The Fear of Success . . . How to Overcome It

Bill Cole, MS, MA Founder and CEO William B. Cole Consultants 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 success.

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 some adjusting.

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 safety issues.

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.

Copyright © 2005-2011 Bill Cole, MS, MA. All rights reserved.


Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on peak performance, mental toughness and coaching, is founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps organizations and professionals achieve more success in business, life and sports. He is also the Founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching Association.