Psychological barriers refer to the psychological factors that hinder and restrict the ability to carry out a task. Thus, psychological barriers to performance refer to the psychological factors which impede optimal performance. Psychological barriers may limit the actions like writing a blog, approaching your favorite person, etc. So identifying and addressing these psychological barriers hold value.
It is also important to understand a person’s psychological obstacles because these are usually manifested in thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and opinions. These internal assumptions hold people back from living their life to the fullest. Hence, it is crucial to acknowledge and tackle these barriers. This way, individuals can boost their resilience and performance, leading to success even in areas where they previously struggled.
In a 2005 study, researchers Gardner and Moore classified the psychological barriers of athletes under the categories of Performance Development and Performance Dysfunction. It depicts that desirable outcomes can be achieved with the help of mental skills. Similarly, psychological barriers in communication can disturb the production and comprehension of messages, and interpersonal relationship skills can help in this regard.
Various factors or reasons contribute to psychological barriers, which can vary from person to person and situation to situation. This article provides insights, strategies, and practical tips to identify, address, and overcome psychological barriers, enhancing performance and achieving goals effectively.
Common psychological barriers to performance
The following are common psychological barriers that affect a person’s optimal performance irrespective of their skill level and experience.
Fear of failure
The long-term belief that you are not good enough can result in a fear of failure, also known as “atychiphobia”. Sometimes people are afraid of causing disappointment to themselves and others.
They dread the evaluation rather than their poor performance, which eventually affects their performance. Due to fear of failure, people avoid such activities and refrain from initiating new things. They stop making efforts towards their goals.
For example, a low-scorer student will stop making efforts to study if he believes that he can not study well. Similarly, an athlete will stop practicing skills if he believes he will not be selected for a team.
Self-doubt and low self-esteem
People with low self-esteem do not want to be in the limelight. They do not have belief in themselves, and they are not willing to take any chances. Their self-doubts restrict them from initiating any new project. For example, if a workplace employee believes he cannot lead a project, this belief will affect his performance.
The trait of perfectionism is a persistent personality trait in which people hold high standards for the final outlook of a task, and they are highly critical of their performance. It is considered a positive aspect of personality as tasks are performed of ideal quality. Still, as it provokes anxiety about delays and noncompetition, it is considered a negative aspect of personality.
Sometimes, just to prove to others that they are flawless, perfectionists may become fixated on a task and unable to complete it on time. For example, a researcher will only submit his research paper to a journal once and when he is made sure that the paper needs no revision and is perfectly ready for submission.
The performance of an individual is spoiled by performance anxiety manifested as a cluster of emotions. Individuals suffer from anxiety and stress, and these emotions, in turn, shatter their confidence. For example, a debater forgets the logic and reasoning during a debate leading to bad performance.
Similarly, when an athlete or an actor is performing for the first time, he may experience performance anxiety. One aspect of performance anxiety is stage fright which affects the performance and confidence of an individual.
Lack of motivation and drive
It is assumed that failure in meeting expectations is mostly due to a lack of motivation. Motivation assists individuals in prioritizing tasks and actions by prompting them to consider the task’s outcomes and consequences before making decisions
A common hindrance to achieving the best performance is procrastination, which is based on avoiding and delaying tasks. It can have a negative impact on productivity as people tend to put off their work, leading them to rush at the last minute.
Sometimes, people’s performances are not optimal due to their lack of time management skills. It may happen when the person is a multitasker and lacks organizational skills. Some people also spend hours on mobile scrolling and the Internet.
The impostor syndrome can make a person think his success is due to luck rather than his efforts and qualification. Such thoughts will lead to actions that will hinder optimal performance. For example, a qualified person will think he got the leadership position because other people were unwilling to get it.
Overcoming psychological barriers to performance
With the help of the following strategies and techniques, psychological barriers can be overcome.
It can help identify individuals’ shortcomings, eventually leading to better attempts. The reiteration of better attempts will influence the outcome of tasks. For example, athletes can be made self-aware about the areas that need improvement.
Self-awareness can be achieved through being aware of your own emotions and the emotions of others and knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Individuals should:
- Set clear boundaries and be aware of their actions;
- Practice mindfulness, meditation, and yoga practices; and
- Regularly self-reflect and journal.
Shift and cultivate a growth mindset
A growth mindset will help you accept the mistakes and focus on the positives. Through hard work and effort, skills can be gained to help you perform at your best.
For example, if a student has failed any subject, instead of reprimanding himself, he should analyze the shortcomings in his preparation for that subject.
This can be achieved through:
- Being aware of one’s state of mindset;
- Identifying the areas of improvement;
- Setting realistic goals;
- Seeking feedback;
- Making mistakes; and
- Learning new phenomena and skills.
Practice goal-setting and visualization techniques
Goal setting gives motivation, and visualization techniques can help give better patterns for how to achieve a goal. It can also help reduce anxiety and focus your attention on the goal.
For example, if a person says that he has to win the final match, he needs to be informed that to reach the final, he has to win the initial matches. To reach the final match, strategies and goal setting are needed for those initial matches.
Locke and Latham (1990) suggested commitment, clarity, challenges, complexity, and feedback for goal achievement. Journaling SMART goals and creating a plan with a timeline is important to take action. SMART goals are the ones that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.
Build self-confidence and resilience
Self-confidence helps a person believe that they can achieve whatever they want, and resilience helps in bouncing back in case of failure. Such people acknowledge the situation, learn and move to the next step.
For example, if an employee has self-doubts about his leadership skills, he can be led by example and given decision-making authority. Similarly, athletes can be given the confidence that their decisions during match pressure are appreciable and according to the situation. If proven wrong, it is part of the game, but he needs to maintain confidence in decision-making under pressure.
Self-confidence and resilience can be cultivated in the following ways:
- Confident body postures;
- Regular physical activity like exercising;
- Imagining confidence;
- Participating in new tasks and learning new skills;
- Taking risks and making mistakes;
- Having clarified expectations and goals; and
- Celebrating your achievements and seeking feedback and support.
Seek professional support
If the psychological barriers prevail, even with mental skills training, it is suggested to get professional support. The customized treatment plan can help reduce shortcomings and enhance individuals’ performance.
For example, if an athlete recognizes any psychological issues, he may contact a psychologist for a personalized treatment plan. The therapist may suggest cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, or positive psychotherapy, depending on the situation and the individual’s condition.
Psychological barriers impede the execution of tasks and optimal performance originating from factors such as comfort zone adherence and lack of purpose etc. Recognizing and understanding these barriers is the initial step.
Acknowledgment reveals the true cause of performance issues, redirecting focus for enhanced performance. Tailored management strategies should be pursued based on the specific psychological barriers and their context. By mastering the mind and employing effective strategies, individuals can conquer these barriers, leading to improved performance and achievement of goals.
If you would like to see more resources on mental health, check out the Personal Science Labs. The lab uses the research of the Institute for Life Management Science to produce courses, certifications, podcasts, videos, and other tools. Visit the Personal Science Labs today.
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