But what is so special about psychological momentum if the subjects of this study also performed better when momentum turned against themthat is, when they were passed by other cyclists? In the real world, when a cyclist (or runner) is passed by a competitor in a race, the athlete being passed is usually struggling and feeling lousy. And when that is the case, being passed tends to have a deflating effect.

The circumstances of this study differed from real-world racing crucially in that the subjects were passed randomly, not when they were struggling. Consequently, being passed was more likely to have a rallying effect. In any case, this study demonstrated that competition in general enhances performance. Whether it is a matter of getting ahead or of not falling behind, the motivation to defeat rival athletes encourages a competitor to try harder. That said, Perreault’s study also provided evidence that, independent of competition, good luck, or having things go an athlete’s way for whatever reason, psychological momentum also boosts motivation and increases effort, which is what’s so special about it.

MAKING YOUR OWN LUCK If it is true that having things go your way by sheer luck enhances performance by boosting motivation, then it is not good luck itself but feeling lucky that matters. This is good news, because it suggests that athletes are not entirely at the mercy of luck in generating psychological momentum. They can also generate it by cultivating a lucky feeling or making their own luck. Superstitious rituals such as lucky socks are one commonly used method of feeling lucky, but they are not the only, or the most effective, way to generate momentum in sports. Athletes can also nurture the feeling that things are going their way by putting themselves in especially comfortable environments or by manipulating their environments for maximum comfort.



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