You Got the Fear….Own it.

Most people are unaware of just how much they are affected by their fear of success. They think it is illogical and not relevant for them especially when success is all that they have ever wanted and strived for, and when it has been their primary motivation, and focus in life.

Many successful people think that when they have attained their dream and risen to the height of their career that all they then have to do is stay put.  But what if they have an underlying fear of success that prevents them from realising their ultimate success and sense of achievement?

Why We Fear Success More than Failure

Fear is a strong and powerful emotion that can drive our thoughts, behaviours, decisions and our approach in everything we do. This tends not to be a logical or specified thing and the range of fear extends from being totally fearful (full of fear) to the other extreme where we are fear-less (no fear at all).

Fear is based upon what we choose to imagine could happen in the future. We do not fear the past because it has already happened. We do not fear the present because it is already happening. We fear the future because of all the things that could possibly happen, and this is why we fear success more than failure; failure is a known, success is less familiar.

When we have a fear of failure it can be a driver of focus and determination, but it can also stop us aiming for better when we consider all the implications of falling short. However when we start to realise and specify what is the worst that failure can do, we then become more logical than emotional and we work out a plan or contingencies to make the risk worthwhile.

When you have a fear of success however, it can be longer lasting and more damaging as it is always far more difficult to imagine and consider all that could change or be impacted or lost when you reach and achieve complete success. Will you be the same person? Will you be happy? Will you be ready? Will it have been worth it? What happens next? Is that it? The questions associated with success are more difficult to answer or quantify and so the fear of success is always there, which can consciously or otherwise start you holding back, slowing down, avoiding, disconnecting or even sabotaging your success for fear of what success may lead to. Although this may not be so clear for everybody, or in every situation, it remains one of the biggest reasons why people end up not striving for greater success.

What is Success?

Genuine, true, sincere and authentic success is when you attain all the things that are of most importance to you by being yourself. This level of success is far easier to sustain and provides far greater fulfilment as this is about you becoming the best version of you rather than chasing or pretending to be someone or something else to get what you think you should want or need.

Realising your full potential is achieved through developing greater self-awareness, self-confidence, self-management and self-determination; the four pillars of self-development. To achieve the level of personal growth required in each of these aspects requires you to own your journey and to commit to real personal growth.

There are still a growing number of people who go chasing success externally rather than internally which either results in failure and lower self-esteem, or the emptiness and fear of an imposter trapped inside an elaborate pretence waiting to be found out. Your success in life should not be reduced to a new image on a makeover show, it should be about you discovering all that you are truly capable of so that your success brings you genuine happiness.

Self-Development vs Self-Improvement

Self-development differs from self-improvement in two important ways;

Firstly, self-development starts from assessing, identifying and building upon your strengths, whereas self-improvement focuses exclusively on perceived gaps and weaknesses. This approach ensures that your self-development builds solutions to challenges from a place of confidence and authenticity.

Secondly, self-development requires you to commit to a higher level of personal growth and ownership that just trying out external self-improvement solutions from others. In return, for taking ownership you will embark upon an ongoing journey of learning and discovery towards your fullest potential.

There are clear indicators as to whether you are on a journey of self-development or just doing, saying and aiming for what you think you are expected to.

When you are taking an approach of self-development you are building upon increased self-awareness where you understand yourself more fully; upon stronger self-confidence where you understand where your strengths and positive attributes are; upon enhanced self-management where you are able to get the best out of yourself; upon clearer self-determination where you choose to decide what you want success to look like for you.

An approach of self-improvement however is largely driven by what others deem to be success for you, what they think you should be doing, or presenting why whatever worked for them should also work for you, and where all solutions are external “gap fillers”.

Feeling the Fear

Goals are a strong indicator as to whether you are setting genuine self-development goals that you own, or whether you are setting external goals of self-improvement.  While self-development goals are focused on your own definition of success and bring a sense of anticipation, the sense of fear comes when you risk achieving self-improvement goals as you are unsure, concerned or not prepared for, who or what you might then become when you reach them. This is when the fear of success, conscious or otherwise starts to have an impact in terms of your motivation, sense of purpose and self-confidence.

If you are an avid goal-setter jumping from one goal to the next, constantly trying to reach them it is easy to believe that just because you are constantly setting and achieving goals that you are successful. But that constant need to chase the next new thing is often a clear indication of your fear of success. Unless you take the time to stop, appreciate your success and celebrate it, you will endlessly be driven by an uncomfortable feeling that you are not ever being successful.

With a self-improvement approach, it becomes all about the result and the journey becomes a series of hurdles to overcome and mountains to climb that stand in the way between you and success. Everything before that final success is considered a failure, but as there is a stronger fear of success than failure, we tend to live with failure.

With a self-development approach there are many successes to be achieved, experiences to be had and learning to be gained along the ongoing journey towards realising your fullest potential. With this approach, success is as much about the journey and the personal growth that ensures you are ready to accept, enjoy, deserve and find contentment in realising your full potential.

Another indication of goal-setting that is driven by the fear of success, is when you set goals that are so high and hard to reach that they are always unattainable, so you don’t have to fear achieving them. There is merit in setting big goals, but when they are too optimistic, there can be a hidden fear of actually achieving them that sits at the core of setting them. Big goals that you have no real intention of achieving are really just dreams, and these are great to have because there is no fear of success attached to them when you have no intention of making them happen, although it would be nice if they did.

Just Because…

There is also another indication of when your fear of success has grabbed you when it comes to your goals; continual postponement is the biggest blocker….”because”.

Be aware of how often you use the word “because” during your day to assess how much your fear of success is playing a part:

  • Are you in your ideal job? Well, no, because …
  • Are you driving the car you always wanted to drive? Well, no, because …
  • Are you happy with your health and diet? Well, no, because …
  • Are you getting paid what you are worth? Well, no, because …
  • Are you in control of your future? Well no, because…
  • Are you in a loving and fulfilling relationship? Well no, because…
  • Are you doing what you always wanted to do? Well no, because…

Your use of “Because” is the clearest measure of your fear of success. It is always easier to come up with reasonable-sounding excuses to not go after your dreams and goals, because reaching them takes you into uncharted territory. When you are more accustomed to not reaching your goals then the fear of failure is much more familiar as you have been there before. But success? That can be a very different story, one that can be new, one that might create a different outcome, one that is uncertain, one that can be scary, one that you might choose to avoid or sabotage.

It is Up to You

Fear of success is a real and powerful emotion that will disrupt, limit, impact and sabotage many things that you would otherwise be able to achieve. As with every powerful emotion it is best to have it managed and channelled towards the outcomes that you desire rather than attempting to ignore it, deny it, suppress it or even fight it. Self-development is key in building your capability and capacity to accept and use your fear of success to drive optimal results.

With greater self-awareness, self-confidence, self-management and self-determination you will be ready and prepared to deal with all that success could throw at you and have gone through the levels of personal growth that sees you defining your success rather than being defined by success. In addition, your fear of failure is then projected forward in a more positive context and definition: To not have gone on the journey at all.

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