The Fear of Failure - Part 2

author : Jerrykyc
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Like the fear of being foolish, the fear of failure is very common. The first step in overcoming the fear of failure is to define it. Once defined the steps to overcome it are not difficult.

The Fear of Failure

Last month we overcame the fear of being foolish.  Overcoming the fear of being foolish got us into training for triathlon.  We bought the clothes and appurtenances that we needed and actually went out in public.  We knew that we had overcome the fear of being (or looking) foolish the moment that we felt comfortable in public...in spandex! It also got us started into training and signed up for a triathlon.  This month the reality hits us.  We are going to do a triathlon!

As the day approaches for the first triathlon, the stomach gets a bit queasy.  The nerves get a bit tense and some jitters set in.  Some people feel like they have the flu and some just want to have any excuse to not actually do the triathlon.  This is a new fear that is setting in—the fear of failure.  The fear of failure can be very destructive.  I have had to overcome it often.  When I first started racing bikes, I would tend to drop from the race as soon as I got dropped by the peloton in a criterium.  My fear of failure caused me to not complete the race, not any physical condition.  It was easier to drop and not finish the race than to stay and finish. It was not good. 

Like the fear of being foolish, the fear of failure is very common.  Some professional performers and singers get it in the form of stage fright every time that they get on the stage.  Most people that do athletic competitions get the fear of failure at almost every race.  So for you, a beginner triathlete, to have this fear is really normal.  The first step in overcoming the fear of failure is to define it.  Once defined the steps to overcome it are not difficult.  Since your triathlon is not a “test” how is it that there can be a fear of failure?  You are really only competing against yourself.  Simply, the fear of failure is the fear of not meeting expectations.  The key to overcoming the fear of failure is managing expectations.

As you have been training for your first triathlon, you have been working hard.  You have been swimming, running and biking and you know that you can complete the race.  During your training, however, it may be wise to also manage your expectations.  Here is an example. 

Often when a person is training for a triathlon, the people that they train with will give words of encouragement.   Encouragement is good, excessive expectations may not be.  If a person is told that “you are going to do great” or “you are going to really place well,” these “words of encouragement” can too easily turn into expectations.  Now the beginner triathlete is entering a race that he or she has never done before and can easily be thinking that the spectators or trainers are expecting great results.  This can lead to disastrous results.

Picture this.  You are not really sure of what to expect on the swim even though you have practiced all of the right things, including group pandemonium.  All of a sudden, your wave leaves and you fall off the back of the swim pack.  The result is often an increased anxiety leading to an elevated heart rate leading to excess exertion leading to poor performance.  I have seen many people drop out of the first triathlon at the end of the swim, not because they could not complete the race but because of a feeling of failure.

This is not limited to beginners.  Managing expectations is important for all athletes and certainly for triathletes.  As an example, let us suppose that you do well in your first triathlons.  Then you, and often the people around you, create an unrealistic expectation that you will do well in all of your races.  As you enter larger races, the competition increases and your results may not live up to what you and your fellow triathletes had hoped for.  Races become tedious and less enjoyable.  The problem was not that your performance decreased but rather that there was more competition. 

In both of these cases the importance of managing expectations is the key to overcoming the fear of failure.   Here are some tips or ideas to help in overcoming the fear of failure.

  1. Be realistic.  Understand your capabilities and your limitations.
  2. Race “within yourself”.  This means that you must control your exertion levels to meet what you want to do and not as a response to the others around you.  
  3. Train with a heart rate monitor at least for the bike and the run.  This will help keep you in check and will help keep you racing within yourself.
  4. Do not let the encouragement of others become your expectations.  They are meant to help you along so take them for that.  You alone must control your fears.
  5. Do the best that you can do and be satisfied.  Look forward to the next race.
  6. Smile, always smile.  And be happy with your results. 

Never quit. 

Triathlon is not easy.  If it were easy everyone would do it.  Whether you finish first or last or in the middle is not the measure of success, or failure.  Success is completing the race and being happy with yourself, knowing that you have done the best that you can do.  I had a friend that was a bike racer. She was not very good.  But she finished every race with a smile on her face, often long after the leaders finished.  Everyone loved her.  She was the greatest success at every race though she often finished last. 

She was a winner.


About the book “Chasing Caterpillars

The book, “Chasing Caterpillars”, speaks to those persons who are standing on the edge, thinking about doing a triathlon, or even training for one, but still hesitant to take the plunge. It is a light, fun and motivating book designed to entice newcomers or wannabe’s to go ahead and just do it. The book relates the life experience of the author with the adventures and misadventures that befall the new triathlete. It particularly relates to those of the over 50 age group that have serious doubts. Fear not-- so says the book!

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date: June 7, 2013

Jerrykyc

Jerry Kyckelhahn, is far from a life-long athlete. Compared to the athletes of today, Jerry got a delayed start into triathlon, a delay of about 50 years. His experiences and late entry into sports ultimately led to a Pan American Continental Master’s championship in track sprints and finally to a USAT long course triathlon national championship. But his focus has never been on winning but rather on participation and health and fitness. He has written many previous local and national articles most of which have addressed how to have fun in triathlon and biking.

avatarJerrykyc

Jerry Kyckelhahn, is far from a life-long athlete. Compared to the athletes of today, Jerry got a delayed start into triathlon, a delay of about 50 years. His experiences and late entry into sports ultimately led to a Pan American Continental Master’s championship in track sprints and finally to a USAT long course triathlon national championship. But his focus has never been on winning but rather on participation and health and fitness. He has written many previous local and national articles most of which have addressed how to have fun in triathlon and biking.

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