The Fear of Failure
As a kid growing up I was a bit of a perfectionist or just had mild OCD, or maybe both. If I was filling in a colouring book and I made one mark outside the lines I was starting that whole book again, not the picture, the book. It was an expensive characteristic as I was pretty horrendous at arts and crafts.
It was the same with sports, one bad shot or one bad pass playing football would last longer in the memory than the good things I did and would result in spending hours that night out the back garden making that same kick or same pass over and over till it was clockwork.
Having this mindset is something that is just part of me. Like anything it has its pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages some of which are obvious and others which are not. Over the years I haven’t changed much, in fact maybe it has become stronger which is far from ideal as my arts and crafts abilities are still well below average.
To put this into perspective and language we all understand I remember the very first day I tried CrossFit, there was a workout with bar muscle ups and overhead squats. I hopped on the bar threw myself over and thought yeah this is easy I am the next Rich Froning. Next I picked up my thirty kilo bar to do the overhead squats and my world ended. I could have been there for 2 weeks trying it, it was not happening. The mobility of a statue.
This annoyed me so much that I took absolutely no pleasure in getting my first muscle up (the cons) but instead was fixated on the overhead squats (the pros). Since then I have found a few (hundred) other things that I’m bad at which has kept me pretty occupied over the past 18 months.
Being like I am has meant that CrossFit is very much a love/hate relationship for me. Easily once a week I’m left feeling mad or frustrated at not being able to do something well or as good as the guy beside me which causes a tone of wasted energy and being in a bad mood (just kidding I’m always in a good mood..). But on the other hand it makes me do whatever it is over and over again until eventually it gets better however long that takes (not always the smartest way to train) but that’s how I like to do things.
Now I feel like I have began to ramble a little already so I’m going to reign this pony in. My point of this is not about sharing my approach to training or filling out a colouring book as I’ve come to realize my approach is flawed even though I will probably never deviate from my ways or ‘outside the lines’ of my perfectionist OCD habits (I see what you did there, very smart Greg).
But throughout my experience I’ve found one thing to be of great value and that is the ability to analyze and embrace failure.
So many people avoid doing something because they are afraid to fail at it and I see it inside and outside the gym everyday. Ask yourself why that is?
We have become conditioned to fear failure, as if lack of failure guarantees success, it doesn’t, failure is merely often the first important step to getting to where we want to go, be it in CrossFit or in life. Embrace it, learn from it, use it as a reference point from which you move forward.
If you are in class, try that thing that you have wanted to for a while and if you fail at it ask the coach what went wrong, what do I need to fix/improve, don’t be afraid to ask for help – that is why the coaches are there. Not doing it will certainly get you no further then failed attempts (Disclaimer: it may result in a slightly dampened ego).
Working out in a group setting is amazing and it’s fun but I know too that failing at things in front of other people is scary especially if you are new to the sport. But trust me when I say everyone has been there in some form or another and holding back because of the fear of failure is doing yourself and your progress an injustice.
So thats all I have. Conquer and fly or fail and learn, and remember failure is something you can only avoid by saying nothing and doing nothing which sounds pretty dull to me. Enjoy the ride.
Coach Greg ‘Gigi’ Kehoe.