Getting Out Of Your Own Way

Getting Out Of Your Own Way

Athletes often lament, “I know I have the talent, if only I could get out of my own way.” Playing in competition, an athlete might think he’s gotten this far but eventually begins to believe “I’ll mess up in the end.” So, he sets goals and work hard, but he fails.

This kind of thinking fuels negativity. Doubt and anxiety creeps in, and the negative thoughts become self-fulfilling.

Our mind is fear driven. It strips us from going beyond our comfort zone. It’s a form of survival mode in all of us. The fear driven mind is fine when facing danger. However, what if you are attempting to maintain the status-quo and some unproven fear enters your mind? The athlete allows the thoughts to persist. He then questions himself, “why did I fail?” and “why can’t I be successful?”

So, why do athletes have such negative thoughts? And, how do they get out of their own way? Simply put, getting out of your own way implies you’re putting obstacles in your way.

Athletes have a choice to listen to the negativity in their minds. It is within their power. They can choose to respond rather than react. Joseph Parent stated, “Without hesitation we act on these thoughts and fears instead of having the freedom to choose whether or not to respond.”

We all have been conditioned to think this way since youth. Our environment as well as the people we choose to associate influence our thoughts. The subconscious mind forms habits. Those habits form our thoughts for action. Action reinforces our conscious mind.

From one perspective, it seems that our thoughts and mind act in unison as if they are in a continual conversation. When athletes can’t get out of their own way, Patrick Cohen noted, the mind is interfering. Athletes become tight or controlled, scared or tentative, cautious or safe, or afraid to make mistakes and mechanical. The mind thus feeds itself negative chatter: “you’re not good enough; you’re not smart enough.”

Dennis Palumbo, licensed psychotherapist, noted, “Getting out of your own way means being with who you are, moment to moment, whether you like it or not. Whether or not it’s easy or comfortable, familiar, or disturbing.”

It is hard to get out of your own way. You will always have that fear-driven mind. However, you don’t always need to respond tofear.

The best way to respond is not to pay attention to your negative chatter. Recognize it. Understand the issue that causes the negativity (fear of failure, embarrassment, and perfectionism). Then say to yourself, “thank you for sharing.” Then ignore the negativity.


Being yourself maybe the simple solution for an athlete. Just let go and trust your skills.


Dr. Kevin Goddu, Ph.D.