Can a Life Coach Teach Self-Efficacy?

Firstly, what is self-efficacy? Self-efficacy is the belief in one’s own capacity to successfully execute performance-specific behaviours to attain their goal which has a proactive effect on their performance. Albert Bandura, the father of self-efficacious philosophy said it best when he claimed, “perceived self-efficacy is concerned not with the number of skills you have, but with what you believe you can do with what you have under a variety of circumstances” (Bandura, 1997 :37 as cited in Palmer & Whybrow, 2019). Bandura saw people as ready agents of change that could contribute to the well-being of their lives and influence their circumstances with positive action to guide and motivate their efforts (Bandura 1982, 2005 as cited in Palmer & Whybrow, 2019).

One of the main roles of a life coach is to encourage their client to enhance their beliefs about what they think they can achieve. One’s belief will have a direct effect on their motivation and how they feel, which will then influence how they approach, tackle, and perform a task. Bandura, like many life coaches, attributes a positive belief in one’s abilities to enhanced human accomplishments and personal well-being.  Life coaches strive to encourage their client’s achievement motivation which then assists them to accomplish tasks, even if they are challenging.  This has a positive effect on the individual’s self-esteem, and they begin to improve their abilities and develop mastery orientation (Louw & Louw, 2014).

An individual’s beliefs about their efficacy can be developed by four main sources: 1) mastery experiences/successful past performance (which serve as capacity indicators); 2) vicarious experiences provided by social models; 3) verbal persuasion (and other social influences that inform the individual about the perception that others have of their abilities); and 4) psycho-physiological and emotional states (from which one infers his/her ability, strength and vulnerability to failure) (Palmer & Whybrow, 2019). Mastery experiences tend to provide the individual with the most benefits as they provide authentic evidence of the individual’s ability to perform, which becomes the basis for future success (Palmer & Whybrow, 2019).

One must learn to face challenging tasks with an open mind, a flexible attitude, and an appreciation for their own inner motivation and perseverance to see them through the assigned task. Setting goals and self-efficacy go together as the goal provides the vision and guideline for the future, while self-efficacy directs one’s focus and behaviour over long periods of time to achieve the desired outcome, even in the absence of external incentives along the way (Palmer & Whybrow, 2019).


Louw, D. A., & Louw, A. E. (2014). Early childhood. Child and adolescent development (2nd ed., pp. 152-222). Bloemfontein: Psychology publications.

Palmer, S., & Whybrow, A. (2019). Self-efficacy within coaching and coaching psychology. In S. Palmer (Eds),
Handbook of Coaching Psychology : A Guide for Practitioners (2nd ed.). Routledge.

What Exactly is Life Coaching?

Sir John Whitmore was one of the pioneering and influential figures in the life coaching industry. In his seminal book, Coaching for performance, Whitmore drew on Timothy Gallwey’s inner game model that recognises that the internal state of an individual plays a significant factor in performance. Whitmore states in his book that coaching is about “unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn instead of teaching them – a facilitation approach” (Whitmore, 1992, p. 8 as cited in Passmore & Tee, 2020). Reflecting on one’s own life, consider the impact of self-talk on performance, decision-making, and problem-solving. How crucial do self-awareness and personal responsibility become when considering such matters?

When an individual enters into a life coaching engagement, they will experience a transformational process created by a unique relationship based on collaboration, trust, confidentiality, and conversations that are meant to develop self-awareness, inspire change and create action (Passmore & Tee, 2020; Van Zyl et al., 2016). The role of the life coach is to facilitate and support the client as they move towards reaching their goals and enhancing their well-being, in a collaborative solution-focused, result-orientated way (Passmore & Tee, 2020).

While the life coaching process is focused on goal attainment, it also allows room for self-reflection so the client can make sense of their situation. This is designed to help the client link their personal identity with specific action perspectives. The reflective process that the coaching client experiences is often a joint experience by the life coach, as together they reflect on the challenges the client is enduring. This meaning-making dialogue opens up awareness of how actions, limited thinking patterns, and self-sabotaging behaviours affect one’s life. As the coaching conversation progresses over time a new narrative unfolds in the developmental process. Van Zyl et al. (2016) state that the art of life coaching is to alter the client’s past history in a collaborative way by incorporating new events and persons and by creating and challenging the story’s plot.

By providing a safe and collaborative space for the client to explore the deeper aspects of their lives and their presenting issues, the life coach gives the client permission to delve into the potential of what change means to them. Defined as goals, these changes play a key role in transitions from existing states to desired states or outcomes (Van Zyl et al., 2016).


Passmore, J. & Tee, D. (2020). Defining coaching. Passmore, J. & Tee, D. (Eds.), Coaching researched – A coaching psychology reader for practitioners and researchers. Wiley-Blackwell

Van Zyl, L. E., Stander, M. W., & Odendaal, A. (2016). Coach as a fellow human companion. Van Zyl, L. E., Stander, M. W., & Odendaal, A. (Eds.), Coaching Psychology: Meta-theoretical perspectives and applications in multicultural contexts. Springer international publishing