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Do You Play With a Fear of Failure?

Do You Play With a Fear of Failure?

Fear of failure is a common issue in the field of sport psychology. Fear of failure is characterized by high expectations, a strong desire to success (and not fail), anxiety or tension, worrying too much about results or outcomes, social approval issues or worrying too much about what others think, and performing with a serious, controlled mindset.

Baseball players and other athletes contact me every day saying that they can’t get out of their own way during games – that their mental game is holding them back. Why would you want to sabotage your own success and prevent yourself from achieving success?

Are you afraid to succeed in baseball? You might be thinking, why would anyone be afraid to succeed at something they work so hard to obtain? Fear of failure is worry about not getting what you so badly want and have worked hard to obtain.

Fear of striking out will cause you to get in your own way with fear, anxiety, tension, and worry about results. This leads to self-sabotage.  

 “Getting in your own way” because of fear of failure is much more common in my work as a performance enhancement consultant to players. Fear of failure turns into anxiety and tension  in the batter box because you don’t want to fail and screw up. Fear of failure can also cause you to try too hard to get a hit or make a play, which would be my definition of ‘getting in your own way’ mentally.

It’s ironic that the player who want to succeed so badly, worry too much about “what if I don’t succeed?” The need to play well often turns into a failure-oriented approach to your game: don’t strike out, don’t give up a hit, don’t make an error, etc.

So how do you improve your mental game so you are not getting in your own way with fear of failure?

The answers are not easy because players hold themselves back for many reasons. You might fear not reaching your or others expectations, for example. You might fear embarrassing yourself if you go 0-4 at the plate. You might worry too much about impressing college scouts. In each of these scenarios, I would take a different approach to finding the solutions.

However, one tip that applies to all these scenarios is you have to learn how to focus on success instead of failure when you play. You should never set negative goals for example – to not strike out. You should always focus on what you want to have happen – hit it hard down the 3rd base line – instead of avoiding mistakes (don’t foul the ball off again).

In the mental game of baseball, the body will follow the input from the mind. If you focus on not striking out at-bat, your body finds a way to strike out. If you think about seeing the pitch well, you focus on positive cues and your mind will achieve this task. Thus, always ask yourself, “What do I need to focus on to execute this pitch, at-bat, or defensive play.” Strive for success instead of avoiding failure!

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