3 Simple Tips to Make Your Client Feel Like a Million Bucks: A Lesson in Self Efficacy

by Jordan Syatt April 17, 2014

Self efficacy.

Often cited as the strongest predictor of success, understanding self efficacy and how to increase it within your clients will render you invaluable.
What is Self Efficacy?

A principle tenet of Alfred Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory, self efficacy, similar to confidence, is an individuals belief in their ability to succeed at a given task.

To illustrate, a person attempting to lose weight – who also exhibits a high level of self efficacy – will truly believe in their own ability to achieve their weight loss goal.

On the other hand, the same person, albeit with a lower level of self efficacy, will be less confident in their capacity to succeed.

This is important.

Like…really important.

Why is Self Efficacy Important?

To illustrate, let’s use two different scenarios.

Scenario 1

I explain there is a 96% chance of you winning $10,000,000 so long as you follow my instructions and work as hard as humanly possible.

Barring unreasonable instructions (i.e. committing a serious crime), odds are you’re going to put in an extraordinary amount of effort and do exactly what I say.

Assuming I wasn’t lying, you’ll also probably win $10,000,000.

Scenario 2

I explain there is a 17% chance of you winning $10,000,000 so long as you follow my instructions and work as hard as humanly possible.

Despite the extraordinary prize, odds are you won’t work as hard nor follow my instructions as stringently simply because you aren’t confident in your ability to win.

See the difference?

The prize ($10 million) stayed the same but the discrepancy in likelihood to succeed (96% vs. 17%) resulted in vastly different mindsets, determination levels, and quality of work.

An individuals belief in their ability to succeed drastically influences their behavior.

^^^Click to Tweet^^^

In my experience, self efficacy is unquestionably the greatest determinant of success.

With a high level of self efficacy, your clients will not only be more likely to achieve their goals but, more importantly, they’ll have a greater chance of maintaining their results for the rest of their lives.

Now the question becomes…
How do we increase self efficacy?

A variety of methods designed to improve self efficacy exist in the literature. Having spent the greater part of the past 2 years dedicated to researching, learning, and applying these methods, I’ve developed numerous effective strategies with the specific intention of increasing self efficacy.

Below I’ve outlined 3 of these strategies and exactly how to use them to increase self efficacy and, subsequently, your clients chances of success. 

1. Calculate Total Tonnage (Weight Lifted) of the Session

Let’s say you have a new female client who is currently capable of Deadlifting 105lbs for 3 sets of 5 reps (3 x 5).

First and foremost…tell her she just lifted over 100lbs!!!

Many people (commonly women) don’t think they can lift anything heavier than 10lbs so hearing they just lifted over 100lbs is extraordinarily motivating and sufficient for a boost in self efficacy.

To take it a step further, you can calculate the total tonnage (weight lifted) of her Deadlift session. To do this, simply multiply the total number of repetitions by the total number of sets by the total weight on the bar.

Using the example from above, the calculation would be:

105lbs x 5 reps x 3 sets = 1,575lbs total tonnage

Not only did your client Deadlift over 100lbs…she actually Deadlifted 1,575lbs throughout the entire training session! Show her this – literally show her the calculation – and I guarantee she’ll keep coming back more determined to improve than ever before.

2. Strategically Design Their Training Programs So They Consistently Hit New Personal Records

Many people begin a training program embarrassed, self conscious, and unsure of their ability to succeed.

Rather than work them to complete exhaustion or push them to the point of failure, I suggest strategically designing their training programs so their only option is to succeed.

The program might look easy.

It may, in fact, be too easy.

But starting small and building momentum with consistent success will drastically improve self efficacy and facilitate long-term adherence.

Remember: success breeds success.

While working to failure and pushing your clients to “the limit” is sometimes acceptable, when the goal is to increase self efficacy, you’re much better off doing everything in your power to facilitate and recognize consistent progress.

How Can Your Client Hit a Personal Record Every Day?


There are numerous ways for a client (especially a new client) to hit a personal record at every session. 

A few examples include:

  • Slightly increase the total tonnage of the training session.
  • Add 5lbs to the top set of their main movement (i.e. squat, press, deadlift, etc).
  • Slightly increase the difficulty of a given movement (i.e. progressing from a hands-elevated to full ROM push-up) over time.
  • Slightly increase the duration of their conditioning circuits (i.e. 5-10 seconds).
  • Complete a few more reps (i.e. 1-3) with the same weight used in a previous session.

More important than hitting personal records is that  you – the coach – recognize your clients accomplishments and make them aware that their spectacular progress is a direct result of their consistent hard work.

Hammer this message home (coupled with the accomplishment of daily personal records) and they will continue to come back with extraordinarily high levels of motivation and self efficacy.

3. Share Your Transformation Story

Referred to as social modelling, sharing your personal success story with your clients is an extremely effective tool to boost self efficacy.

Strange though it may seem, learning about your struggles and how you overcame various obstacles can be highly motivational for your clients. Not only does it give them valuable insight as to how they can achieve their goals, it also reminds them that they aren’t alone; everyone has their own individual struggle and, regardless of outward appearance, most of us have (or had) similar insecurities.

To take my own advice, I shared  my transformation story and it’s quickly become one of my most popular articles to date. Interestingly, I’ve had more people reach out and tell me that piece inspired them to achieve their ultimate goals than any other article I’ve written. 

Case in point?

Don’t feel like you need to play the superman role for your clients.

Odds are they’ll relate to you on a deeper and more meaningful level if they understand you truly know where they’re coming from because you’ve been in their shoes and still managed to succeed.

Wrapping Up

Self efficacy is arguably the single-most important determinant of success.

If you truly want your clients to succeed, and I mean succeed in the long-term, learning about self efficacy and how to strategically boost it will improve your clients results far beyond your wildest dreams.

Never Minimal. Never Maximal. Always Optimal.


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