It really does work to improve results, according to a major new study.
Professor Andrew Lane and his colleagues worked with BBC Lab UK to test which physiological skills would help people improve their scores in an online game.
More than 44,000 people took part in the study, a huge number considering that the majority of these kinds of experiments have less than 300 participants.
The research examined if one motivational method would be more effective for any specific aspect of a task. The methods tested included self-talk, imagery, and if-then planning.
All of these psychological skills were applied to one of four parts of a competitive task: process, outcome, arousal-control, and instruction.
People using self-talk (for example telling yourself "I can do better next time") performed better than the control group in every portion of the task.
The best improvements were seen in self-talk-outcome (telling yourself, "I can beat my best score"), self-talk-process (telling yourself, "I can react quicker this time"), imagery-outcome (imagining yourself playing the game and beating your best score), and imagery-process (imagining yourself playing and reacting quicker than last time).
Moreover, the researchers also found a short motivational video could improve performance.
This involved participants watching the video before playing the online game. The coach for these videos was the four-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson, no less.
Johnson is also an athlete known for advocating mental preparedness.
The study is published in Frontiers in Psychology.
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The next time you realise there's an aspect of your work performance that's lacking, try telling yourself ‘I can do better’.