Fear of success can limit potential

Wednesday , August 20, 2014 - 12:00 AM

Standard-Examiner contributor

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small doesn't serve the world.”  -- Marianne Williamson

We often talk about getting over the fear of failure in order to move forward, but is the fear of success holding you back?

Fear is unnecessary worry. Fear is a lack of self-confidence. Fear is evidence of an inability to control one’s thoughts. Fear is often the underlying reason for failure. Fear limits one’s potential because the thought of fear results in inaction.

Fear, ironically, is both necessary and a protection; but unfortunately, people use fear’s protection as an excuse for an inability to take a risk. Fear is in everyone. And thankfully, fear is controllable and can be overcome.

Surprisingly, I’ve found that people are far more scared of actually accomplishing their dreams than they are of failing to achieve them. Being average, good or mediocre is certainly easier and less risky than the work necessary to be great and then keep it up.

Despite our potential, ideas, goals and dreams – we allow our fear of success to become a traitor and the result is usually inaction and regret. Are you afraid of succeeding?

Here are some of the telltale signs of success-fearing behavior:

• You don’t complete your projects (this could be at work or at home).

• You talk about what you are going to do more than what you actually do.

• You work furiously on several projects at once, not really focusing deeply on any one of them.

• You still have exactly the same things on your vision board that were there five years ago.

• You second-guess yourself often.

• Distraction is your middle name.

• You don’t think your work is ever good enough.

• And the big giveaway … you’re on the “verge of success” and things start going wrong.

In our success-oriented culture, we don’t give much thought to the fact that success can be downright scary. So what can you do about it?

Sometimes all you need to do is “out” the fear by admitting to yourself that you are, in fact, afraid. And sometimes it helps to focus on exactly what you’re afraid of, and find a way to deal with the threat.

It’s also important to dig deeper and uncover beliefs and attitudes that are stopping you from pursuing your dreams. Which of these classic fears is keeping you from succeeding? Think these through to begin overcoming the fears within yourself:

1. Fear of not coping with success. On some level, it’s more comfortable to stay in a familiar situation. But achieving success (however you define it) means you are entering uncharted territory. You are putting yourself out there to be scrutinized and criticized, and exposing yourself to new pressures and demands. It may expose your weaknesses and force you to face your flaws and limitations.

2. Fear of becoming someone else. Often, people are afraid that if they reach their goal, they will have to stop being who they are and start playing someone else's role. You must realize that life is in constant change. It throws down a challenge: "Change or get left behind." That's what keeps us growing, moving forward, getting rid of the obstacles that slow us down.

3. Fear of not being up to the task. Remember when you were little and every time the task didn't really sound appealing to you, you pulled out that, "I can't do it" excuse, and most of the time, it worked? What it can really mean is, "I don't know how to do it." This could be the result of a lack of knowledge or efficiency.

4. Fear of not living up to the task. You may wonder if the first victory was a fluke. This puts added pressure on this second performance and takes away the value of the first performance should you fail. It was tough succeeding, but repeating it takes more time, more planning, more obligations and focus.

5. Fear of not being worthy. Perhaps you've always wondered if you could succeed at something. You may not have felt worthy of this success. People may have told you, covertly or overtly, that you don't deserve success. When you succeed, people will be coming to you for advice and leadership.

6. Fear of making enemies. You may leave former peers behind, symbolically and literally, when you raise the bar. Many people may be happy for your success and others feel slighted and envious. Remember, playing small does not serve the world.

People fear success for many other reasons. This fear is largely unconscious -- you don't even know it's there. It can actually lead your unconscious mind to sabotage your actions and be just as paralyzing as fear of failure.

It’s important to take time to acknowledge your fears, understand the root causes, and figure out how to get out of your own way. Look fear in the face and become unstoppable.

Brad Larsen is a life coach and leadership coach /consultant from Northern Utah. He can be reached at bradlarsen@dailymasterpieces.com.

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