Can fear of failure be a barrier to improving fitness levels?

Fear of failure can be a barrier to improving any area of our lives.

Fear of failure is paralyzing and leads to inaction. When we don't act, we don't succeed, which reinforces the idea that we have failed. This becomes cyclical and leaves us feeling powerless.

It's important to move out of a perfection model, and into participation mode.

We don't have to be the best at everything we do, but by not participating, we have no way of discovering how great we can actually be. The goal is to embrace the fear. Trying something new can be very exhilarating, and discovering that we're good at it is incredibly empowering.

The way to move past the fear and into action is to take one step at a time, recognizing that even baby steps are forward moving.

The first step is recognizing that nobody becomes an expert overnight. When we compare ourselves to those who've already perfected a skill, and then are not able to perform at an advanced level right out the gate, we give up. Remember that every advanced athlete has been practicing and perfecting their skills for years, often over the course of a lifetime, and being fit does not require being an advanced athlete.

Recognize you are a beginner and start slow. Join a beginner’s fitness class, and rather than focusing on the most advanced participant, look around and recognize how many others are exactly like you. Participating in a group class can be scary at first, but can ultimately be very supportive. Once you see how many people are just starting out, you can feel confident knowing that you are not alone. Reaching out to other participants in the class can connect you with people who share common goals and can be a great support system. Join together to do other fitness activities outside of class, like walking or running, and use one another for motivation. Knowing that the other person is counting on you to walk with them or even be at class with them keeps you accountable to showing up as well. Over time, you will get stronger and increase your skills and with practice and participation, you will reach your goals. Practice and patience are essential to making progress, and showing up, is the key to success.

From my personal experience and working with others, it has become clear to me that fear of failure can be a barrier to improving fitness levels. I often see fear built on our individual past failures. If we failed before, we may carry that with us and believe we will fail again. This cycle can repeat and I see it often with those trying to lose unhealthy weight.  

One powerful thing I have learned is in many cases we are not "aware" of the fear and how it limits us. Once we identify the fear and decide to face it and push through it and even use it as motivation...we are all capable of success, reaching new levels of health and fitness no matter where we are in the process.  

Fear of failure can be a barrier to any aspect of our lives. What you must consider is that attaining fittness, or anything in life worth attaining, takes time. As the saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day!

When working on your fitness goals, keep the SMART principle in mind. Your goals shoudl be Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time oriented. And example of a specific goal would be to move from couch potato to running a 5k. This is certainly a measurable and attainable goal provided you keep it realistic. Will if happen a week after your first steps off the couch...not likely. But in 90 days or 6  months? Certaily realistic depending upon your current level of fitness.

As FDR said in his first inaugural address, “The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself”.  If you want to improve your fitness level, then you will not fail, as long as you take some action. As soon as you take that first step towards becoming more fit, you have succeeded. Then it becomes a matter of how successful you want to become and that will be based upon the goals you set and the commitment you make. They say at our local gym that showing up is 90% of the battle, and I wholeheartedly believe that.

Fear of failure is a barrier that can affect every part of your life if you let it.

That is because what you focus on is what your reality will become.

If you are scared you will fail at improving your fitness level, then you are sure to fail because you are focusing on failure.

It's the exact same concept as the person who thinks they will fall is the one who will fall. It's simply because their mind was focused on falling.

Don't even let fear of failure exist in your mind. Focus on success and your fear will fade away and your confidence will soar once you start having your first small successes!

The fear of failure can be a barrier to improving fitness levels, only if you as an individual let it be. I believe that we are in control of what believe about certain aspects and situations in life, and it is said that “Fear” represents the phrase False Evidence Appearing Real; we need to replace the false evidence with the truth about the fitness obstacle. The elimination of the lies will allow one to overcome the obstacle with courage, and improve fitness levels.

Fear is a force everyone has to deal with from time to time.  Fear is especially prevalent when trying something new or unfamiliar.  Know that you are not alone.  It is always good practice to have a strong support staff to help you through the difficult times.  This can be a spouse, friends or personal trainer.  Be sure to express to them your goals and fears.  They can really help to keep you motivated and on-track.
Kim Corwin , NASM Elite Trainer
Fitness Specialist
Fear of failure is a barrier in life itself, but I think it's important to remember that you aren't studying for a test that someone else will grade.  You are the one who sets the goals or milestones and achieves them.  Be realistic.  If you are planning to walk a marathon next month and walking a mile is difficult now, you may want to rethink that goal.  Always see your possibilities, but don't set yourself up for failure.
Fear of failure can be a barrier to improving fitness. But it's only a barrier. Barriers are made to be broken down.  Fear is all about confidence. You may start out with the fear of failure, but after small accomplishments that fear will be gone. You confidence will grow. Always think positive and use positive thoughts. Turn those fear of failure thoughts into any positive thought you can think of. Start there and you will learn to forget the word fear.

Fear of failure stops people from doing what they set out to do. If you think you are going to fail then usually what follows is why bother. And because that word is so negative it might be best all the way around to change it to something else. Thinking you are going to 'fail' is a self fulfilling prophecy and rather than actually setting yourself up for failure how about setting yourself up for success.  

The first question to ask yourself is what does that word failure mean to me? A couple of next questions might include: how do you know whether or not you will fail and if you do fail what is the worst thing that will happen? These are important questions to ask yourself.

That word failure is a trap. For example if you were trying to lose 10lbs in 5 weeks and you only lost 9lbs does mean that you failed and dilute what results you did get? What if you looked at the results in another way? You may not have reached your goal of 10lbs but you did lose 9lbs and you are able to walk up stairs more easily and play with your kids for the first time in a long time. 

People who do allow themselves to fail usually learn about themselves and learn a lot about what they need to do differently to move forward. If you allow it to, failing can give you some good information about how to not fail the next time.

And because that word is so negative it might be best all the way around to change it to something else. Thinking you are going to 'fail' is a self fulfilling prophecy and rather than actually setting yourself up for failure how about setting yourself up for success.  

Fear of failure is a gigantic obstacle. As good as the intentions and as strong as your mind may be most people will generally have weak moments and doubts at times.  

It is incredibly important to have a great support system around you or a coach that you are accountable to. It is also important to be open and honest with that group or coach. If you are real and accurate with a group or coach they will help hold you accountable and keep you motivated and remind you of three steps of acknowledgement and choice, appropriate goal setting proximity and the appropriate time-frame and focus.

The group or coach is also important because celebrating achievements alone is no fun!

Fear of failure probably short circuits more fitness programs than any other obstacle. Fear is simply the brain's response to a threat. Being pushed past our comfort zone during training can sometimes cause us to feel threatened, which, in turn, can create self-defeating thoughts. Continuously engaging in self-defeating thought patterns can cause our actions to follow suit. There are a few things you can do to help with the fear of failure. First, acknowledge the fear and that you have a choice about how to deal with it. Second, break up big goals into smaller ones. This can help reduce the intensity of the fear felt. Third, pace yourself and focus on making changes over time as opposed to all at once. Finally, celebrate each small milestone achieved. This will help you build a conscious history of success.

Fear of failure can be a barrier, but can also be a motivating factor if used correctly. Most great athletes use their fears as reason to train harder so the likelihood they will fail is greatly reduced. Remember, you can only disappoint you when it comes to your own fitness, and have a tremendous support team in Sharecare that is here to help!

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.