Motivation Tips from Sports Psychology


There are many motivational tips we can borrow from Sports Psychology.  In sports, people are aiming to achieve goals they’ve never reached before. Also, their goals are very easy to define and the results are easy to measure. This is why I’ve turned to the theory of goal setting in sports psychology for some good motivational tips.

Whatever principles or theory of goal setting and motivation that are increasing their athletic performance,- should also increase the every day person’s performance in goal setting and life, if the same principles are applied.

Just as Olympians want to break new world records, we as individuals want to reach new performance records within the different areas of our own lives.

As you increase your knowledge in sports psychology and its theory of goal setting, remember that your sport is simply whatever goal you are working on. All of our goals involve us performing, or behaving and thinking in certain disciplined ways to reach those goals.




A majorly important lesson on the theory of goal setting that you’ll want to take away from sports psychology, involves the power of implementing routines in your life. Who would of thought that such a basic principle could be so powerful?

Here’s a quick exercise for you to try. Think about anything in your life right now that gives you a consistent source of pleasure. How does this become so? There is probably some routine behind it.

If your career gives you pleasure, it’s because you have a routine or habit in place of going to work several times a week. If your relationships with others consistently gives you pleasure, then you probably have a habit of making plans and seeing them regularly. If your health and fitness levels give you joy – well it’s obvious that you have a routine behind that as well.

Here is a very powerful quote that I want to expand on:

“Routines are one of the most effective ways to systematically plan for success. Routines have been shown to be invaluable in helping athletes achieve their competitive goals.” (Schack, Whitmarsh, Pike & Redden, 2005, p.138).




We often hear that we should break all our goals down into a series of actions. Well, on a parallel note, another great theory of goal setting is to break your goals down into a series of mini routines.

In other words, what routines do you need to get into the habit of following on a consistent basis if you are to achieve your goals?

For example, if you we take our common pursuit of wanting to eat healthy, this is easy to think of in terms of routines:

  • Routine of scheduling in and reminding one’s self of when one will buy their groceries
  • Routine of planning one’s meals and snacks ahead of time
  • Routine of making a detailed grocery list ahead of time of what groceries are needed
  • Routine of knowing a consistently good time to go grocery shopping, i.e, each Monday morning
  • Routine of washing and chopping up vegetables as soon as groceries are bought
  • Routine of leaving a half our each evening to put together a salad for the next day at work
  • And so on!!! So you see how the seamingly simple goal of eating healthy foods requires a lot of planning and action steps? Well, if you can use this theory of goal setting and make these steps part of an automatic routine then you will have a lot going in your favour for you.

By the way, might I throw in that research shows that one of the top reasons that people don’t consistently eat healthy is because they lack a concrete structure in their eating habits? In other words, they fail because they have no consistent eating routine that works for them (Gullo, 2005).




According to the theory of goal setting in sports psychology, routines have helped athletes to cope better and reduce external stressors/distractions when they are at an important competition.

If we apply this to our own lives, every day there are external distractors or environmental influences that can lead us away from our goals. So, I think we can take a few lessons away from how athletes use routines to increase their performance at competitions.

Based on this, there are few key benefits of having a routine to help us perform better with our own goals:



1. A sports psychology theory of goal setting might offer that When you are focused on your routine, you are less likely to be distracted by pursuing other activities that you don’t value. In other words, a routine is a powerful and hopefully ‘soon to become’ automatic way of staying focused on your goals.

For instance, when atheletes prepare for a new competition in a new location, if they focus on the routine of stretching, they are less likely to pay attention to external environmental distractions such as arriving a bit too late, the extra cold or hot weather, the fact that their fans are “booing”, etc.

We can also learn a lesson from this. As the saying goes, it is not what happens to us, but it is how we respond to what happens to us. There will always be external variables or what seem to be ‘road blocks’ that come up during the pursuit of our goals.

However, if we have a solid, strong routine that feels good to us, we’ll have that as our foundation to fall back on. If atheletes use this concept to perform and focus to break new world records, then there is no reason that we can’t also apply the power of routines into our own lives as well.

So, what routines do you have in place? Do they lead you and guide you? Do they keep you focused on what is most important? Do they lead you through uncertain or stressful times? Do you have a habit of ‘falling off the boat’ with your goals when you face barriers? You can see how important the power of routines truly are…



2. Another similar benefit is routines can give you a sense of “familiarity” and “comfort” as you pursue your performance goals in life. Routines are a series of behaviours that ARE IN YOUR CONTROL.

When an athlete arrives at a new location for a performance, the one thing in their control is that they havea series of mental and physical warm-up routines to follow. No matter what else is happening in the external environment, they do have something in their own control – their routine.

Apply this same principle to your own life. No matter what comes up in your life – stressors, barriers, or any other challenges, – you can control the fact that you can implement routines that not only allow you to ‘survive’, but rather routines that will help you ‘thrive’.

Routines are the building blocks from which we can create an ecstatic life, and strive for our lofty goals. As the saying goes, you cannot build a house on a rocky foundation, and the same is true with your life goals. You cannot achieve greatness without a solid foundation of strong routines that support you through out all of life’s challenges.



Here is yet another powerful theory of goal setting that we MUST take away from sports psychology. Athletes implement “post-competition routines” so that after their important performances, they take time to evaluate the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of their performance.

We also should do the same. We are constantly performing day in and out with many goals. We must take time to evaluate what is working, and what is not working.

In the case of athletes, they do an inventory for both successes and failures. They might examine how variables such as their nutrition, mental preparation, stretching routines, or equipment contributed to their performance.

So, here is our job. We need to recall our successes. What variable and factors contributed to our successes? Simply make sure you implement these actions or variables again in your future! Once you make a point of understanding ‘what works’ in your life, then you need to keep on doing it!

We also need to keep a record of so called ‘failures’ or instances where things weren’t working in favour of our goals, so that we can LEARN from those mistakes. We need to evaluate both our successes and ‘failures’, to make sure we know the recipe to build more successes in our lives, and decrease our those instances or situations that are considered less than favourable.

It’s about making continual adjustments in our lives. So, while athletes use post-competition routines, we can regularly evaluate our weekly, monthly or yearly performances with our life goals in general.