I’ve been looking into hope goals and how they affect performance in athletes and sportspeople recently with some interesting personal theories as a result. There appears to be a cut-off point in many athletes and sportspeople whereby when they have set a goal such as world championships etc., once they have achieved the goal they then do not always go on to repeat the success. This caused me to explore further to see what might be going on with goals affecting performance and how the goals are set. This peaking of goals was described to me by a world champion rower as being because she had reached the goal she had set for herself and therefore the momentum or hope goal was achieved and therefore now redundant. So even if athletes still enter competitions they will often not manage the same result once their personal goal has been achieved. If an athlete does not then reach their goals using prospection, then this could be why they do not then go on to achieve further success. This tells me that new goals are needed with different outcomes.

Something still to beat

This may be changed I suspect, if for example they set themselves a best timing goal to beat rather than a winning goal, which would allow them to go on with something still to beat. In Formula 1, Lewis Hamilton apparently set himself a goal to win three times to match Ayrton Senna. Now it will be interesting to see if he can go on to win it again now that he has achieved this. The other example of this was Jensen Button, whose goal appears to have been just to win the world championship. This he did once, but has never achieved again. This might be where reframing personal goals would allow these drivers for example to continue on to further success.

Losing momentum

Sometimes it also appears that if someone is told by a coach that they will win for certain it can adjust the goal and lose them momentum. The rower I interviewed described this as feeling like a champagne bottle that had had the wire but not the cork removed. She felt that someone telling her that she was going to win the world championship almost removed the hope goal that she could achieve this status. She then felt that she spent the next two weeks on a knife edge fearing the ‘champagne cork’ would pop or she would peak before the event. This seems to suggest that hope goals in athletes need to be kept to a belief in personal potential and success rather than someone else’s belief of a foregone conclusion when attempting to achieve goals.


A kick boxer that I coached recently before a world championship discussed with me the tension felt before a big completion and said that the worst enemy of an athlete in big competition is their fear that they would not win. We therefore used visualisation whereby he saw himself as being the winner and holding the cup before he even started the fight. This he did and found that it helped his focus and he did go on to win the world championship.

This caused me to look at expectation of others as playing a role in success and winning, and I would say that if the athlete or sportsperson themselves set the goal, and visualise personal success, with goals which are concrete, then success seems much more likely.

I look forward to seeing whether Lewis Hamilton can again go on to achieve success this year. Hey maybe he will read this blog first!

About the author: Caralyn Cox, MAPP


‘We Are The Positive Psychology People’

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