Hope and fear are both infectious and include anticipation of a possible outcome.
“You will cease to fear if you cease to hope” (Seneca)
You cannot hope for something without also fearing that it may not happen, it’s the same for any uncertainty.
How you choose to deal with uncertainty will impact on your experience and the results you get.
So, you can hope for a good outcome and focus your energy on taking actions which fit with your goal. Or you can fear a bad outcome, and get distracted by the obstacles, negativity and anxiety associated with that.
Hope inspires us to keep going. You may think of it as fighting spirit, an almost denial or non acceptance of limitations.
Hope prevents us from giving up. It drives us to strive, to do things better, to achieve, to work hard and put the effort in.
There is much research linking hope and optimism with better health (Davis 2005). Hope has also been proven to impact on our length and quality of life and recovery from illness, injury and disease (D.Kim, 2006).
Fear can also be useful to us. It can keep us safe and prevent us from doing risky things- like jumping off a cliff, climbing higher than we are capable of, or slinging 60kg above our head when we have only lifted 40kg in the past. Fear prevents you from picking up that dangerous snake, getting into a fight with a bigger, fitter person…. or Lewis Long.
Yet fear can also endanger us when we are unable to focus or stay present- like in emergency situations. Fear can hold us back when we are paralysed by fear and unable to manage or gain control over our emotional state.
Anticipating fear can result in avoidance behaviours, like not putting yourself forward for promotion, public speaking, entering competitions, saying yes to opportunities.
Fear can also limit and leave us feeling frustrated when we have acquired new skills and capabilities, but are stuck in the past, or a mindset of the past. Old habits and patterns can leave an imprint which can be challenging to change, regardless of all the new input, coaching and positive influence.
Hope, fear and mindset
Hope and fear feed into your mindset which impacts on many different things in relation to your sport and training. From your daily gym sessions, to all the habits in between and to your performance on the competition floor. A fearful approach will lead to different actions and results to a hopeful one.
Hope and fear in sport
Check out these 5 examples of how fearing the worst may be holding you back in your sport:
- Fear of capability – You neglect your skills or give up too soon, because deep down you fear that you won’t be “successful.” You could, hope to learn how to do a ring muscle up, – and put the time and work in to do so. Or you could fear not being able to learn (quick enough/ in time or without missing a few times.) This fear can prevent you from even trying or fully committing to learning. Fear helps us to find excuses.
- Fear of injury or harm. Using the same example, you may hope to learn the gymnastic movement, but you fear injuring yourself. You could hope to increase your strength/ stability / mobility (and do the work), or you could choose to fear injuring yourself and rule the movement/ skill out completely, “I can’t do it because of…”
- Fear of ability to perform– You may hope to podium at an event, but fear of underperforming may prevent you from even entering the competition. “What if I’m not as good as I/ others think I am?” Can you cope with disappointment and not meeting your expectations? Are you prepare to grow your mindset and fail in order too learn? When you have a fixed mindset, you like to prove yourself right and this can backfire.
- Performance Anxiety– you might be hopeful to be able to weight lift your PB at a meet, but feel a physical fear, anxiety or worry which almost causes you to freeze, or you anticipate and worry about freezing. You may experience performance anxiety or a reduced performance due to nerves and haven’t yet learnt the skills to manage these emotions. Through gaining perspective and recognising this, you can simply learn the skills to manage your emotions in this situation, allowing you to perform as you do in the training, or better still use the excitement and adrenaline to up your game. Experienced performers are able to do this and you can learn these skills too.
- Fear of failure can also be related to self-limiting beliefs. Beliefs are self-fulfilling prophecies, so when you hold a belief you work to make it true. This results in an unconscious bias, where you look for and filter evidence in to reinforce this belief to prove yourself right. Your fear of failure can lead to a belief related to failure. Whereas when you hope and believe that YOU CAN LEARN, your effort is focused on making this happen. See how you can get caught up in a web belief and proving yourself right? When you are filled with doubt or fear, it can override the hope and belief that you have built (or that is instilled by others). This is something which is especially important for coaches to be aware of you can read more about growth and fixed mindset by clicking here.
A change in mindset and overcoming these inflexible ways of thinking is when people really make progress and overcome performance obstacles. As a coach it can be reassuring and also very frustrating to know that no matter how much positive feedback you give, its impact may be limited if the mindset is misaligned. “They are just trying to build me up, because really, I’m not good enough.”
I hope you enjoyed reading this article and recognised opportunities for flexing your thinking to improve your results. It’s a great time to reflect on these things now as we perspire to return to a version of normal training, and be empowered to make changes ready for the competition season. As always, get in contact if you want to accelerate your progress and overcome your performance barriers by working one on one for coaching or clinical hypnotherapy.
In this article we talked about aspects of fear of failure, but have you ever encountered a fear or winning? Do you fear success? Keep a watchful eye on our next blog which will explore this topic in more detail.