How Fear Of Success Can Kill Your Business
And What You Need To Do About It
If you Google the causes of small business failure, it’ll throw answers from the Experts back at you like lack of capital, poor marketing, inadequate management, wrong location, uninspiring products, poor service, etc. The chances are you won’t find FEAR OF SUCCESS listed anywhere as one of the major causes of Small Business failure.
In This post, I will describe many of the symptoms so that you can see if it’s happened – or is happening – to you, and I will also suggest some solutions for you to explore.
The reason I’ve written this blog is because I’ve had this awful experience myself, so my hope is that reading about my journey on this emotional roller coaster will help you with yours.
Fear Of Success. It sounds rather counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?
As a Solo Entrepreneur myself, I’ve never actually heard anyone say they’re afraid of being successful but I have certainly seen the signs of people feeling that fear, and I’ve experienced it myself. And it took me a long time to recognize what it was, so hopefully by relating what I’ve discovered here, I can help you in some way with your own experiences and I’d be very grateful if you could kindly leave a comment at the bottom of this post if you have.
If anyone were to ask you if you genuinely want to make a success out of life or in your own business, you would tell them that you did and there would be no doubt in your mind that you meant it, so what causes this fear and what can you do about it if or when it happens to you?
Here’s what you need to do
- Recognize the symptoms
- Identify the reason for the fear
- Take the necessary personal development steps to put yourself back on track
Symptoms Which Indicate You Have A Fear Of Success
Here is a list of symptoms of fear of success which are very closely related, and one leads straight into the other. Can you see which apply to you? Maybe all of them do and hopefully when you see it you will be on your way to breaking the mold.
- You Don’t Set Goals – This is the tell-tale sign that you are deliberately sabotaging yourself because if you have no end game in mind, you’ll never actually get to where you want to be, if you even get started at all. Decide what you want, know WHY you want it and get to work. Form a daily routine and it can take as little as 21 days to become a habit which you’ll then do on auto-pilot!
- You Procrastinate – Well, actually you confuse fear of success with procrastination, but really it is much more deep rooted. Simple procrastination is more a symptom of apathy towards success, rather than an actual fear of it. That’s not to underestimate the enormous damage procrastination can do, however. Putting off until tomorrow what should be done today won’t kill your business if it is a very occasional and short lapse – we all have days where need to give ourselves a break after all – but if EVERY day becomes ‘tomorrow’ you will kill off any chance of success. Simple procrastination can be overcome by writing a daily ‘To Do’ list and resolving to stick to it. By setting clearly defined but realistic schedules for the achievement of your goals and working out a plan to get there. From the date you intend to achieve your goal, plan your schedule backwards in annual, monthly, weekly and daily chunks of activity and then get to work. Knowing why you want what you want is vitally important, so get your thinking cap on and then visualize how much better life will be once you’re were you want to be.What is more likely is that you’re looking for excuses not to do what you need to do, rather than simply muddling the priorities of each of your tasks, which leads us to our next indicator:
- You are confusing being busy with being productive – You still do stuff, but you put off the truly important stuff off that requires your immediate attention so as to get rid of those little irritating things that can actually wait. As you tick each of these off your ‘To Do’ list, you are giving yourself the illusion that you are working hard and getting rid of the distractions so that you can focus on what is truly important. Then you start to look for and invent ‘distractions’ to keep yourself from actually doing the important stuff. Then you self-congratulate for how hard you’ve worked whilst also giving yourself the excuse that although you gave it your best shot, you just aren’t cut out for success. Don’t just write out a ‘To Do’ list, PRIORITIZE IT! Do a Draft, then a Final Copy, then throw the draft in the bin! Finish each task in turn before starting the next. It’s best to have half the jobs on your To Do list complete at the end of the day than to have all of the jobs half complete.
- You hear old, familiar negative voices in your head – ‘Don’t aim too high, then you won’t be too disappointed when you don’t get there’. ‘Don’t work so hard, you’ll wear yourself down’. ‘Just do enough to get buy, so long as the bills get paid that’s fine’. There’s only so much space inside your head. If those voices aren’t the ones you want to hear, raise the rent and kick them out!
- You embark on self-destructive behaviours – This is a danger zone where professional help may be necessary. There’s nothing wrong with a drink or maybe even the occasional puff of weed, but if you feel this is becoming excessive or a place of refuge from reality then heed the signs such as lack of sleep, irritability, inability to focus even on simple tasks or obsessing over trivial things and talk to someone about it – either someone you know and trust on a personal or intimate level, or someone professionally qualified to help you.
