In this post, Rick Schwab shares what he learned this year at the 3-Dimensional Leadership Summit about the fear of failure.
The condition known as Fear of Failure is one of the most common motivational diseases. It is an obsessive preoccupation with the perceived consequences of losing characterized by a high anxiety over winning and losing. Student-athletes who suffer from this feel that winning or losing define who they are as a person.
There are several causes of Fear of Failure. Being Extrinsically motivated, never experiencing failure, and the fear of being ordinary with extraordinary potential are a few factors that cause this. Extrinsic motivation refers to behavior that is driven by external rewards such as money, fame, grades, and praise. This type of motivation arises from outside the individual, as opposed to intrinsic motivation, which originates inside of the individual. (psychology.about.com) Many student-athletes struggle with the fact that their may be “hurdles” or “speed bumps” in their road to success. While we are working through those “hurdles” there are often no trophies, medals etc. that materialistically tell us we are doing a good job. Factors, sometimes out of our “secondary” control have contributed to this. One is possibly being conditionally loved by parents or friends, which means in order to be held in high favor among parents, or peers you must be successful. Or perhaps there is an inappropriate use of rewards by the parent, or coach. Student-athletes who are showered with lavish gifts for succeeding tend to loose their inner self worth because their self worth has now been tied to the materialistic item given to them for success.
Another cause of Fear of Failure comes from never experiencing failure. Our student-athletes who have been “sheltered” from all the bad in life struggle with how to cope with failure when it happens. In response they quit, or shy away from what they might not be automatically successful at.
We often speak of our student-athlete’s potential but them never living up to it. The last cause of Fear of Failure is the fear of being ordinary while possessing extraordinary potential. It’s difficult for today’s teen to cope with failing while knowing they have so many possibilities for success.
As teachers or coaches we can recognize Fear of Failure with some of these symptoms. Making excuses before, during, or after performance, being preoccupied with what others think, being preoccupied with the competition's reputation or rank, performance anxiety, and showing signs of psychosomatic ailments or mentally developing an injury.
Once this is identified we can work to find solutions to Fear of Failure in our teens by 1. Unwrapping identity from performance, 2. Learning from losing and 3. Setting proper goals.
In order to unwrap our identity from performance we as teachers and coaches need to what and how to communicate after failure occurs. We need to focus “process” and not “perfection” and build up the successes and properly state how to improve on specific areas. Our nonverbal cues are just as important as our verbal. After failure has occurred we need to keep a calm disposition and not let our own emotions get in the way of what we want to communicate. We also need to keep the performance as separate from the individual. Our teens need to know that a setback does not define who we are, whether it is our response to it that defines us. Our student-athletes need to know that they have value, whether they win or lose.
There are so many ways we can learn from our losses. We learn what our weaknesses are or mistakes that were made, then are able to focus on improving them. We learn patience, for not all success are automatically earned. Finally, we learn persistence, the ability to “stay the course” and keep pushing the grind to success.
The last solution to overcome the Fear of Failure is to set proper goals. In all areas, we need to first know where we are, then we can set accurate personal goals on how to improve. Setting high expectations is great, but our goals must be realistic and achievable. We need to revisit our goals often in order to measure our progress towards them and if the steps we have taken to achieve them need to be altered or reinforced.
The concept of Fear of Success will be a topic I will cover with my Sports Psychology students. Although the topic is very sport related it can be seen in all facets of our classrooms and life. My immediate intention is to help them reach their maximum potential in whatever endeavour they pursue. I also hope for our students to take these lessons with them as they become productive members of society and instill positive qualities in our future Tigers.
Closing the Gap: Applied Sport Psychology for High School
USA Wrestling: Growth and Development of Student-Athletes
Post by | Rick Schwab | High School Physical Education Teacher
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