Are You Holding Yourself Back from Success?

It's time to stop the self-sabotage.

A couple of days ago, I came across a program that I knew could help grow my coaching business. It was directly relevant to one of the challenges I was having. It came from a credible source, someone who had already given a lot of value away for free.

I knew that moving forward with this program would help me solve my problem.

However, the program was expensive. Not so expensive that I literally couldn’t afford it, but expensive enough to make me hesitant. I assumed it was the price that was holding me back.

But as the window of opportunity closed, I realized something else was going on.

It’s not that I didn’t believe the program could help me. In fact, I knew that if I invested some money upfront, I would get a great return on my investment later.

It wasn’t even that I was afraid of failing. I knew that if I did the work I would get the results I wanted.

The more I thought about it, the more something dawned on me...

I was scared of succeeding.

Hold on: Scared of success? That can’t be right. Why would anyone be afraid of reaching their potential?

The Definition of Success

In order to wrap our heads around fear of success, we need to pause and define success first.

At it's most basic level, success just means achieving a desired result. It’s making the thing happen that we want to have happen.

Failure, then, can occur in one of two ways:

  1. We failed to try = nothing happens
  2. We tried and failed = something happened but it wasn’t what we wanted

Success can also be related to a specific domain of your life. For example, achieving a certain health, financial, or relationship goal.

Everyone has their own vision of what success looks like. For me, success is being able to make a positive impact on other people, however big or small. That's what fulfills me.

It could be different for you. In order to find out, I’d have to know what you value.

Many of us haven't decided what success looks like in the first place. We spend so much time being unhappy with the present that we sometimes forget where we want to go. Obviously, this makes it hard to succeed.

Did you achieve your desired outcome? Did you get where you wanted to go in the amount of time allotted? If so, that's a success.

Why Success Is Scary

For a long time, I didn’t understand what people were referring to when they talked about fear of success. How could that even be a thing?

This week I experienced fear of success first hand. Now I know it's real. and dangerous.

Fear of success comes disguised as all sorts of different things. The most common disguise is actually fear of failure. Sometimes we think we are afraid of failing when we are actually afraid of succeeding.

Failure is easier to wrap our heads around because it is relatively common. It’s just a part of life. If we fail, things usually go back to the way they were.

Failure is predictable. Especially if we subconsciously engineer it. Success, on the other hand, is unpredictable. It guarantees change.

It's natural for human beings fear change. I know I do.

When we think about succeeding in something, we subconsciously ask ourselves these questions:

  • What if I succeed and it wasn’t really what I wanted? What if I’m still not happy?
  • What if I succeed and then my friends and family judge me? What if it's lonely?
  • What if I don’t really deserve to succeed? What if I'm being selfish?

Because change is often uncomfortable, our brains may decide it's easier to fail or to not try at all. That’s where the self-sabotage kicks in (subconsciously, of course).

How to Overcome Fear of Success

We all have areas of our life that we want to upgrade. Take, for example, someone who is unsatisfied in their job but scared to finally start their own business. We'll call him Tom.

If Tom overcomes his fear, the sky's the limit. He could cultivate his passions, travel more, and have total control over his work.

(Not to mention make more money. His potential income as an employee is, by definition, limited.)

To his credit, Tom also recognizes the risks that come with change. Their might be some discomfort associated with starting a business. Slowly, fear of success begins to bubble under the surface.

The first step in overcoming fear of success is to bring it above the surface. Once you become consciously aware of it, you can start confronting it's irrationality.

Ask yourself:

  • What’s the worst thing that could happen if I achieve this goal? What’s the best thing?
  • Will success really change my relationships that much? If it will, are those the people I want in my life?
  • Why don’t I deserve to accomplish this goal? Why not me?

What is the cost to Tom of caving into that fear? It’s not just lost freedom and income. It's the mornings that he wakes up with a sense of dread, not wanting to go to work. It's having to listen to his heart telling him again and again that something is wrong.

Sometimes, we can pick apart these objections logically. Most of the time, there will still be some fear left over that doesn't go away.

We have two options: feel the fear and do it anyway, or stay stagnant.

The Choice Is Yours

Is part of you afraid of what might come with success? Which areas of your life are you trying to stay comfortable in? How might that fear be holding you back from achieving your goals?

When I was deciding whether or not invest in that product for my business, I asked myself the same questions. Debunking those irrational objections got me about 90% there. But the final 10% took courage.

I knew that I had the solution right in front of me. But I also knew that if I invested, I would be accountable for getting the results. Things would be different for me if I succeeded.

So I sat down and felt the fear going through my body. I didn’t try to change anything. I just gave it attention without judgment. Slowly, the fear started to dissipate.

I bought the program that night.

As soon as I confirmed the purchase, something inside of me lit up. My fear turned to excitement and I knew right then that I was going to make some massive progress.

The crazy part? I hadn't even started the program yet. I'd just shifted my mindset.

Things will always change. We may as well be the cause.

(Photo credit: Timothy A.V. via cc)