Brenton Barker

Why Failure In Gym Can Equal Success

No one wants to fail; it's intimidating and embarrassing. But the reality is that failure teaches you life lessons that lead to success, in and out of the gym. Let's find out how.

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The old saying, ‘There are two things inevitable in life; death and taxes,’ is one we are all familiar with, but I think they could add a third to the list of inevitables: FAILURE.

It doesn’t matter who you are or what profession you are in – at some point, you’ll fail and fail epically. In the sporting world, though, failure is not only epic but a part of the job. No one in the sporting domain is exempt from failure; coaches, athletes, and amateur gym-goers are all subjected to heartbreaking setbacks.

The Collins dictionary defines failure as ‘a lack of success in doing or achieving something, especially concerning a particular activity.’ Failure, however, should not be seen as a blow to one’s ego or an indication that you’re not good enough; instead, failure offers an incredible opportunity to grow.

Failure is a treasure trove of information that, if studied, can drive people to success beyond their wildest imaginations. In short, when you fail, it means something has happened which was out of your control, and you were unable to adapt or respond, or sometimes, as often happens, things just didn’t go as expected.

Let’s look at how you can turn failure into the ultimate success.

Why do gym-goers and amateur athletes fear failure?

Why do many gym-goers sabotage their performances? It’s one of the most misunderstood phenomena in sports and fitness. While many think it’s because people fear success, which is a genuine concern, the reality is a most fear failure.

Whether fear of failure or success, both cause people to overthink, becoming consumed with feelings and emotions such as fear, stress, and constant worry. It’s important to note that these ‘fears’ have different origins.

So what causes people to fear failure? When gym-goers toil for hours on end, the thought of being unable to achieve their goal can make them fall victim to the dreaded ‘paralysis by analysis.’

Identifying signs of fear of failure

Ok, so now that we know all levels of sports enthusiasts can fear failure, what’s critical is to identify and understand the different types of fear that can prevent peak performance.

Many sports buffs fear being judged by others, such as coaches, friends, teammates, and opponents. Let’s look at some signs you or someone you might know may be displaying.

Common signs of fear of failure:

  • Beginners want to perform. They fear a poor performance will make them look bad.

  • Gym-goers fear being judged by others. If they perform poorly, they feel like a failure.

  • Beginners in fitness fear making stupid mistakes that could be embarrassing.

  • Beginners fear letting their teammates, coaches, and friends down.

  • Working hard without reward is a common cause of fear among amateur athletes.

  • Falling short of outside expectations can wreak havoc on a person’s confidence.

  • Beginners fear they will lose the respect of their peers with poor performance.

  • The fear of making a game-losing mistake is a genuine issue for amateur athletes.

What’s important here is that if you are experiencing these fears, understand that they’re normal and you’re not alone. At some point, every sportsperson experiences the very same fears and emotions.

Four ways failure can turn into success


Failure can propel you to personal and career success in ways you’ve never imagined. Let’s look at four ways that you can turn your failures into raging successes both in and out of the gym.

1Failure is jam-packed with valuable info

When you fail, it provides plenty of data on what needs to be done to succeed the next time. Moreover, failure answers questions you would have never asked yourself. And that’s the best part; the facts we collect from our failures are embedded deeper into our psyche, providing opportunities to grow.

Say you’re a beginner, and during your first competition, poor weather creeps in that you haven’t been exposed to, and you’re untrained to adjust to. All the emotional fears you’ve just experienced can propel you toward success the next time the same situation arises.

2Failure will increase your confidence

Would you believe that failure can help boost your confidence? One of the first things failure does is force you to redefine success. Take a race conducted in harsh weather conditions. In this instance, some athletes may define success as completing the race rather than finishing on the podium.

The old saying, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going,’ rings true when in health and fitness, and there’s no better educator than a loss or a setback. By striving in the face of adversity, you can build your confidence, knowing that no matter what challenge comes your way, you have the mental grit to stick it out, regardless of the result.

Failure reminds us that the journey and the knocks along the way help us to improve. Confidence doesn’t come from one instant but rather from the hundreds of triumphs and setbacks you’ve experienced.

3Failure makes you tougher

Failure teaches you precisely what parts of your performance need improving and poses some tough questions, like Do you have what it takes to try again, knowing you might fail?

Simply put, when you fail, you’re compelled to ask whether you really want the goals you’ve been aiming for and, if so, how much. When dealing with failure, you’re confronted with quitting, reevaluating your goals, or committing more than ever before.

Challenges are a blessing because they bring out the best in us. We’ve all been in a competition where we faced failure but somehow overcame it. Those experiences boost our confidence and help us develop a growth mindset.

4Failure can help reinforce good habits

After a setback, we experience various emotions ranging from disappointment and anger to embarrassment and guilt. While these emotions are tough to manage, they ‘light the way’ for continued learning critical in pursuing success.

After a loss, we’ve all run through the ‘what ifs.’ It’s not easy, and it hurts, but hidden in those ‘what ifs,’ is data for us to analyse to improve. While failure is difficult to handle, it’s critical to remember that every dark cloud has a silver lining, and failure is no different. With a change in mindset, you can view failure as success.


Three effective ways to overcome fear

In psychology, there are numerous ways to overcome your fear of failure. But the fact is that we’re all different, so what works for one person won’t necessarily work for you. Here are three simple yet effective methods you can employ to face your fears.

1Facing fear head-on

One of the best ways to overcome fear is to face it head-on. While at first, this is daunting, once you face your fears, a weight is lifted off your shoulders. For example, if you fear being embarrassed, remind yourself to focus on your performance, do your best, and forget what others may think.

2Shifting perspective and changing mindset

Most of us who fear failure tend to focus on the negatives instead of the positives. A negative mindset can cause us to ‘choke’ under pressure, affecting our decision-making and, eventually, our performance.

Visualising success is an excellent way to transform your mindset and perform at your maximum potential. I urge you to set aside 30 minutes each day to practice the art of visualising success. This easy shift in perspective can change your attitude, mindset, and career.

3We are humans; We all make mistakes

Perhaps the most powerful message is reminding ourselves that failure is a part of everyday life. Chasing perfection is a waste of time because it doesn’t exist; instead, strive to do your best. Deliberate practice also plays an important role. The more you trust your ability to execute specific skills, the better you perform.

Sum it up

Fear of failure is normal; it’s nothing to be afraid of or embarrassed by. The fact is that successful people have learned to overcome their fear of failure to the point where they view every setback as being one step closer to success.

Whether you’ve got off track with your diet or skipped days at the gym, these setbacks are all part of the journey, and as long as you don’t give up, your biggest successes are just around the corner.

Want to learn more?

Below is a short but powerful video from the world-renowned spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle that looks at the causes and manifestations of the fear of failure. I highly recommend watching the entire video to get the full impact of Eckhart’s teachings.

Healthypedia FAQ

Undoubtedly, failure is one of life's greatest challenges and one of its biggest teachers. Failure can humble you, educate you, motivate you, and build your character. Failure reminds us to keep working to improve and that we're all a work in progress. Without failure, we cannot taste the sweetness of success.

The very best and most successful people in any walk of life understand the power of turning their failures and setbacks into success. Whether it's a professional athlete who suffered a heartbreaking loss or an entrepreneur whose business deal has gone sour, successful people continuously look for a silver lining on every dark cloud; You should too.

Faced with failure, you can do one of two things; roll over and give up or work harder than ever before. Setbacks in life are inevitable, but the most critical aspect is how we deal with them when they come around. Failure can open your mind to new learning methods and help build character and resolve.

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