Are you subconsciously afraid of success?
That may sound like an unbelievable question, but let me explain.
Have you ever found yourself on the verge of success, when things seem to start going downhill?
It starts with an inkling of irritation – other people, tasks, technology you relied on so far are no longer as good as they used to be.
What’s wrong with them? You think. Don’t they realise how important this is? Why do they keep making the same stupid mistakes!?
As time passes and you’re that close to reaching a successful benchmark, things start to get agitated. You blurt out something to your partner. Or say something stupid to your team.
What’s going on with me!
Your friends, colleagues and peers give you a piece of their mind.
Stop being so touchy all the times!
But little does that work. Slowly, you start to lose that “spark” that got you to here.
So – is something terribly wrong with you? Have you lost the fire in the belly? Do the same goals no longer excite you?
On the surface, the answer could be a resounding yes. On the subconscious level, however, what’s happening is far from it.
It’s called the “fear of success” and for good reason. But wait a minute – what kind of a driven, goal-oriented person is afraid of success?
Success is more complex than failure. It’s easy to fail – sleep in, watch TV all day, eat leftover lasagna and you’re off to a great start already. It makes you feel unsuccessful on the surface, but deep down, subconsciously, you’re still comfortable.
Success, on the other hand, shakes the status quo, stretches your comfort zone, and makes you do things you’d never have done otherwise.
Think Saturday 7am breakfast coaching session with a client.
Working with your remotely-located web develper on the fine details of your new website at midnight.
Attending a new networking event every evening and introducing yourself to strangers.
This and hundreds of unrelenting things to deal with on a daily basis. You get the picture.
In our success-oriented culture, we hardly give any thought to what success brings with it. Usually, it can be something very uncomfortable, to downright scary.
But here’s the good news.
Although the idea of success can be scary, there are ways to cope. Here are some classic ways that have been useful for me in the past, so try them on.
You can do it with yourself, your coach or someone you trust. Look in the mirror, take a pause, and start with admitting to yourself.
Now, you can relax. At least you don’t have to fight the feeling of your fear “showing” anymore, and you can work on what to do about it, instead of being stuck in the mindset of now owning it.
Admitting your fear can help you relax and focus.
OK, I am nervous right now given the enormity of this goal. That’s OK. Deep breaths. Phew. I’ll be fine. Great, what’s next?
Someone wise once said motivation is like your bank account. It has a cap limit. You’ll eventually exhaust it unless you find a way to refill it by doing specific actions.
Back when I started coaching clients, I’d save their comments, thank-yous, testimonials and email replies in a folder called “The Folder of Awesome”.
When I’d hit my daily quota of motivation, I’d open it up, pick a random file and start reading it.
Surprisingly, every single time I’d pick exactly what I needed that very moment to get back in the zone.
For years, I kept the practice on for years – the Folder of Awesome got bigger and bigger and even today, I go back to it to reflect on my personal victories and to remind myself what making a difference to someone’s life can mean to them.
Document your big and small wins, inspirations, videos that inspire you, quotes that move you -- anything that will help you to soldier on. In moments of self-doubt refer to it just as you would go to a best friend or partner.
Success is often associated with greedy people, stepping on others to get there, and the need to change who you are.
But here’s the thing: Achieving your goals doesn’t mean you are going to turn into “one of them”, a villain, or everyone is going to turn against you. The world around us changes rapidly, and with success comes a changing environment.
A great way to look at change is to see it as an addition to the old you. You’re not going to completely become a new person overnight – and after all, if you’re happy with who you are, why would you want to?
Success doesn’t mean you give up on all the old quirks, personality, values and beliefs. What it does mean is there will be new additions to you as a person, more to who you are, and therefore more choices to try on.
And that sounds delicious, doesn’t it?
There is a powerful correlation between how our bodies respond when in fear and when excited.
In other words, the physical reactions to stress and excitement are very similar – it’s natural then for most of us to associate the feelings of excitement (from successful wins) with fear of a traumatic incident in the past. And so we start to subconsciously avoid these triggers – which leads to the stupid behaviours at the start of this post.
Most of the times though, if you push through it one step at a time, you create reference points, as Tony Robbins likes to call them.
Here is an example: What does an average person think before running? They visualise themselves as tired at the end of the run, huffing and puffing, with their legs and calves aching like there is no tomorrow.
Contrast that with what a regular runner thinks of before their run – they visualise a smooth run, the touch of cool breeze on their face, and ending the run on a “runner’s high”.
Both are a set of reference points but each of them leading to a very different result. Simply, the difference between success and lack of it.
Think about a time you suffered the fear of success. What happened next? How did you deal with it? Did you choose to “sit with fear” or did you just get on with it?
Remember, there is no wrong answer. It’s all about where a strategy takes you and what you choose to do with it next. Share your personal experiences with us in the comments below and let’s get a conversation started!