A new study suggests that there might be a pretty simple way to increase your performance levels: positive self-talk.
The study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, looked at how different psychological techniques affected someone's success while playing an online gaming system.
The study’s participants were 44,742 volunteers, 16-92 years old, that were recruited to the project via the BBC Lab UK website.
The participants were instructed to use one of three possible psychological skill interventions, or ways to mentally approach a task.
The first psychological skill intervention was to use imagery, in other words the participants were told to picture themselves being successful in a given situation. Another was self-talk, where the participants were told to tell themselves that they were capable of performing at a high level. The third psychological skill intervention method was to "if-then plan," where the participants were told to plan how to achieve an outcome.
They were all then tested on four different aspects of performance, including process, outcome, arousal-control (how they controlled their emotions), and instruction (how they got through the process).
The research team found the greatest improvements in achievement occurred when participants used the self-talk method and told themselves: “I can beat my best score score next time.” The next top strategy was when participants told themselves that they could "react quicker this time.”
Imagery-outcome (imagining yourself doing better than last time) and imagery-process (imagining yourself reacting faster than last time) were the next best options. The team found that if-then planning didn’t make a significant difference in achievement.
So next time something seems a little too difficult to overcome, give yourself a pep-talk and have faith you can accomplish the task.