Sport Principle 4: Fear Failure

About the Sport Principle

Many top athletes are driven by a fear of failure more than a need to achieve: it’s not so much the thought of the gold medal that drives them on, but rather the thought of missing out on a medal altogether, or the final, or even qualification for the games themselves! Perfectionism can be a real hindrance in sport and is very closely related to the fear of failure. It causes sportspeople to focus on what not to do and in so doing they perform more tentatively and set themselves up to fail. Many sporting fears are rooted in what is termed social approval, the assumption of how others perceive you. These kinds of fears include the fear of not performing up to others’ expectations, of letting others down, perhaps especially a coach or team mate, or even a parent for kids, the fear of embarrassment, or just the fear of losing.

Application to the Life

There is a great story about a concert pianist who played her heart out at a world class venue and was given a standing ovation by the crowd. Behind the closed curtain, when asked by her manager why she looked so miserable, ‘did she not know everyone was on their feet?’ her reply was ‘not everyone’. And as her manager, on the pianist’s instruction peered again through the gap in the curtain, he saw one man still seated: the pianist’s father. Nobody else’s opinion mattered to her if she hadn’t pleased him. The analogy is simple here. Unlike that impossible-to-please father, we have a loving Father in heaven whose love gives us permission to fail over and over again in our pursuit of His pleasure. Like that pianist, in our lives, we are ‘playing for an audience of one,’ but in our heavenly Father, we find identity, acceptance and approval, and it really doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks. 

Failure is something to be embraced, not feared. All roads to success go through a land called failure, and success always comes after failure, sometimes multiple failures! However, we need to let our fear be like a dog barking behind us, (driving us onwards) rather than like a wall in front of us (shutting us down). All the research suggests that we need to face our fears head on if we are to overcome them. Some years ago, I read a great book by a lady called Susan Jeffers, entitled: “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” In it, essentially, she was saying that we all get scared, but the difference between those whom we look at enviously, who are swimming effectively in the deep waters of the bullseye of God’s plan for their life, and the rest of us, who are too often living intimidated, splashing around in the shallows of life, is that those people have faced the same fears as the rest of us, but they have stared them down, and done the thing anyway! For example, if you’re scared of spiders, get one under a microscope, study it, and ask yourself what is so scary about it? Answer: nothing. There are some fears, like spiders, that we can easily live with of course, but some fears, like elevators, need conquering, especially if you work on the 14th floor of a tower block. Ultimately, if you fear God and not people, or failure itself, there is literally nothing else to fear. You are playing for an audience of one, and you can face all your fears knowing God will help you overcome them. 

Feel the fear and do it anyway! 

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” 

Luke 12:4-5

Image Credit: Martin Magnemyr