The relationship between your ‘need to achieve’ and your ‘fear of failure’ will ultimately dictate your success as an athlete. Professor Greg Whyte reveals how to keep motivation in check

Two key factors affect motivation in sport: the need to achieve and the fear of failure.

The first describes our desire to be successful, the latter the way in which we view the possibility of defeat. The two are highly dependent on independent personality characteristics and, as such, you might have high levels of both or one may outweigh the other.

The important thing is to create a healthy balance between the two. Here’s how:

Imagine your need to achieve is your accelerator pedal and your fear of failure is your brake. How much pressure you apply to each will dictate how effectively you achieve your goal.

Imagine the pressure you feel to succeed or fail is graded in a 0-5 scale and rate the stress you feel for each accordingly. Your aim is to increase your need to achieve and reduce your fear of failure.

Work out ways in which you can do this. Taking responsibility for delivering success is hugely important.

Making your short and medium-term goals more realistic can reduce the fear of failure. And successfully achieving these goals will help you move towards achieving the bigger goals.

Even tiny adjustments can sometimes make all the difference and tip the balance in your favour. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

» See future editions of Athletics Weekly magazine for more from our ‘on the couch’ column

» Professor Greg Whyte is author of Achieve the Impossible (achievetheimpossible.co.uk)