How to Overcome the Fear of Negative Outcomes

How to Turn Mistakes Into Success

Stay Focused on What To Do in the Present

Are you fearful of losing or making “big” mistakes in competition? Welcome to the world of sports where losses and mistakes are a part of the game.

Two types of athletes exist in sports: One type of athlete focuses on the fear of making mistakes while the other athlete focuses on making plays.

Focusing on fear places your focus on future negative outcomes and unknowns.

Focusing on fear stops you in your tracks and disrupts improvement and peak performance.

Imagine what would happen if a hockey goalie was focused on staring at his stick instead of the play in front of him. Or a golfer looking at another golfer while attempting to drive a ball off the tee. Both choices would end in disaster.

When you obsess over losing, you are no longer focused on successfully performing in the moment. You are more worried about losing and the meaning you assign to losing. For example, “If I lose, it will mean that I am not talented.”

Imagine the following scenario, a volleyball player is serving to close out a set…

Their team is an overwhelming favorite to win the match, but the opposing team is on top of their game, saving the ball with athletic digs and blocking shots. The match is closer than anyone expected.

Instead of focusing on the positioning of the opposing team, the player serving is focused on trying not to serve the ball into the net. The player’s fear causes them to be tense and nervous, slightly throwing off their timing. The player serves the ball right into the net, just like they feared.

To perform at your peak, your focus should be present oriented, “What should I do now?” instead of focusing on what ifs and negative outcomes.

Jean FranÁois MÈnard, a mental-performance coach, has been working with Laurence Vincent-Lapointe, a 13-time world champion canoeist, as she prepares to hopefully compete in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

MENARD: “When you show up at the Olympics, every athlete is strong physically, every athlete is prepared technically, but the ones who typically perform very well are the ones who can manage the moment, manage themselves, manage the pressure, manage the expectations that come with that.”

Vincent-Lapointe has faced a lot of adversity, including testing positive for a questionable performance-enhancing substance. Vincent-Lapointe has been faced with many fears regarding her ability to regain her form and compete at a high level again.

VINCENT-LAPOINTE: “[Menard] helped me realize that whenever I’m afraid of something that’s going to happen, it’s all speculative. I’m not basing my fear on something real, I’m basing my fear on something that hasn’t happened. So he helped me get back in the moment and get back to what I know I’ve done, my successes, and every good thing I’ve done.”

Fear is not real until you fuel that fear.

Focusing on your actions in the moment minimizes fear. Those fears may exist in the back of your mind but that fear no longer is an intrusive disruption.

Once you regain your focus in the present, you free yourself to put all your effort in performing in the moment.

Overcoming the Fear of Negative Outcomes:

Healthy internal dialogue can help you overcome irrational fears. Ask yourself the following questions: What do I fear? Is this outcome a definite? If no, what can I do in the present to enhance my performance the most?

Fear is often irrational. When you counter fear with logical thinking, you are better able to immerse yourself in the moment and perform at your peak.

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