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Fear of Success

by bevbarnes on May 10, 2010

“There are two great tragedies in life, not getting your heart’s desire and getting your heart’s desire.”  George Bernard Shaw

Is that a Debbie Downer phrase or is it not?  I put this quote in my high school year book at 16 years old, when I graduated.  I also said I liked cinnamon buns, soap operas, smiles and springtime and that my pet peeve was Adidas bags.

I haven’t changed.  

And herein lays the problem.  It’s that quote.  That quote basically says that it’s hell not to get what you want and even if you get it, you will no longer want it.  It makes you want to give up before you’ve even started.  Which is what I did up until really recently. 

This problem is called fear of success. People who believe that they won’t be happy when they get what they want have a fear of success.  They work in fits and starts; a big push of energy followed by slamming on the brakes. 

People that fear failure are constantly working and trying and doing.  People that fear success never really get started.  They do enough to be good but never enough to be great.  They have no idea what their outer limits of excellence are.  They rarely suffer from job-burnout.  They have been told how wonderful, perfect, beautiful (okay maybe not) and intelligent they are all their lives.  And they are scared that they won’t live up to what other people think that they are.  Or maybe they think that they will fall out of love with what they wanted. What they loved will become work.  And if it’s work, then it’s no longer fun. 

So if you recognize yourself in this description what do you do?  Content yourself to a life of pretty good and never great?  Keep living in your head imagining what you could do if you really tried?  Of course that is probably what you’ve always done.  My suggestion is to try something different.  Here’s how:

Step 1:  Recognize that you are afraid of success.  The issue is fear.  Ask yourself the question “What am I afraid of?”  Honestly answer the question.  List your fears without judging yourself.  Try to find your deepest truth.

Step 2:  Imagine what achieving your wildest dreams would be like and then feel it in your body.  Sit with this.  It will be uncomfortable.  You’ve probably been more afraid of that feeling than the actual success.  Notice if you have the urge to have a snack or watch mindless television.  These urges come from trying to avoid an uncomfortable feeling.

Step 3: Describe your fear, what it looks like, what color it is.  Imagine what your fear wants to say to you.  This allows you to observe your feelings and not be in them.

Step 4:  Thank your fear for trying to help you.  This step sounds hokey but it is crucial.  Fear is just trying to protect you from something that you have decided is dangerous.  This step should give you a great deal of relief.  Try it.  It works.   

Step 5:  Understand that you can decide what you want and what you don’t want.  I learned this from Abraham and the Law of Attraction.  What you don’t want is the contrast with what you do want.  If you discover that you no longer want something, knowing that, gives you a better idea of what you do want.  So, if you achieve your heart’s desire and then decide you don’t want it, you are allowed to want something else…..and work towards that!  That feels so much better than thinking you will be stuck with what you don’t want even before you start working towards it.

Remember, success is a moving target that you define and redefine constantly.  Question the thought that you will never want what you get.  Remember the good feelings in your body when you have actually reached your physical limits in exercise or sports.  You can have the same feeling of achievement with what you want, once you move through your fear. 

Wanting but never trying feels far worse than getting what you want and deciding you want something else.

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