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Break the Glass Ceiling by Increasing Self-Efficacy

Many of us want to crack the code to live our best lives. Living your best life means being the best version of yourself. It requires a person to constantly step their game up to keep things fresh. To keep things fresh we need high self-efficacy and high self-agency. Self-efficacy is a central mechanism to increasing our self-agency. When we have high self-efficacy and self-agency we can more easily transfer our successes in one domain of life to another. In doing so we become aware that each domain is a microcosm and our life is a macrocosm. This is what being a polymath is all about.

According to Stanford psychologist, Albert Bandura, self-agency is the power to originate our own action. It requires us to have healthy boundaries with the people around us and the society we lives in. Agency in social cognitive theory is the ability of people to regulate and control their cognition, motivation, and behavior through the influence of existing self-beliefs (i.e. self-efficacy).

Self-efficacy is especially important because if we have low self-efficacy we won't put forth effort to regulate our emotions or plan towards out goal. If we can't do these things we are less likely to act intentionally. Our actions instead will be driven by the plans of others who act intentionally around us.

Self-Efficacy is an individual’s beliefs in his or her ability to execute behaviors necessary to produce specific performance attainments. The four major sources of self-efficacy are mastery experiences, social modeling, social persuasion, and psychological reactions (physiological and affective states). Self-efficacy can be increased or decreased and this is largely within the individual’s sphere of control. In order to have more self-agency to create the best version of ourselves we need to increase our self-efficacy.

A person with unresolved trauma will not have optimal self-agency or the self-reflective capacity inherent to self-efficacy due to emotional dysregulation. We don't want to be aloof to our emotions but we also don't want to be disheveled either. When we balance aloofness with emotional dishevelment we have the composure necessary to regulate our emotions and turn our attention to setting and executing goals.

For example, if I believe I can regulate my psychological reactions, then I can focus to reach a goal and I am more likely to be motivated to create a plan to do so. Then I am more likely to be motivated to perform the follow up behaviors to meet the goals and execute my plan. On the other hand, if I do not believe I can regulate my internal states and senses, and I defeat myself, by saying for example, it is my brain chemistry that makes me act this way then I am not likely to set intentions and goals to take responsibility for improving my situation.

Upward mobility is not restricted to the power of action initiated by our nervous system. If the nervous system solely initiated action then there would be no inner healing mechanism to recover from trauma. There is a source behind the direct neurological cause of an action and that is intention. Intention has to do with yearning or desire and is tied to imagination (one of the 5 inner senses). When an image of what is wanted or desired occurs in the imagination it evokes a motivation to move towards or away from this image, whereupon movement ensures. If we have low self-efficacy an image of what we want will be experienced as a threat because we will get distracted by the temporary stresses involved in reaching our goal. For instance, if I imagine reading a book a week to self-develop but I think the hours of work involved will lead to my friends and family abandoning me then I may instead abandon my drive to self-develop so as to prevent abandonment.

The closest thing to self-efficacy in Islamic psychology is certainty. Certainty and certitude have the same Latin root, certus, which means “fixed,” or “settled.” When one is certain about one thing in their life (God), they can then transfer this certainty to everything they do as long as they maintain God-consciousness.

In a personal conversation at an APA Annual Convention in 2016 with Dr. Craig Shealy, (Executive Director of the International Beliefs and Values Institute, Professor of Psychology at Western Washington University), Dr. Shealy shared Muslims score comparatively high on his BEVI (beliefs, events, and values inventory) scale for certitude.

Self-agency is important because in the Islamic tradition, before we were manifested as individuals, we existed in a state of unity. According to Sh. Fadhalla Haeri, we seek to do all things perfectly, because deep in our being we are aware of our unified origins. The closest parallel I can think of to this concept in the Western world is the Unified Field Theory, which is highly theoretical because there is not scientific evidence to support the merging of four forces: gravity, electromagnetism, the weak force and the strong force—into a single mathematical framework.

The desire to achieve and succeed is innate in us and depends on self-efficacy and self-agency to be properly expressed. There is tremendous dynamism in achieving a goal. The desire to achieve and succeed leads us to constantly create new goals in order to neutralize these goals and in doing so we build self-efficacy through mastery experiences. Mastery experiences are the most potent source of self-efficacy.

In addition to building self-efficacy through mastery experiences we also cultivate a peripheral perspective and broaden our vision during goal attainment. We broaden our perspective instead of specializing our focus so we can see impediments to our goal in the periphery that may impinge upon our target. While many of our institutions, social media, and the economy incentivize us to have a specialized focus, it is the broadening of one’s vision and horizons that allows one to deepen relationships with the people and environment around himself or herself.

Self-Agency and Self-Efficacy are necessary to express the urge for creativity to reflect the creational reality we are a product of. When we reflect the creational reality we are expressing and acting as a hologram of the macrocosm. There are 12 principles** of Islamic Art and the first one is Unity. So through the creative process we seek to express the unity we observe in nature.

In the seven stations of the self, the certain self, the self with self-efficacy is number 4: al nafs al mutama’ina*. This is the self that is content as a result of the knowledge that it has done its best within its limits and therefore all is well. This self is capable of self-reflection and able to make corrective adjustments if necessary.

Practical Steps to Increase Self-Efficacy:

  1. Mastery Experiences - Set small goals, monitor our behavior and align our behavior with our goal, execute our goal and register we achieved our goal. With the confidence gained by achieving our small goals we can move on the setting medium size goals, and then as our distress tolerance increases to setting large goals. For example, I set a goal to exercise for 20 minutes a day a couple times a week, and then after a few weeks I am confident to set a goal to exercise 5 days a week for 40 minutes.

  2. Social Modeling - Seek out mentors and role models. This requires among other things to have a positive regard for people who are doing better than us at something. We have to reign in jealousy so we can stay positive. When we are positive and optimistic we are more motivated to achieve our goals. If we are negative and defeatist we don’t see the point in setting goals because we adopt a victim mentality, so do not take responsibility for our actions.

  3. Social Persuasion - positive self-talk, write down affirmations and put them in visible places, surround yourself with people who believe in you and your goals and who encourage you. Reduce or eliminate exposure to people who belittle you. In soccer coaching, an effective coach is 80% positive and 20% focused on areas for growth.

  4. Psychological reactions - take steps to increase self-awareness of your physiological and affective states so as to regulate your inner states. In this way, you won’t get in your own way when you are seeking to achieve your goals. Making meaning is one of the 5 inner senses according to Avicenna. The other 4 inner senses are imagination, common sense, cognition, and memory. Make meaning of complex past experiences in an attempt to unify your 5 outer senses and 5 inner senses to enhance self-awareness. Remind yourself of your origins from a unitive state and allow yourself to be receptive to your primordial nature.

Therapeutic Interventions to Increase Self-Efficacy are any therapeutic interventions that help us to process and release trauma. After we release our trauma our self-beliefs about our ability to reach our goals and become the best version of ourselves increases because we gain confidence from the inner resources necessary to persist in spite of inner and outer adversity. Until then, our traumas act as a veil to our inner resources to develop into an even more beautiful version of ourselves.

For a personalized plan to increase your self-efficacy book a session with me~!

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