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Fear of success

Having my own small business for many years taught me that failure was simply not an option. Especially if I wanted to have food on my table on a regular basis, which I had grown accustomed to. That fear I get. Completely.

But fear of success or more of it? Nah, that’s not me. At least that’s what I thought.

Until I started working for with a life coach who pointed out some of my patterns. Like taking projects 90 percent of the way there, and then just dropping them and moving on to another project or idea. Or being hesitant to go after big contracts because I didn’t feel I was good enough. Or actually sabotaging some working relationships with clients for no good or apparent reason.

After working together for a few months, my coach had identified the underlying problem: I actually had a fear of success.

My first response was, “You’ve got to be kidding”, and soon after I found an excuse to drop her as my advisor. But then, it got me thinking.

In retrospect she was absolutely right. I had to admit that deep inside of me I had a fear of success that was holding me back from becoming, well, truly successful.

Are You Afraid of Success?

Here are some other common manifestations of a fear of success. See if any apply to you:

  • You procrastinate
  • You don’t believe you deserve success
  • You think that others are better or smarter or more competent than you
  • You are uncomfortable accepting the attention or accolades that success may bring
  • You compromise on big goals
  • You feel that somehow you will be judged by others for any successes you achieve

If you manifest any of these symptoms you just may have a touch of fear of success disease. If you have several and they have gone on for a long time then you probably have a full-blown case.

Luckily, for all of us, most of what we fear in this area is simply not true. It’s all in our heads.

Unfortunately, for all of us as well, the consequences are in fact very, very real.

They include the overt impacts of lost opportunities and personal and professional growth, and in severe cases losing the motivation to succeed and persistent and enduring underachievement.

People with a fear of success also usually have problems making decisions in their life, at work and at home, and this impairs their ability for good relations with spouses, superiors and subordinates.

In other words, they lose out on opportunities as they always feared they would become.

Overcoming the Fear of Success

The good news about fear, like any unfounded or ungrounded fear, is that there are many things that you can do to change the situation between your ears that’s causing all the problems.

The other good news is that a whole lot of things will help you get over your fear of success if you want to put as much effort into succeeding as you did in not achieving success.

Some experts suggest self-hypnosis or working with a therapist or even yoga and meditation help to prepare yourself for success, but an easier route is to follow a few simple steps.

Step One: Identify Your Fears

The first step to dealing with any fear is to identify it. It is after all, just another feeling and the pros tell us to name and claim our feelings if we want to deal with them.

So list the possible things that you might be afraid of when it comes to fear of success. Take your time and write them down in a list so that you can easily refer back to them.

Step Two: Examine the Evidence

How have these fears held you back at home and at work? The big question here is how well is it really working for you?

If you are like me, the answer is not very well. Then consider the possibilities of what your life, especially your career, would be like if you didn’t allow these fears to limit your potential. If you can imagine – visualize, feel, and hear – success, you are part way there.

Step Three: Change Your Story

We all have a story that we tell ourselves, most of which isn’t even true. Sometimes it is messages we have been given as children that we are not good enough or that we can never be successful.

Sometimes we add a few bad experiences to this thinking and we develop an elaborate, and false, opinion of ourselves and our abilities. Now is the time to jettison the untruths we tell ourselves and start over.

Step Four: Change Your Behaviour

You may now have a sense of where your fear comes from and what it feels like. The next step is to examine and change the behaviors that your fear and your thinking manifest. One example is procrastination.

If you are a procrastinator as a way to avoid both failure and success, break out of the mold and soldier through on the next opportunity. And if you fail, pick yourself up and try again. Whenever you feel afraid of success, do something different. You have nothing to lose but failure.

Step Five: Plan For Success

Visualizing yourself in the CEO’s chair is a fabulous way to start. But you need to plan short, medium and long term activities that will allow you to achieve your goals. Make sure that your goals are achievable by starting small.

Success does breed success and if you can win that manager’s promotion you may be headed for the executive suite. Sometimes failure is just another stepping stone to success.

As Harriet Ward Beecher once said “One’s best success comes after their greatest disappointments.

Has fear of success ever held you back? How have you dealt with it? Please share your experience and ideas with us. We’d love to hear from you. 🙂

Image by notsogoodphotography.

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