly difficult tasks, the more they begin to feel confident in their ability to rely on themselves..
Talk about your own experiences overcoming or working through hard things. Share what you experienced and the resources and tools you had to draw upon to help you complete the task or reach your goal. When you felt discouraged and frustrated, what helped you continue to take the next steps in your journey? Did you draw upon internal strengths, or access any outside resources or support systems to help you?
Additionally, read about and learn from the experiences of others. Help your child find understanding and inspiration from how others overcame challenges, in order to see how that learning can be applied to their own lives.
Understand the “Stretch Zone” (or Zone of Proximal Development). Lying between comfort and panic, this learning zone encourages us to try new things confidently (though sometimes uncomfortably), set attainable goals, and work through setbacks and disappointments. When we sit within our comfort zone all of the time we don't experience change and growth. Likewise, being in the "panic" zone takes us to another place where we are more likely to freeze and give up because it's beyond what we are ready for.
Helping your adolescent or young adult take on new experiences that lie within that in-the-middle "stretch zone" will help them to build their confidence and independence. Here they learn to rely on the strengths they have mastered in the comfort zone, and begin to try more complicated tasks while accessing new skills, support systems and resources as guides to encouraging learning and growth.
Within this zone your child becomes increasingly independent, with appropriate guidance and support, so they can start to rely on themselves in novel situations. One simple example might be encouraging your 16 or 17 year old to begin scheduling their own doctor and dentist appointments. Though it may feel a little out of their (and your) comfort zone at first, this is a great way to support their increasing independence and self efficacy within the stretch zone. They learn to take over a new responsibility while becoming advocates of their own health and wellness. These experiences will set your child up for success and help them move confidently into their adult lives.
4. Stress Management!
Encourage and model healthy habits, practical skills and supportive resources to manage stress and negative emotions. High stress and negative thinking can significantly affect how we feel about our abilities when it comes to challenging tasks and reaching our goals.
When we feel uncomfortable within the stretch zone we may also feel overwhelmed by scary emotions. Reassure your child that it is normal to have these feelings when faced with an obstacle or when trying to learn something new. Guide them to take a step back and reevaluate how they are approaching the task, or what they are feeling physically and mentally. Encourage them to identify healthy habits and stress management tools that they can use to support a sense of wellbeing in order to keep moving forward. This new awareness about how they respond to difficulties can help them establish new habits for their continued emotional growth and independence into adulthood.
Lastly, remember that a person with high self-efficacy wasn't just born with it. This attribute continues to develop and expand throughout our lives. The more a person steps out of their comfort zone, challenges themselves with new experiences and implements strategies to navigate doubt, frustration and uncertainty, they will create a life that moves them in the direction of their goals.
Hi, I'm Yvette, an educator and National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach. The transition from adolescence to young adulthood is an exciting and sometimes complicated and challenging time of life. Utilizing techniques grounded in behavior change theory, motivation and human learning, I help my clients realize their unique potential, see life's challenges as opportunities to learn and grow and gain effective habits and tools to support their lifelong success and wellbeing.
Yvette Morton Ed.S, MA, NBC-HWC
Interested in learning more about how I can help?