Self Efficacy in New Year's Resolutions

January 10, 2022

It’s a new year, and many of us see it as a moment for making a positive change. We make resolutions to be healthier physically and mentally or be more productive. Exercise more, eat better, sleep more, work harder, connect with others… I have made many of these resolutions myself before.

Louis Tay

Having more failures than successes has helped me recognize that it is essential to have self-compassion in my well-being journey. However, the rare instances of success also point to what research has validated: it is vital to have and build self-efficacy in these pursuits.

Coined by the psychologist Albert Bandura, self-efficacy, or the belief that one can perform a behavior, is vital to behavioral management. For example, self-efficacy is a significant factor in managing nutrition and health behaviors.

Beginning last year, I resolved to be physically healthier. By exercising almost every day and watching my caloric intake, I lost 30 pounds. Building self-efficacy was essential in developing and maintaining my resolution.

Here are some ways I have found helped build self-efficacy based on Bandura’s self-efficacy theory:

  1. Start small: By successfully completing a valued behavior, you build mastery experiences that lead to self-efficacy. In this regard, it is vital to start with small manageable goals. In my weight loss process, I found that exercising for 10 minutes every day was realistic for my schedule. As I developed self-efficacy through multiple mini-successes, I felt confident enough to take on more prolonged periods of exercise.

  2. Find role models: Self-efficacy can be gained vicariously by watching others succeed, especially from others with similar challenges. When I started exercising, I had the nagging thought that I would not lose weight, given my age and lower metabolism. To overcome this, I started watching videos of older individuals rocking it physically -- it gave me confidence and quelled my doubts.

  3. Create ample time and space: Any valued goal requires time and space to pursue successfully. Seeking to cram resolutions in our full schedules often creates friction and negative experiences, leading to lower self-efficacy. Knowing this, I started by scheduling around 40 minutes to complete exercises that should take only 10-minutes. This enabled me to complete all the exercises without rushing, creating a positive, enjoyable experience.

I hope these ideas and my own experience spark encouragement in your own new year’s resolutions!

Be well,

Louis Tay

Tay is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences. He has expertise in well-being, assessments, and data science. Be sure to check back each week for another wellness tip of the week! 

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