3 Important Steps to Eliminate a Fearful Mindset.

3 Important Steps to Eliminate a Fearful Mindset.

The worst thing about fear for you as an athlete is that you lose the ability to concentrate. You risk the inability to focus when you need to most. You don’t need unwanted thoughts jumping around in your head causing you to doubt or fear making that winning score. You don’t need your thinking to become fuzzy and lose the power to make the right decisions during your performance.

What if you had the techniques and strategies to help you cope with worry, doubt and fear at your disposal? Wouldn’t this make you a more relaxed and confident athlete? When you become confident and relaxed you start to take control of your performance. The clutter is gone and you develop a winners mindset.

I have worked with athletes who have always feared the worst, doubted their own ability and worried about always performing poorly. For one reason or the other they would fear failure, worry about playing poorly in front of family and friends or worry about looking bad amongst their teammates.

I want to share with you some of the techniques and ideas of the mind that I have successfully used with athletes to help them get rid of the destructive habit – FEAR.

Step 1 – Fear Is Just an Illusion

The first question you have to ask yourself is what is fear anyways? Fear is your perception of future events or outcomes that you may not want to happen. In sport, you may:

  1. Fear letting your team and management down
  2. Fear making mistakes
  3. Fear of being embarrassed in front of spectators
  4. Fear not winning the approval of your teammates
  5. Fear of being rejected by others
  6. Fear that you may be seen as a failure in your given sport

The list goes on and on. All these fears are not within your immediate control. They are all perceptions and part of your faulty thinking pattern. They are all “what if” scenarios. When you are thinking like this your focus is way off the radar.  What you need to do is take control of what you can control or what we call “controlling the controllables.”

Start evaluating and identifying what the cause of your fear is in the first place. You will soon find out that you are wasting positive energy on circumstances that you have no control over. What you need to do is focus on what you want out of your performance rather than what you do not want to happen. Your focus needs to be on the present moment and that is all you can control.

Michael Jordan, one of the worlds greatest ever basketball players once said, “Fear is like a mirage, it doesn’t really exist.” Stop and think about that for a moment. Most things you will fear will never come to pass but it is also important to understand that what your mind harbours the body will manifest. Look at fear another way – False Evidence Appearing Real. This is probably a better way to comprehend it and understand that fear in sport is only thoughts that you are entertaining.

As I mentioned earlier, it is important to entertain thoughts of performing great and stop worrying about unforeseen circumstances. Changing your thought process does not happen overnight. You have to condition the mind like you condition the body and this takes time. You need to discipline yourself to engage in mental preparation for good repeated performances.

Step 2 – Stop Trying to Be a Perfectionist.

As a perfectionist you will often find yourself to be very critical of your performance. You beat yourself up over silly little mistakes and, again, start to reflect on the negative aspects of the game. After every game it’s the same old post-mortem. You focus on what you done wrong instead of focusing on what you done well. If this continues you start to become agitated and frustrated. You need to let go of mistakes, take them as feedback, smile and move on.

Having high expectations to win all the time can cause your agitation and frustration to increase. Often you might find yourself, not just blaming yourself but blaming teammates for mistakes and losing games.

However, most perfectionist athletes are very committed, great players, and have a very strong work ethic. Does this sound like you? If so I understand that you really want to succeed. But to succeed you have to kick perfectionism to the sideline.

To do this you need to stop wasting energy on things that you cannot control – just like I mentioned above. Dwelling on things that you can’t control will cause you to lose focus and concentration which will lead to more poor performances and results. In turn this can lead to more frustration. It all becomes a vicious cycle.

To succeed you need to question why you are playing the game. Usually this is because you love it and really enjoy expressing your talent. If this is true then having a perfectionist streak will hinder this. Put the fun back in your game by giving up the perfectionist habit.


Give yourself a break. Stop setting too many high unrealistic expectations for yourself and stop expecting high expectations from your teammates. Bring the focus back to your own performance and start setting realistic performance goals.

Step 3 – Develop a Real Deep Focus.

If you want to eliminate fearful thoughts and faulty thinking then you will need to create your own unique focus and re-focusing plan. I am sure you can relate to many situations during your performance when you lost your focus and the flow of your performance became disconnected.

Think back to a time when this may have happened, you lost your cool and composure. It might have been with another athlete or the referee. It may have affected your performance for the remainder of the game. Stop now and have a think about it. Now think about how you could have responded to the situation. By changing your thought process and having a re-focusing plan will allow situations like this not to bother you. You will stay more relaxed, composed, focused and in control. You’re back in the game, back on track in a heartbeat and this is where you need to be at.


Your focus can either work for you or against you depending what you decide to chose. If you have got a weak focus, the mind will wander and entertain negative and fearful thoughts. But if you have a re-focusing play you can flush these unwanted thoughts.

  1. Decide that you are going to create a plan to eliminate distractions by having a re-focusing strategy.
  2. Have a look at what might cause you distractions. Fearful thoughts, Referee decisions and so on….. Write them down and then write down how you usually respond. Write out your preferred response for future performances.
  3. Work on the plan over your next few performances. It will take a lot of practice.
  4. Develop a winning attitude to stay with the plan.

Denis Coen – Elite Performance Mind Coach


Denis holds an Honours Degree in Psychology and is currently a member of the Association for Applied Sports Psychology. He has been involved in sport for over 25 years and has represented his County both at under 21 and senior level in Gaelic Football. He has also competed in 6 County Finals, 2 Provincials Club Finals and 1 All-Ireland Club Final in 1999. He works with athletes at all levels and also works with teams to help them foster a championship winning mindset.

Denis has spent the last ten years researching and studying the psychological aspects of performance in both life and sport. Denis’s Company, Elite Mindsets, is a leading provider of Performance Excellence and as a coach he brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to your club or organisation.

W: www.elitemindsets.ie

E: denis@elitemindsets.ie

P: 085-8672539

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