“…fears tell lies. They suggest to the player that the situations he will face are more difficult to deal with than they actually are.”
– Harvey Dorfman
One of the greatest fears athletes have is a fear of failure.
But, what if coaches wanted to see you fail? They do.
Why? Because they want to see if and how you rebound.
They want to know if they can trust you out there when adversity strikes.
Why? Because it will strike.
Are you ready for it or running from it? Let’s be ready for it.
Fear of Failure: what happens in our minds: Fear of failure occurs when we allow our minds to assume the worst and expect disaster before anything ever happens.
In reality, events rarely turn out as poorly as we make them out to be in our minds.
Much of it depends on how you define failure and what your relationship with it entails.
Having a mature mindset built on preparation and positive self-talk minimizes the chances of things going poorly. The immature mindset fuels the fire that sparks fear into failure. Try saying that 5x fast.
Most everyone knows what fear of failure looks and feels like. But, few athletes have not been taught how to deal with failure in a healthy way in order to soften its blow and turn it around for their benefit.
Keeping Failure in Proper Perspective: Let’s be honest. It’s embarrassing to fail, to come up short, to make an error, to miss the mark. Several errors is almost unbearable.
But a healthy perspective of failure involves acknowledging that failure is going to happen in sport and life! It is unavoidable.
Once you understand that, you should already be breathing a sigh of relief.
Perfection is a pursuit not a prerequisite. (Lots more to come on perfectionism in the coming months. It’s my topic of interest for the first quarter).
It is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to accept failure as a part of the game (a big part of the game especially for hitters) and do your best to learn from it when it happens as unemotionally as possible.
A thought … If you learn to handle failure better than the next guy … who has the edge?
If you aren’t failing at least occasionally, you are playing it too safe, and probably aren’t growing much.
View Failure as a Gift: How would you describe your relationship with failure? Although it can be frustrating to fail, what is even more frustrating is not learning from failure.
You can let an error stew in your mind as you try to fall asleep, or you can forgive yourself and go to school on how to use that failure to improve for next time.
For example: You boot two ground balls in a row. You never do that but today you did. You can say “”life is over and there goes my starting spot” or you can think in a mature manner by asking…
Did I want the ball before the play ever developed? (Belief)
Did I know what I wanted to do with the ball when I got it (Situational preparedness)
Did I use my legs to get there (physical)
Did I get lower than the ball, get my hop, and reach (technique)
Did I see the ball into my glove (visual) or were they somewhere else?
How well did I catch the grounder in the palm on a scale of 1-5 (measurement/focus)
When you can have a set of questions post-error (and on made plays that leaves clues of success), it allows you to conquer the fear of failing by addressing the situation maturely SO THAT you can get back to playing at your best when you want to.
The mature athlete is going to use failure as positive feedback for learning in detail what isn’t working so he or she can make adjustments to find what will produce desired results next time.
True failure only occurs when we fail to or are unwilling to learn from our mistakes.
It is well known that major sports teams want their players to fail in the minor leagues so that when they get to the top levels and experience failure – they already know how to rebound from it because they’ve experienced it before.
WAYS TO CONQUER FEAR OF FAILURE:
- Redefine It: Don’t see failure as failure. See it as learning. Then, you never fail. You only learn and get smarter.
- Consequence Check: Ask yourself – what is the absolute worst thing that could happen in this moment?
- Example: Bases loaded no outs would be a Grand slam. Mature Response: “Oh well, new moment. Now the bases are clear and I have a clean slate to work.”
At the end of the day – it’s only a game and the world didn’t end.
- Control your mind: to focus on what you want or need to do to be successful in the moment rather than allow your mind to think up every imaginable thing that could go wrong next.
- What really is the likelihood that you will fail anyway? Not as high as you might think.
- Compete: Get your mind off of you and onto the game. The opponent. The ball.
- Focus on playing the game and forget about the results: Have fun and be enthusiastic in your sport – enthusiasm tends to put out the fire that fear of failure starts.
- Get comfortable being uncomfortable: Own your mistakes, then put them to bed. It can really be that simple. Try it.
- Choose your response to failure: If the baseball’s not beating you up, then why are you beating yourself up?
- Count on Your Pause: The power of pausing between what just happened (pause: how will you respond (rationally or emotionally), and what will happen next, gives our brains a chance to catch-up and respond effectively in the moment. Train thoughtful responses not emotional ones.
Again, coaches want to see you fail. They want to see how you’ll respond to it. Can they trust you? Do you trust yourself?
FINAL THOUGHT: What would happen if you gave yourself permission to fail? Not excuses to fail. But permission to not have to be perfect? Freedom to have fun and just play the game you love? Scary thought. Try it. I dare you.
Another Challenge: Take 5 minutes a day to visualize those areas or situations where your game currently needs work and imagine yourself with full confidence that you will succeed. Then perform successful repetitions over and over in your mind. Occasionally, see yourself fail and show yourself recovering. If you can see it in your mind’s eye – doing it in real life will be much easier. Practice this a little bit…a lot and you’ll begin to see mental muscle growth!
Dedicated to your thought life …