Overcoming Your Fear of Failure
Fear of failure is a rampant virus that infects a lot of baseball players. In my experiences, I would say that FEAR OF FAILURE has ruined more careers than injuries ever have. It definitely played a part in the demise of my own career. Fear is paralyzing, constricting, and devastating.
If I were to lay a one foot wide plank of wood on the ground in your living room and I asked you to walk across it, you’d have no problem. You’d walk to the end and back as many times as you wanted with little fear of stepping off.
But if I took that same plank of wood and stretched it across the grand canyon, you would definitely struggle. The fear of what might happen if you were to misstep would take hold. You would walk the plank as slowly as possible, very timidly, and tensed. You’d have a much better chance of falling off as a result.
This is an extreme example, sure. But the same thing happens to most of us when we are on the mound or in the batter’s box. Fear of what might happen if we were to fail takes hold. We become timid, tight, and rigid. The paradox though, is when we are afraid to fail, we are much more likely to fail.
I played with a few guys who never seemed to be affected by fear of failure. They just played the game. Unfortunately, I was not one of those players. I was an over-thinker, a stressor, and a perfectionist. A perfect combination for an overwhelming fear of failure. When I did finally start to focus on the mental side of the game and overcome my mental struggles, it was too late. I was already at the tail end of my career and damage was done.
The good news is YOU don’t have to struggle with fear of failure. There are mental approaches to the battle these negative thoughts. Here are 3 concepts to think about and implement into your mental game.
1) Worst Case Scenario
What’s the absolute worst thing that will happen if you strike out? Give up a home run? Make an error?
Think about it. What are you really afraid of?
For example, as a pitcher i found myself in plenty of tight situations with runners in scoring position and the game on the line. Like a lot of you, I would immediately worry about giving up a hit.
But why? All pitchers give up runs.
I should have played out my worst case scenario tape in my mind:
I could give up a hit, a few runs score, and i get pulled form the game. If I have a number of bad starts in a row I could even get released, if the shit really hits the fan
Big deal, right? I mean yeah it would suck if it came to that. But rarely did my worst case scenarios ever come true in the moment. I bet yours won’t either.
Our fears are irrational. So why do we listen to them?
Next time you’re in a bind play out the tape in your mind. What’s the absolute worst thing that could happen if you were to fail in that moment? Is it really that bad?
I bet not. No one’s going to cook you and eat you. You’re not going to lose a leg. Look your worst fears directly in the face, and realize they’re probably never going to happen, and even if they do…they’re not really THAT BAD.
You don’t have to wait until your next game to start putting this to use. Sit down and seriously think about the times you encounter your FEAR OF FAILURE, so that the next time you’re in a situation and FEAR OF FAILURE creeps up you’ve already acknowledged it, processed it, know that it’s probably not going to happen, and can move on.
#2) FUTURE EVENTS APPEARING REAL
If you’ll notice above, that’s an acronym for F.E.A.R.
The only place FEAR can live is in the future, in future events. FEAR is always in the future tense, never past or present. And FEAR always relates to things that simply HAVE NOT HAPPENED.
That’s where these expressions come in:
Stay in the moment.
If we are staying present in the moment and only focused on executing the task at hand, it’s very difficult to be worried about future what-ifs.
For example, back to the mound again. If I find myself in the same situation with runners in scoring position and I’m solely focused on executing the next pitch, fear will have a hard time finding any real estate in my mind.
I RECEIVE THE BALL FROM THE CATCHER…I DECIDE ON THE NEXT PITCH TO EXECUTE…I VISUALIZE MYSELF EXECUTING THAT PITCH…I TAKE A DEEP BREATH…I CHECK THE RUNNERS…I DELIVER THE PITCH.
There’s not much time to worry about what might happen if I’m dialed in to the current situation and my routine. See?
#3) YOU SIGNED UP FOR IT. ACCEPT IT.
This is a little bit of tough love, but you did sign up for this. You chose to play a sport where Hall of Fame hitters FAIL seven out of ten times. Hall of Fame pitchers give up multiple runs a game. You picked a tough sport to play my friend. You will FAIL, and you will FAIL OFTEN. So get over it.
The good news is, every other human being on the face of the planet who has ever played this game has also FAILED. You are not unique.
Don’t wait until your next game to try and pull out these tools when you are in a bind. As stated earlier, start to intellectualize these things now so that when you are in the game these thoughts will come naturally.
Your worst case scenario will probably never happen, and if it does, it’s not that bad. Live in the moment, not in what might happen. Play the game loose and free.
Best of luck with these three cues. Do you have any others I missed? If so, drop em’ in the comment box below and tell me about them.
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