Integrating theories of self-control and motivation to advance endurance performance

Image credit: Unsplash


Self-control is a burgeoning research topic within sport and motivational psychology. Following efforts to define and contextualize self-control, characteristics of self-control are considered that have important implications for sport performance. We describe and evaluate various theoretical perspectives on self-control, including limited resources, shifting priorities, and opportunity-costs. The research described includes sport-specific research but also studies that focus on general motivational principles that look beyond sport-specific phenomena. We propose that attentional - rather than limited resource - explanations of self-control have more value for athletic performance. Moreover, we integrate self-control ideas with descriptions of motivational phenomena to derive novel hypotheses concerning how self-control can be optimized during sport performance. We explain how minimizing desire-goal conflicts by fusing self-control processes and performance goals can delay aversive consequences of self-control that may impede performance. We also suggest that autonomous performance goals are an important motivational input that enhances the effectiveness of self-control processes by (1) reducing the salience of the desire to reduce performance-related discomfort, (2) increasing attentional resources towards optimal performance, and (3) optimizing monitoring and modification of self-control processes. These extensions to knowledge help map out empirical agenda that may drive theoretical advances and deepen understanding of how to improve self-control during performance.

International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 13(1)
Stephen Murphy
Stephen Murphy
Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Psychology

My research interests include self-regulation, motivation, meta-science, data science, and digital wellbeing.