Hello everybody, welcome to episode 78 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. Today we’ve got sort of a unicorn topic to go over. We have a question sent in about the fear of success – which is definitely something that’s hard to understand and something many people aren’t even convinced of. So let's open our ears, hear this listener’s question, and have a discussion…
QUESTION: “What’s the deal with fear of success? Is it real? It doesn’t make sense to me. Sometimes I have a few ideas of different jobs I could take and I feel as though I could be very successful in each of them if I put my mind to it, but I never do. I don’t think I’m afraid, but time passes and I don’t try any of my ideas out. I have a good job now, but I also believe in bettering myself and living to my true potential. What’s stopping me?”
Is it really about Success?
All right, gotcha. That’s a lot to chew on. Interesting subject matter, too.
I don’t blame you for being in a bit of a tizzy about this – the fear of success is definitely a weird concept. I appreciate you bringing it to our attention, though, and giving us a chance to clear the air for both yourself and your fellow listeners regarding the fear of success.
The fear of success is real, yes. Is it misunderstood? Also yes. And I’m not sure it’s necessarily what you’re feeling. But I’ll let you decide that for yourself once I’ve first broken down the fear of success, then I’ll give you my two cents on your particular predicament.
To me, the fear of success isn’t really about success. I think it’s mostly phrased and shared that way because it seems preposterous and therefore it gets a reaction.
So let’s think about this. When we envision the fear of success, we envision being fearful of our lives finally coming together and our dreams coming true. Within this extreme idea of our lives coming together and our dreams coming true, first, is a lot of change. We equate this crystallized idea that is “success” to things being so different than what they are now that we forget most of our identity or at least our daily lives will change.
Normal Changes in Life
And that’s pretty extreme. I mean how do we approach normal changes in life when we feel a lot of them need to be made? We approach them one at a time, because tackling them all at once is overwhelming. Same thing is happening here.
A lot of change all at once is stressful, so we put it off if we can. And not only is it stressful, but it’s not all necessary all the time. Especially for you, asker of this question.
The Stress of Losing Something that's Working
You mentioned having a good job now. To me, that sounds like at least one thing (and there are probably many more) that is fine as it is and doesn’t require a huge upheaval, cause it’s stressful to lose something that’s working. Most of us fear scarcity, so the more we have to lose, the less we’re willing to lose it. For that reason, though I said I’m not sure you in particular are afraid of success, a lot of people in your situation will be more prone to shy away from big changes because they aren’t as necessary. Things are working well enough as they are, and the threat of losing that makes us feel a little shaky.
Meanwhile, if we put off chasing this success, here’s what happens: we can continue to believe that huge success is possible, which balances us with both hope for the future and comfort in not actually risking anything for the time being. That gives us this feeling of maintaining control, thinking it’s within our grasp if we wanted it but not actually gambling on it. So not only are we fearful of all the change, but at the end of the day, we’re still basically afraid of failure aren’t we?
Failure of coping with all the changes if not failure to actually become successful rather than falling on our faces after risking it all. To me, we don’t fear success, we fear the failures within success.
I hope that all makes sense. We’re kinda going out there right now, feels like a little bit like a devil’s lettuce conversation if you know what I’m saying.
Do You Have a Precise Vision?
But that’s the “deal” with fear of success and whether or not it’s real as far as I see it, but like I said, I’m not sure that’s the culprit for you, my friend. Here’s what I’m gathering from you: good job, ideas about other jobs that would be better, and the belief in bettering yourself. This all feels very natural to me. It’s not really infused with any energy or zest, and I think that’s really what’s keeping you from changing things rather than being afraid. Like, if you see other opportunities you could take that you could excel in, it’s only about succeeding, it’s not about passion.
If there was passion, there’d be one great opportunity that’s really detailed and that you really care about. The other ideas wouldn’t even have enough mental space to exist, and the job that you have now would seem much less enticing when compared to something that’s meaningful to you. Whereas right now, it seems the only temptation derived from changing things and acquiring a more successful life is because you feel you’re capable of it or have the potential, rather than because it really lights you up. If there was a very precise vision you had that was burning inside you and kept you up at night, fears surrounding taking action on something like that would more of a useful conversation to be having, if that makes sense.
Redefining What “Better” Really Is
Wanting to better yourself is ok, but I think right now your best bet is to redefine what “better” really is. Because as it stands, it’s seems to me more like an obligation to shake things up and prove something to yourself than anything.
Maybe “bettering yourself” isn’t about chasing more success, but identifying what success you really need and what success you really have. Otherwise you’ll never be satisfied.
Maybe bettering yourself is focusing on the value you already have, and allowing yourself to be okay with not chasing down more.
Your natural instincts so far have led you to daydream more about other possibilities rather than to actually act on them, and maybe that’s your gut’s way of telling you things are fine as they are and that you should work more on enjoying what you have rather than maximizing just because you can.
Ok my friends, that’ll about do it. Thank you so much for listening today.
Asker, again, I appreciate you sending your question in and I hope we were able to help you out. Please do reach back out if I missed the point of this question somehow or shortchanged the paths that you often consider for yourself. We want to get it right, so if it was misinterpreted, let us know.
Everyone else, you’re also encouraged to submit your questions, we love hearing from you. If there’s something you’d like our help with, some extra support, email your concern into us at advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
We’ll take your questions there and do our best. Have a wonderful rest of your day everyone, we appreciate you being here, and hope you’ll stop in next time.