ZEN+ : Helping you Stay Young and Age Well

This simple tip is proven to improve your performance…

By Marcus Santer


I’m always keen to share psychological tools with you.

Especially when they’ve been proven to help give you an edge.

And I came across an interesting study this week published in Frontiers in Psychology.

The 2nd most cited psychology journal in the world apparently =)


Brief Online Training Enhances Competitive Performance: Findings of the BBC Lab UK Psychological Skills Intervention Study [1]

Hey, as I’m fond of saying:

“I read this stuff…
So you don’t have to!”


In a nutshell the researchers were looking to see which psychological skills could help people to improve their scores in an online game.

They tested:

  1. Self talk – As it sounds. Talking to yourself e.g.: “I can do better”
  2. Imagery – Where you see yourself doing something better
  3. If-Then planning – A technique using an If-Then statement. For example: “If I start to doubt myself… Then I will remind myself I have the skills.”

Each psychological skill was directed to one of four different areas of interest:

  1. Process
  2. Outcome
  3. Arousal-control
  4. Instruction

Which resulted in 12 different intervention groups, with a 13th group acting as a control.

The game involved completing a grid of numbers in the right order against a computer opponent.

Participants completed the task four times:

  1. Practice round
  2. Round 1: To establish a baseline
  3. Round 2: Taken after the first intervention
  4. Round 3: Taken after the intervention was repeated.

Interventions took the form of a video clip by four-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson.


If-Then planning was the least effective way of improving a participants performance during the game.
Imagery was effective
Self-talk was the most effective

But I would point out that all groups improved their performance.

Even the control group, which just goes to show the importance of practice.

Here’s a quote from the study:

“A key message from the findings of the present study is that a brief self-talk intervention focused on motivational outcomes prior to performance intensified pleasant emotions, arousal, and effort and led to improved performance.”

So there you have it.

The next time you’ve got to step up to the plate and deliver the goods, make sure you give yourself some positive self-talk before hand.

I do.

For example, whenever I’m about to teach I always give myself this pep talk:

“I’m loved, I matter and I’m enough.” <-- Hey, it works for me. Whatever you use here are 5 key thoughts to help you get the most from your self-talk:

  1. Keep it positive – “I can do this.” Vs “Don’t mess this up idiot.”
  2. Use ‘You’ instead of ‘I’ – “You can do this.” Vs “I can do this.” [2]
  3. Keep it punchy – “You can do this, you’ve done it before, you’ve got this.” Vs “I know you’re feeling stressed out about this job interview and you’d rather be anywhere else but here right now, but remember… Blah… Blah… Blah…”
  4. Practice – Don’t wait until you need the benefits of self-talk, practice your script before hand
  5. Internal Vs External – It’s up to you, some people find out loud self-talk awkward and distracting. Do what works best for you [3].

Want more?

If you’ve got my ZEN+ book you can read about the 5 popular motivational strategies that aren’t very effective…

And the 5 that are on page 131.

I also covered them on the Qigong15 blog here.

Right I gotta scram…

Bye for now


P.S. If you liked this post, you’ll love the ZEN+ Journal.

In these online posts I barely scratch the surface of the research, but each month in the Journal I dig in deep and provide you with proven ways to live better and age well.

Full details of the Journal here.

References used:

[1] Lane, Andrew M., et al. “Brief online training enhances competitive performance: Findings of the BBC Lab UK psychological skills intervention study.” Frontiers in psychology 7 (2016).

[2] Kross, Ethan, et al. “Self-talk as a regulatory mechanism: how you do it matters.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 106.2 (2014): 304.

[3] Hatzigeorgiadis, Antonis, et al. “Self-talk and sports performance a meta-analysis.” Perspectives on Psychological Science 6.4 (2011): 348-356.

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