top of page

Should I dare to win or dare to lose?

You know what luck is? Luck is believing you’re lucky. Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire, 1947 (Cooper, 2022).

Roger Federer
Should I dare to win or dare to lose?

How do you approach competition? In your view, do you dare to win or do you dare to lose? Most people feel they dare to win because in their eyes, if they dare to lose, they are looking pessimistically at the challenge before them. When we take a psychological lens to explore these possibilities, we see at least two constructs in action. First, our need to achieve and second, our fear of failure. These independent constructs combine to create four distinct profiles. Before we go any further, these profiles are a simple construction of a much more complicated picture and engagement in the world of sport; however, for our purposes, they are a useful launch pad for understanding the behaviour of others in sport towards winning and losing (Kremer et al., 2019).

  • Low interest in winning and low fear of failure: People falling into this category see competition uninterestedly – who cares who wins or loses.

  • Low interest in winning but a high fear of failure: Those in this category choose to compete against those they know will beat. Winning is not that important, but they do not want to fail either.

  • High interest in winning and a low fear of failure: People in this category seek competition. Competition energises and excites them, and they love to win. Although they love to win, losing does not stop them in their tracks. They continue to challenge others and improve - a challenge mindset.

  • High interest in winning and a high fear of failure. Those in this category also seek competition; however, there are bigger prices to pay. They feel personally responsible for the outcomes and wonder about their ability (e.g., Am I good enough?). The desire to win is so strong and the fear of failing is so unnerving, they might avoid challenges, give up more easily, and pretend to feel confident.

People who fear failing often do worse in competition, not because they cannot do what is required of them (i.e., they have the skills and abilities), but because they hold themselves back (i.e., not trying hard enough or choosing better strategies or seeking help from others) and avoid risks (i.e., taking opportunities they would take if they felt more confident). Messing up just makes them feel even more afraid of failing. Some people will find themselves in a category of prime interest in winning, but an acute and often chronic fear of failure. When the fear of failure becomes too much, they seek an exit.

Fortunately, it is possible to alter this situation with the help of a sport psychologist, for instance. A sound formulation or plan developed with a sport psychologist will help to deal with the specific issues of the athlete. One critical aspect of reducing one’s fear of failure means beginning with one's primary motives for beginning in the sport. These primary motives are often intrinsic — a healthy sense of personal interest and enjoyment – that are exchanged, replaced or side-lined in favour of more extrinsic rewards (i.e., those outside the person) like status, trophies, and money. Bringing ourselves back to the fun, enjoyment, and excitement of competition reignites our passion for self-development and self-improvement, which are two key fuel sources for sport.

Cooper, B. (2022). Deep pockets: Snooker and the meaning of life. Little, Brown Book Group. 

Kremer, J., Moran, A. P., Kearney, C. J. (2019). Pure sport: Sport psychology in action. Taylor and Francis.

Roberts, G. C. (Ed.). (2001). Advances in motivation in sport and exercise. Human Kinetics.

Williams, T. (2009). A streetcar named desire. Penguin. 

Free Courses Online

12 views0 comments


bottom of page