Athletes who are able to recognize early when a goal is unattainable and are able to switch their focus to more attainable objectives, as done by British tennis player Andy Murray, are the most successful at achieving their main career goals, a new study funded by Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) reveals.
The research conducted by the universities of Birmingham and Southampton, has found that the reasons why a person is motivated to achieve tough sporting goals influence how well that person does in pursuing these goals.
It was suggested that a person, who is motivated by the enjoyment or personal importance of a goal will strive harder and for longer and will be more successful in achieving an increasingly difficult goal, compared to someone motivated by external pressure or feelings of guilt.
However, the research identified that when athletes with high self-motivation recognised early when a goal was impossible they were able to quickly disengage from the goal and then re-engage with challenging, new targets that were also compatible with their overall objectives.
This group of athletes made the most progress toward achieving their central goal.
The research concluded that coaches and applied sport psychologists need to be aware of athletes' motives for their goals to help them be most effective, successful and adaptive in their goal striving.