Here Are Some Of The Reasons Why You May Fear Success
There may be something in your subconscious mind which reminds you of past negative influences. It could be from pushy parents or school teachers who made you feel inadequate with things like ‘You’ll never amount to anything’ or ‘Set up your own business? You haven’t got what it takes’ or ‘You’re too nice. They’ll walk all over you’ or ‘Money makes you greedy and corrupt’ or ‘Get a job, there’s more security’.
It’s Not What Happens To You, It’s What You Do About What Happens
To You That Determines How Your Life Will Pan Out
All these should actually be your driver to become successful and confound your naysayers, but when you hear it often enough from people you’re close to and look up to, you can unconsciously start to believe it and doubt yourself. You may start to believe you don’t actually deserve the success you seek. You can even fall back on this negativity when you experience challenges in your business – as you will do – and then allow it to become justification for failure – or more accurately – giving up. When this happens, you may tell yourself that they were probably right and you really should have listened to them.
You do NOT have to give in to these feelings, but you cannot attempt to deny or supress them either. You have to give them the attention they require before that inner voice stops nagging at you and you can finally let the feelings go.
Here are some common examples of natural but unnecessary fears which may be holding you back from the success you deserve:
- What if success turns me into someone I don’t want to be? You may worry that success might change you into someone like JR Ewing, one of the lead characters in the 1980’s TV Soap Opera ‘Dallas’. Although apparently successful, JR became corrupted by his ‘success’ and was a thoroughly unpleasant, amoral, greedy and scheming individual who had no hesitation in dumping even on his close family for his personal gain. Money is the thing most commonly associated with success in business. You’ve all heard the phrase ‘Money is the root of all evil’. You may have had this instilled into you from an early age. But this is not the case. Money, wisely used, can do a lot of good and you can’t help the poor by joining them. So, see yourself as the kind of person you want to be and start acting as if you already are that person. Visualize yourself using your money or your acquired wisdom and experience to do good things. Be a ‘Go Giver’ rather than a ‘Go Getter’!
- Can I handle the change in my life? – You want things to change for the better for you and your family, but your current environment is familiar and feels ‘safe’ even if it not what or how you wish it to be. It’s a ‘COMFORT ZONE’ even when it’s not comfortable whereas success is un-charted waters. When you fail or mess up, you know what to expect. But if you’re not used to success, the prospect of it can actually scare the s..t out of you!Having all you want is probably something you thought could never happen. Knowing and understanding that you not only can but that it is your birth right and you only need to reach out and grasp it can take a bit or work!Decide what it is that you want to have, do, or be and KNOW that it is just as available to you as it is to anyone else. Create a ‘Vision Board’ with pictures of the life you want to lead and the things you want to have, have a clear but realistic time frame for its’ achievement in your life and a plan for how you’re going to do it. Then get to work! Meditate on it for at least 20 minutes when you get up in the morning and before you go to bed at night and at least once in between if possible.
- What will people think of me? – This is understandable, but completely unfounded. Cynics are fond of believing that ‘success’ only comes off the back of the hard work of others – it’s the old ‘JR Syndrome’ again. Whilst it does sometimes happen that way in real life, it’s not the only way or even the typical way and such cynical attitudes are often carried by people who simply can’t be bothered to strive to better themselves. You should not allow negative people to drag you down to their level, even if they’re people you’re close to and care about. They’re not necessarily bad people, they just have a different outlook on life to you.Success has been defined as ‘The progressive realization of a worthy ideal’. You can be generous with your success. The more you have, the more you can give. If you’ve achieved success through service to others rather than at the expense of others, you have every right to be proud of your achievements. You just have to learn to rise above the negativity of those who can’t or won’t see it and resist the temptation to try to make them see it – if they don’t want to, they won’t. If you can’t avoid these people altogether, you just have to be sparing in the time you give them and set boundaries governing their behaviour towards you. Respect their right to their opinions, but make sure they know that you don’t need to hear them constantly, you have a right to disagree and to have opinions of your own which they in turn need to respect.
- I don’t like to self-promote – You don’t have to shout your achievement from the roof tops, but you don’t have to try to down play them out of a misguided sense of modesty either.Humility is a wonderful quality but there’s difference between being humble and de-valuing your true worth. You may have been brought up in a negative environment and shamed into believing you should always put the needs of others before your own needs. Thinking of yourself now and again does NOT make you selfish and there is a big difference between caring for others and being a ‘caretaker’, thinking that you are responsible for ensuring the happiness and fulfilment of others.Don’t allow people to get you on a guilt trip for thinking about your own needs and desires – it’s only what they’re doing after all!
- Standing out in the crown scares me – The last paragraph was about modesty. This one is about shyness and there is a difference.
You Can Only Be Successful If You’re An Extrovert, Right?
