4. Physiological Factors
In stressful situations, people commonly exhibit signs of distress: shakes, aches and pains, fatigue, fear, nausea, etc. Perceptions of these responses in oneself can markedly alter self-efficacy. In other words, how we feel about our own symptoms can represent an upward hike in self-efficacy – or further undermine our belief that we can do something. An example is getting ‘butterflies in the stomach’ before public speaking.
This common experience will be interpreted by someone with low self-efficacy as a sign of inability, thus decreasing self-efficacy further, where high self-efficacy perception would lead to interpreting such physiological signs as normal and unrelated to one’s ability. It is one’s belief in the implications of physiological response that alters self-efficacy, rather than the physiological response itself.
Self-Efficacy in the Context of Coaching
What is interesting about self-efficacy is that it has very little to do with what your client can actually accomplish. Rather, it is related to perception. Bandura defines the performance component of self-efficacy as
people’s judgments of their capabilities to organize and execute courses of action required to attain designated types of performances. It is not concerned with the strategies one has but with judgments of what one can do with whatever strategies one possesses.
This is further reinforced by what the mind “sees” and judges, even if the event has never happened. Coaches commonly use visualization as, for example, it can be helpful in situations with academic challenges. Students feel self-efficacious when they are able to picture themselves succeeding in challenging situations, which in turn determines their level of effort toward the task (Paris & Byrnes, 1989; Salomon, 1983; 1984).
This paper posits that of the four elements of self-efficacy, enactive experience is the key tool to use when coaching clients into shifting the perspective from “I’m doubtful” to “I’m confident”. Bandura, Adams, & Beyer (1977) advise that enactive experience is a highly influential source of efficacy information.
Enactive Attainment and Coaching Application
Possible Lines of Inquiry by the Coach Coaches may initially inquire of the client about current beliefs regarding their selfefficacy (see a potential line of questioning in the Introduction).
Other questions to pose to the client could include:
- Tell me about a time when you faced a similar situation in the past.
- What are the traits/qualities you relied upon to handle those successfully?
NOTE: if the client cannot recount similar situations and/or similar situations that were handled successfully, the coach can switch questions to dissimilar situations, but the emphasis remains on helping the client to remember that he/she has accomplished noteworthy things/solved problems/shifted perspective on multiple past occasions and thus can rely on re-triggering the feeling and recognition of still possessing that trait/quality to carry him/her through the current goal.
- Which of those traits/qualities do you still possess, today?
- Which of those traits/strengths do you believe are most useful in situations such as the current one?
- If you had to be the most resourceful and strong version of yourself to solve this problem, or attain this goal, what qualities would you need?
- Describe what it feels like to have that trait.
- How have you put that trait to use in the past 30, 60, or 90 days?
- Can you describe any possible limitations or restrictions on that trait?
- Are you able to apply that trait to the task/goal/problem/perspective at hand?
- Are you willing to apply that trait/quality?
- Would you like to visualize using that trait/quality in the current desired outcome?
As Erikson noted:
Children cannot be fooled by empty praise and condescending encouragement. They may have to accept artificial bolstering of their self-esteem in lieu of something better, but what I call their accruing ego identity gains real strength only from wholehearted and consistent recognition of real accomplishment, that is, achievement that has meaning in their culture.
Just like children, adults will often be resistant to the idea that the coach is artificially pumping them up or encouraging them. When modeling and other modalities are ineffective, coaching can be powerful when the client is given an opportunity to remember times when he or she experienced success in the past, then carefully selfassess the use of traits/qualities and bring them forward into the present moment and project into a success inevitability visualization.
Coaching can carry the client on a productive journey with memories of enactive attainment and permit the client to experience a solid certainty, through visualization and anchoring techniques, that the client is capable of accomplishing the current goal.