Are You Afraid of Your Own Success?

Success Ahead
by Lea Woodward

Do you frequently self sabotage right when you’re on the cusp of success? Do you procrastinate, delay and faff even though you’re excited and passionate about what you do?

Do you let yourself get easily overwhelmed by the less-than-priority tasks on your list? Or do you struggle to focus on a task at hand or one specific venture, preferring instead to jump from thing to thing, hiding under the guise of being a multi-passionate person?

Are you afraid of your own success?

This particular fear is a sneaky one because it often masquerades as something else – perfectionism, fear of failure, procrastination, or multi-passionate tendencies. But what lies beneath is often a chronic fear of succeeding at the very thing you’re aiming for.

If this might be true for you – as it is for several people I’ve worked with – here is a process to get over this fear and move forwards…

What are you really afraid of?

What does success look like to you? What is it about being successful that you’re afraid of? Very often it’s not actually success that people are afraid of but some of the trappings that might go with it…

  • Overwhelm (from people, requests, emails, work etc.)
  • Added responsibility and pressure
  • Needing to make (even) more decisions
  • Change

…it’s the last one that can be the sneakiest. Change makes many of us nervous, even good change. As I talk about a lot with clients, changing the status quo is hard.

Why would you actively choose the unknown, unpredictability of change when you can stay with the comfy status quo, even though it may not be all that right for you?  Better the devil you know, right?

If you can tease out of your own mind exactly what it is you imagine happening when you’re successful that might be so terrible, it’s a good start.

Tell (Sell) Yourself a Different Story

When you’ve figured out what your story for success actually is – and you’ve worked out what element of success is freaking you out, you can change it.

There are no guarantees that what you fear won’t happen, but I can guarantee that if you fear it and you focus on it then it will happen! So it’s time to change the story.

Begin to imagine what will happen when you’re successful?

  1. Clarify the story – the picture, the sounds, the smells, the sights, the people, the colours – of what positive success means for you.
  2. Amplify the story – bring it to life, draw it, paint it, vision board it. Make this story of positive success more compelling and real than the other less attractive one.

And if your story of success has been shaped by someone else’s experience – begin instead to seek out stories with an alternate ending to the one you’re currently believing: If your father’s/husband’s/mother’s/grandparents’ success doesn’t give you a motivating, inspiring, positive model, find ones that do.

Find people whose success looks like the kind of success you want; get to know them, ask them questions and begin to define your own, new success story which attracts, rather than repels you.

Prepare for Success

This is where we get practical. And honest. The truth? When you are successful some (or even all) of the things you fear may happen…

  • Your inbox might explode, and you can no longer achieve Inbox 0 every day.
  • You may not have time to do the stuff you love, and instead get stuck doing the bits you hate just to keep up.
  • The people around you may change.
  • Your life as you know it now may change beyond recognition.

You can’t always plan for success but you can prepare for it. When you’re in a quieter, smaller stage of your business use this time to build strong foundations:

  • Get your strategies in place.
  • Get your systems and processes in place.
  • Choose tools that can grow with you, or at least make the growth transition as smooth as possible.
  • Have a growth plan in place, especially when it comes to outsourcing, hiring and how to grow beyond yourself if the time comes.

Success is what you make it. It can be a scary, hairy, stressful place or it can be the place that brings you everything you’ve always dreamed of. Which do you choose?