Shyness is only an obstacle to success if you allow it to be. Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Mark Zuckerberg, Elton John, Nicole Kidman, Bill Gates, JK Rowling, Elon Musk – to name but a few – all became hugely successful whilst being introvert by nature.
In fact, there are a great many reasons why being an introvert may actually give you the advantage when it comes to attracting success. Here’s a few for you to think about:
- Introverts listen more than they talk – There is a huge difference between actually having something to say and just having to say something! A wonderful mentor of mine once said to me ‘You’ve got 2 ears and 1 mouth. Use them in that proportion.’ And it was one of the best bits of advice anyone has ever given me. If you do this, people will be more likely to listen to you when you DO talk.
- Introverts are usually more considerate towards others – this doesn’t mean you have to have ‘DOORMAT’ tattooed on your forehead in large letters. Introverts usually freely give without a sense of entitlement to anything in return and so can you without feeling that you are allowing yourself to be taken advantage of.
- Introverts are less likely to act the fool in public – nobody likes people who self-promote or belittle others. Building people up rather than pulling them down creates a feel good factor for both parties. Do this, and the positive vibe you create can only attract the good to you. ‘What goes around comes around’, as they say!
- Introverts are not self-absorbed – this makes introverts more observant of their surroundings and therefore generally more empathetic, approachable and trustworthy. The chances are that you are already, and others will probably see it in you before you do!
Even people who aren’t shy don’t necessarily like being the centre of attention all the time! Down playing your achievements and shying away from praise and reward when it is genuinely due to you, out of embarrassment or a feeling you’re undeserving is harmful not just to yourself but to those you care for and who care for you. If you feel you deserve a pay rise or a promotion at work or some recognition for an achievement you should acknowledge it to yourself and allow yourself a little moment of glory.
You Need To Understand That It’s OK To Have A Different Take On Success Than Someone Else
To be accepting of success, you first of all have to define what success means to YOU.
Success doesn’t come in a neat and tidy ‘one size fits all’ package. Everybody has their own individual take on success, unique and personal to them.
To some it’s material, such as money, a promotion, or a new house or car. To others it may be more spiritual, like voluntary work or donating to a worthy cause in the Community. It may be taking a refuse sack to the beach to clear away other people’s rubbish and seeing the difference you’ve made when you go home, even though you know it’ll need to be done again in a few days!
- Maybe you have been trying to live up to someone else’s definition of success.
- Maybe the things you want and desire don’t fit it with someone else’s idea of success, but it doesn’t need to! It only needs to fit in with your ideas and you have to be clear about what you want, why you it and be comfortable enough with it not to let people that your take on success is less worthy than theirs. It isn’t! It’s not about being right or wrong, it’s about being happy within yourself.
You have to understand that you don’t have to explain or justify your definition of success to others. Allowing other people their own definition of success means you have the right to the same consideration not only from them but from yourself also! Not all of them will see it that way, especially if they’re the kind of person who has to be ‘right’ all the time, but you do not have to play their game by living up to their ideals at the expense of your own, or of feeling the need to be defensive about your own ideals.
Once you’ve decided what you want, take time out to meditate on how it would feel once you’ve achieved it. The key thing here is not to imagine it sometime in the future, as this will keep it always in the future. Think about it in the present, as if you already have it, and get into the feeling!
To remind yourself of the feeling, imagine a time in your childhood when you achieved something and were praised and rewarded for it. Remember how it felt, get into that feeling again and hold it for a couple of minutes, or 5 if you can manage it. Don’t worry if you can’t do it for that long. It takes practice.
Next, imagine a similar but more recent occurrence and hold that feeling too.
How good does it feel now, even though it’s in the past? Just as good as it did at the time, I bet!
Now, recall a memory of something that wasn’t so nice. Nothing traumatic, just when you felt under a bit of stress or pressure.
How You Can Recognize The Physical Symptoms Of The Fear Of Success
Although the feelings over the good and not so good memories will be quite different, do you notice that the physical reactions are actually remarkably similar? The heavier breathing, the quickening heart rate, maybe you got a little sweaty? A little light headed? That’s the adrenaline rush.
Your body reacts to excitement and stress in the same way, which is why you may not always recognize the difference between the two when you experience the physical effects. For example, I have an over active immune system which triggers an increased production of histamine when I’m in a high emotional state, be it either elation or stress, and this causes outbreaks of eczema. Although my state of mind and my resulting emotions in each state are completely the different, the physical reaction of my body is often the same.
When the physical symptoms manifest, this can often lead to emotional distress, even when the feelings that triggered the physical reaction were good ones. Hence you may have experience that confused, counter-intuitive state of associating success with stress.
The one common denominator for entrepreneurs which stands in the way of their success is…..US! That’s me and, yes, you too!
