Fear of Success

Feb 28th, 2010 | By | Category: abundance, Career advice, career challenges, challenges, fear, mentor, office problems, personality, success

Most of us talk a good game of wanting to climb the corporate ladder and assume leadership roles.  We discuss education, skill sets, and career strategies to achieve our goals.  For most of us our strategies never seem to achieve our objectives.  In many cases we choose too narrow of a career path to follow.  When I first started working my goal was to get my boss’s job when he moved on.  He was still there when I moved on.  Way back then, the America corporate policy was to promote from within with established career paths.  Do a good job, keep your nose clean, and wait your turn.  It was easy to see your opportunities; it was almost like you were always in training for your next job.  Those days are pretty much gone.

Today most people change jobs every few years.  Except for the government there are few places that have career paths from entry level to senior executive.  Even the government is changing by filling more middle and senior positions with new hires. The GM model of a job for life is crumbling fast as more and more jobs disappear or are outsourced offshore. In this shifting job market, flexibility and a willingness to take some risks are essential.

Two of the major barriers to career advancement are fear of failure and, more surprisingly, fear of success.  Most of us are familiar with fear of failure, but often we do not recognize our fear of success.  In many respects the effects of fear of failure and fear of success are similar.  Both are crippling to career advancement by stopping us from recognizing and accepting opportunities.  The differences between fear of failure and fear of success are the underlying reasons of our fear.  Fear of failure is mainly the result of judging ourselves against our own setbacks.   Usually we can rationalize our shortcomings, but when we fail at something where we really prepared and tried hard it seems to leave an indelible recurring mark in out minds.  The next time we are challenged, our subconscious seems to search its database for all those negative experiences.  Instead of using those experiences constructively to avoid repeating them, they sabotage out efforts.  Soon we are finding excuses to avoid challenges.  Often our subconscious is helped along by friends and foes who constantly remind us of our shortcomings.  Remember the last time…?

Fear of success is more fear of the unknown. Most of us reach a comfort level in our daily lives, and while we may not be satisfied we have adjusted and rationalized to where there is a certain security.  We can do our jobs and get along at work.  Although we want to advance, when an opportunity arises our protective subconscious springs into action filling our minds with all the traps and snares of advancing our careers.  I will have too learn all new skills, the new staff will not support me, the hours will be too long, there is too much responsibility, and the list goes on. Once again our friends and foes fill us with negative information.

All these negatives drown the positives in a sweeping tsunami that washes away our desires and goals for the time it takes to let the opportunity pass by.  Often, once the window of opportunity is closed, all the negative mountains become molehills, and we decide we should have applied ourselves, but the next time the scenario repeats.  I have passed up countless opportunities.  In hindsight, it was the fear of success more than the fear of failure that held me back. The fear of the unknown, and the suggestions planted by others can be powerful.  However, when held to the hard light of reality, they quickly fade away.  There is probably no way to eliminate our fear, nor do I think we should.  Instead we should come to recognize our fears for what they are, and not let them hold us back.  When someone asks you if you would like to work on a new project, take a new position, move jobs, etc, say yes and then think it over.  You can always say no later, but the converse is rarely an option.

Fear of success quiz to measure your fear level, give it a try.


Let me know how you do.

The PracticaL Mentor.

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