Popular wisdom informs us that telling yourself "I can do it" is a sure way to help you succeed, but is that demonstrably true? Yes, you can, reports PsyPost, referring to results found by the BBC Lab UK Psychological Skills Intervention Study.

A team of psychologists and sports scientists supported by BBC Lab UK designed the research and published their findings in the journal Frontiers of Psychology. The researchers said they developed "12 brief psychological skill interventions for online delivery.... Three psychological skills were used; imagery, self-talk, and if-then planning, with each skill directed to one of four different foci: outcome goal, process goal, instruction, or arousal-control."

Outcome goals refer to desired results ("I will win the game"), process goals to techniques for achieving success ("I will try to act more speedily"). Instruction focus refers to keeping a specific rule of performance in mind. Arousal control is about managing the intensity of one's drive.

The study called on participants to play an online game testing their speed and accuracy. They had to quickly find and click on the numbers 1 to 36 framed within a 6x6 grid. To foster competitiveness, participants were told that their score would be compared to that of another player, which was actually a computer-simulated opponent. An astonishing 44,000 people took part in the online exercise.

The research analysis turned up several interesting findings. Regardless of motivational style, focusing on outcome goals resulted in significantly faster completion times over the control group. Self-talk and imagery approaches that focused on process goals were also successful for achieving faster times than the control group.

Furthermore, self-talk approaches for three foci (outcome, process and instruction) produced a greater degree of effort from the participants. The full analysis of the participant data is quite complex, but the general result is that the self-talk (outcome), self-talk (process), imagery (outcome) and imagery (process) approaches proved successful in motivating people to improve their performance.

In addition, the researchers say that their study showed that using online videos to coach people into performing and feeling better is a workable idea. It is worth noting, however, that the motivational videos featured four-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson in the role of coach. It is not known whether videos relying on a less credible or less well-known personality would be equally as effective.