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The Myth of Momentum


Sports figures, sports writers, and fans all talk about the importance of momentum and the role it plays in a team or individual’s success. But truth be told, the evidence for the effect of momentum on performance has been elusive. You can’t get it in a sports drink, from butting helmets with your teammates on the sidelines, or verbally taunting your opponent from the safety of your side of the playing field.

In truth, psychological momentum depends on an individual’s desire to succeed, and that desire increases in the presence of more success and decreases in its absence. The equation graphic  above has it all wrong.

With the “hot hand” theory, randomness doesn’t care about how many consecutive baskets a player has made or the relative importance we may have assigned to them. The next shot the player makes still has just a 50/50 chance of going in the basket – regardless of how many consecutive baskets he made before. Bookies make lots of money on the hot-hand theory and casinos rake in big bucks on people’s misunderstanding of randomness and probability.

Sports psychologists state that an individual’s belief in their own ability to succeed is significantly related to subsequent success.Your solid goals (and belief in your ability to achieve those goals) + repeated successes along the way = MOMENTUM (see the revised equation graphic below). One success builds upon the other to bring you closer to the next step in your career. Momentum isn’t some ethereal substance; however it is a label that is used to define what happens when working toward clearly defined goals creates repeated successes.

goals - success = motivation

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Former Fortune 500 hiring manager Donn LeVie Jr. is the author of Strategic Career Engagement (September 2015), and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies:  Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers). He leads career strategy seminars at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. military veterans organizations.

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