Fear of Failure May Hinder Our Potential
Fear of failing causes us to perform below our usual levels in competitive situations, according to a new study.

May 19, 2014

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Often success comes down to a single event. Despite years of practise, Lionel Messi’s chances of winning a World Cup may come down to a single penalty. Your chances of promotion may come down to a single presentation or your aspirations of landing that dream job may hinge on a single interview.

It is the fear of that singular event causes us to perform below our normal prime, according to new research.

Scientists performed a series of physical tests during practise and game conditions on 18 young healthy adults. The participant’s coincidence anticipation timing, which measures their ability to anticipate and coordinate actions like catching a ball or striking a moving object, was significantly lower in game/competitive conditions when compared to practise conditions.

The research, which was presented at the British Psychological Society’s annual conference by lead author Dr Michael Duncan, also found that the participant’s anxiety levels were significantly higher during game conditions, most likely due to them worrying about their performance.

The results add further weight to the ‘catastrophe theory’, which is popular among coaches and psychologists. The theory states that sports performance is adversely affected by stress and anxiety.

If you’ve got a big ‘game making’ moment coming up, read Men’s Health’s tips for not failing under pressure. Although you can’t run away from pressure situations, you can become better than most at dealing with them.