Obstacles to Optimal Performance: Fear

“All things in the cosmos will be aroused to movement through fear. This movement will be cautious, and cautious movement will bring success” – 1 Ching no 51

Fear is a natural emotion. It’s a survival instinct and indicates that you need to be alert. Trying to fight or force away fear creates a counter force that makes you tense and anxious and interferes with your performance. What you resist will persist. Because fear is a natural part of life, it doesn’t go away. It can paralyze you or you can use it to give you the opportunity to assess the risk you’re facing and prepare for it properly. Fear is a friend that you must embrace.

If you feel endangered or fearful, ask yourself why you’re feeling that way. Have you prepared well for what you are doing? Are you thoroughly equipped? Let yourself be afraid. You can actually defeat your fear by blending with its force. Alan Watts said: “ The other side of fear is freedom”. Remember that you are not alone. Every athlete, even the greatest of the great, has fear.

In the Western world we learn that “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” (Vince Lombardi). Many coaches, teachers and parents believe that losing represents failure. This mentality is responsible for much of the fear of failure that athletes experience at all levels.

Failure cannot be avoided. The greatest of the great have failed at times and so will you. You perfect your game through adversity and failure. Look at failure as a lesson from which you can learn. Seeing failure as an opportunity for improvement makes it more tolerable and will help you relax.

As a child you learned from repeated failures to master one of the most difficult and challenging of skills – walking. You repeat falling, bumping into things and crying until you have it down. You learn from each mistake and receive encouragement from your parents until you can walk. For some reason when we get older we start to tell ourselves we are “no good” when we fail. The support we used to get from our parents as babies turns into judgment in many cases.

The challenge is to see things as they are and to accept the truth about them. Do not fight failure. What you learn from setbacks or defeat is more valuable than a victory. Each experience we have yields us a treasure of knowledge if we choose to see and accept it that way.


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