The Fear of Success
How to Overcome It
Bill Cole, MS, MA
CEO, Procoach Systems
Silicon Valley, California
Is the fear of success real? How could anyone possibly fear such
a wonderfully positive thing as success? As strange as it sounds,
many people do fear success. This fear holds them back from
achieving their goals and dreams. It may sound more reasonable to
fear failure, and not to fear success. What is this all about?
Here are some reasons people fear success. Think these through
and you'll begin to resolve these issues within yourself.
1. Change Itself Is Scary: it's easier to maintain status quo and
go along unthinkingly. Life is easier when we can live it on
auto-pilot. Change brings us into the unknown with its mix of
exciting adventure and scary possibilities.
2. People Will Expect You to Succeed Again: there is a new
pressure to perform to a level that was not there before. You are
aware of people watching and waiting for you to repeat your
3. The Bar Has Been Raised on Your Performance Levels: your old
habits and processes will not work. You have to change familiar
and comfortable ways of being for the new.
4. You Will Get More Attention From People: if you are a private
person, or are not used to having an audience, this will take
5. Your Private Life May Suffer: athletes and movie actors who
make it big complain that they have privacy no longer and that
they must hire security and worry about financial and personal
6. You Question If You Can Do It Again: you may wonder if the
first victory was a fluke the next time you perform, and if you
fail, people will say it was an accident. This puts added
pressure on this second performance and takes away the value of
the first performance should you fail.
7. Your Time Demands Will Change: you have less time now because
maintaining new levels of performance bring new demands on your
time, new details you've never had.
8. People Expect You to "Be" a Certain Way Now: famous stars in
show business are expected to be big tippers or to sign
autographs, and if they don't, are denigrated. People have a set
of expectations about how you should behave in your new position.
9. It's Harder to Stay at the Top Than to Get There: it was tough
succeeding, but repeating it is usually even harder. It takes
more time, more planning and with your new distractions and
obligations, keeping focus is even more demanding.
10. You Make Enemies When You Perform Higher Than Them: you may
leave former peers behind, symbolically and literally, when you
raise the bar. Many people may be happy for your success and
others feel slighted and envious.
11. Being a Success Can Limit You: when an actor hits it big in a
role, they are forever remembered as that character-and if they
don't manage their career well, they will become type-cast. When
you do a great job on a project, you might be known as "the one"
to do this job for eternity because you are "so good" at it.
12. Being a Success Changes Your Self-Image: perhaps you've
always wondered if you could succeed at something. You may not
have felt worthy of this success. People may have told you,
covertly or overtly, that you don't deserve success. You at least
know your place as one who is average. When you succeed, people
will look to you for advice, leadership, as being a model of
virtue and you will forever change how you see yourself.
Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on peak performance,
mental toughness and coaching, is founder and CEO of Procoach
Systems, a consulting firm that helps organizations and
professionals achieve more success in business, life and sports.
For a free, extensive article archive, or for questions and
comments visit him at www.MentalGameCoach.com
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