Objectives: To examine several psychological mechanisms mediating the efficacy of goal setting in endurance sports. Design: The athletes were randomly assigned to four experimental conditions in a 2×2×3 mixed design. Methods: Participants were 35 male endurance athletes ranging in age from 15 to 34 years who competed at different athletic clubs of the Catalonian Track and Field Federation. They were assigned to a goal (attainable or unattainable) and pattern of social comparison (win or lose) conditions, which were the between subject variables, and phase of assessment (three repetitions) served as the repeated-measure variable. Results: To analyze the role of mediator mechanisms, a structural equation modeling analysis was conducted. The results indicated that both motivational and emotional mechanisms were important mediators in improving the efficacy of goal setting in endurance sports. In particular the addition of the concept of suffering (including perceptions of threat and feelings of helplessness) was shown to be related to performance outcomes. Conclusions: When setting goals, the possibility of not reaching those goals can be threatening to individuals and lead to feelings of helplessness, especially if goals are perceived as too difficult. Having strong self-efficacy to meet the goals set is important to maintain motivation. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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