Many athletes who are perfectionistic with their approach to sports think they have a great attitude about sports, until we talk about how perfectionism can hold them back from reaching their potential.

Don't get me wrong. There are some advantages of perfectionism such as having a strong work ethic, commitment to your goals, and a willingness to learn and improve, which often disguise this mental roadblock to success.

Having some perfectionism can help you achieve a few goals quicker and get you to 75% of your potential. After that you have to remove the hard-to-detect mental roadblocks that perfectionism presents.

There can be many disadvantages of trying to be too perfect with your performance.I If not kept in check, perfectionism can stifle your talent with strict expectations, fear of failure, anxiety, and worrying too much about results.

I have found it very hard to convince athletes who want to be perfect that it really does hold them back in sports. They resist having to change behavior that has helped them achieved some past goals.

One of the problems with perfectionism is that you unknowingly adopt very lofty expectations. Not achieving your expectation can result in high frustration and feelings of failure.

A couple years ago, a top 10 NASCAR driver approached me with a specific problem he was experiencing in races. He said that when the race did not go according to plan, he would become very agitated, frustrated, and lose confidence altogether.

It was clear to me that his past success as a driver was actually working against him. He had won races at every level of his career and his main goal was to win races and contend. But as time went on, his goals about winning turned into expectations about winning.

He badly wanted to win races. His high expectations about winning actually made him feel frustrated and helpless.

When something went wrong with the equipment, such as a flat tire, this did not fit his expectations of winning or contending. An athlete will likely become upset, frustrated, and even lose confidence when he or she can't meet strict demands set for performance.

Perfectionists think that maintaining strict expectations is what every athlete should do because it sounds good and the other option of accepting mediocrity is unbearable!

If not reaching your expectations causes you to become frustrated and lose composure, this will block you from achieving your full potential in sports.

My students are taught (1) to identify and discard strict expectations and (2) to let go of frustration so they can stay composed after mistakes and perform in the present moment without dwelling on the past.

Author's Bio: 

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Dr. Patrick Cohn is a master mental game coach who work with professional and amateur athletes, sports parents, and teams of all levels. Visit for more information.