You know the consequences of failure, but that is not what you’re afraid of. Now, imagine if you will, the ‘consequences’ of success….
What Happens When You Do Become Successful?
YOU might actually make a huge, positive difference to SOMEONE ELSE! Your success could be the catalyst for someone else’s. Wouldn’t the World be a much better place if more people actually did what they were put on this Earth to do and make the contribution they were meant to make? WHY NOT YOU?!
Hitting success can be a huge emotional release and it can help focus your mind on what to do next. You will be successful if you decide to get out of your own way and make it happen.
Here’s What You Need To Do To Overcome Fear Of Success
Personal Development is the key to success in both life and in business. There are many great resources out there in the form of books and audio, from such great Life Coaches as Jim Rohn, Zig Ziglar, T Harv Eker, Og Mandino, Bob Proctor, Earl Nightingale, to name but a few. Google them and sign up to the newsletters on their websites, buy their books and audios or get them from your local library, and don’t just listen to them or read them – STUDY them, make them part of you. Take notes, do the exercises they recommend, even attend the seminars if you can afford to. If you can’t at present, make that one of your goals and work towards it.
Get hold of some self-help material too. Coming to terms with your past and present issues is a part of personal development and is the best place to start if before you can really take your life forward. DON’T MISS THIS STEP – IT’S CRUCIAL!
There are 2 excellent self-help books that I have read and still read to myself each and every day without fail. These book are written by a wonderful lady called Melody Beattie, and are called ‘The Language of Letting Go’ and ‘More Language of Letting Go’.
Melody is a former alcoholic and substance user, an abused spouse and bereaved mother, who has turned her life around by learning to accept her past and present, so that she could move on into a much brighter future.
Each of her books consists of 366 short daily chapters of about a single page, to be read at the start of each day. I have been reading them daily for around 3 years now, and I can honestly say I have not come across any self-help material that has been of more benefit to me than these 2 books have.
Another brilliant book is ‘Creative Visualization’ by Shakti Gawain. There are many books that teach us about using the Law of Attraction to create the life and the future we desire, but this goes into the spiritual and teaches meditation and relaxation techniques in order to mentally and emotionally prepare us for applying the Law of Attraction in a positive way.
Other great books are
- Attitude Is Everything by Jeff Keller
- Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
- Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers
- Rhinoceros Success by Scott Alexander
- The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, also on DVD, CD and with its’ own website and e-newsletter
Here Are Some Mental Self-Help Exercises For You To Do
- Ask yourself whether you fear is down to past mistakes. If it is, treat the past as a learning experience. Failure is the best way to learn. Michael Jordan, possibly the best Basketball player of all time said that over the course of his career he missed over 9000 shots, missed 26 times when he was trusted to take the game winning shot and has lost over 300 games! He didn’t quit and nor should you!
- If your fear is because of something that someone else put into your head in the past, look at the kind of life they’re leading now and if it’s not the kind of life you want to lead, clear it out. They may not even be where THEY want to be in life, so that disqualifies them from telling you what you should or shouldn’t be doing.
- Identify your own personal definition and vision of success. What does it look like to you? Write down your answers. Be specific and don’t worry if the answers aren’t what you think other people would say. This isn’t about them, it’s about YOU!
- Write down how your answers to the above would make you feel and hold the feeling whilst visualizing what it is you want. Hold for as long as you can.
- Take special of any visions of success that give you negative vibes, maybe a fear that you may not live up to the responsibility that comes with success.
- Become aware of how your fear of success has been holding you back. Write down your answers and then ask yourself how your life would be if you hadn’t allowed your fears to hold you back.
- List your personal strengths and attributes. There will be far more of them than you think. And don’t be tempted to downplay them. False modesty is as damaging as an over-inflated ego!
- List your successes, however small, and reward yourself for them. Even a small token gesture is something you would appreciate if it was given to you by someone else, so let you appreciate it from yourself too. Maybe imagine you are somebody else receiving the reward from you.
- Proclaim defeat of your fear and make today Day 1 of your fulfilling new life!
Being an entrepreneur can be a little lonely, right? Imagine yourself having access to a Community of aspiring and established entrepreneurs who you can talk to online for support and encouragement 24/7.
Imagine if within that Community, all the systems, tools and training to guarantee your success were there for you at the click of a mouse on top of all the encouragement and mentoring you would get.
Imagine, when you’ve got the experience that you could be one of the great helpers and mentors in that special Community. How would that make you feel?
Pretty damn good, right? That’s when you KNOW you have been and are continuing to be successful.
Well, there IS such a Community and it’s FREE TO JOIN!
You can read about all about it here.
I hope you have found this article both informative and helpful. Please feel free to comment below or ask any questions and I’ll do my best to get back to you within 24 hours.
Your friend and Mentor