Overcoming the Fear of Success: Are you Holding yourself Back?

SuccessThe fear of success phobia is very much like the fear of failure: both prevent the sufferer from dreaming and achieving their goals. It might seem weird to fear success; after all what can be more appealing in life than it? However, a little bit of digging in the phobic’s mind shows that fearing success is natural to them, simply because they are not looking for any change. They are so comfortable in their current situation that they want to continue to live the life despite hating it. Often, the individual might be afraid of success owing to the fear of inability to handle fame or wealth it brings.

Did you know there is even a thing called 'Achievemephobia'? 

Now I'm not going to go as deep as that, but there are correlations that can be found in the context of being a small business owner, or agency owner. Success sounds great on paper, but true success comes when you're willing to fail... and you will fail... until suddenly you don't.  It can happen just like that if you know the steps to take.

I have found that procrastination and fear are intertwined.   When I realize that I am procrastinating, I ask myself a simple question, “What are you afraid of here?”  Usually the answer is, “I’m afraid of failing,” or “I’m afraid of rejection.”  

I even hear it all the time when working with agents.  As a simple example, I had a client once who was new to being an agency owner.  What he lacked in experience, he more than made up for in drive.  His goal after working for another agent for years, was to save up some funds, and then planned to spend a higher than normal amount on his marketing.  While I am used to working with clients who think in monthly and quarterly perspectives, he looked at a year plan.  He had planned to spend the majority of his budget on lead generation and call generation.  He knew that he needed to spend the money necessary to get the higher than normal traffic that would bring his book of business (and his commission percentages) through the roof.  Within 3 months, he was spending even more money than when he started, and this upward expansion continued for two and a half years before he sold his book for a few million dollars. 

I still keep in contact with him, and we chat from time to time.  Some of the best advise he gave me was that when he started, he instills in his staff the same drive he had, but more importantly before anyone ever picked up the phone or talked to a client, he did a round-table where he asked his team members what they were afraid of, and got out every objection and reservation from his team.  From that day forward, they were an unstoppable machine, and it worked out VERY well for him in the end. 

Sure enough, as he touched on, the fear of failing and the fear of rejection are both fears that are natural for any insurance producer who works on the phone.  Fear of failure and/or rejection will hinder your self confidence.  They will cause you to procrastinate which in turn will make you avoid taking the actions that will lead to your success.  

Here’s what I do to conquer my fears that lead to procrastination…

Step 1: Identify what you fear

 Figure out why you’re afraid. Is it fear of failure?  Is it fear of making the wrong decision?  Is it fear of a lost opportunity?  Are you afraid that you aren’t up to task?  Once you identify the reason behind your fear, you are well on the way to overcoming it.


It’s OK to be afraid. You wouldn’t be human if you were never afraid. A common definition of courage is the ability to feel fear and still do what you need to do regardless. Earlier this year I took a risk to move cross-country with my family, while staying with the amazing company I work for.  I was afraid of failing. If I failed, I probably would be out of a job, in a new place, and meant that I would lose my savings and have to start over again, looking for a job at another company. However, once I identified and admitted my fear, I was able to take the next step – acceptance.

STEP 3: Accept your fear

Accepting your fears is important, because it shows that you know you’re human. Once I accepted that I was afraid of failing, I was able to dig in with my team, almost as if I never left, and worked to make sure our team saw success. In fact, I embraced my fear of failure. It made me work harder; it pushed me to work the long hours and learn the entrepreneurship lessons necessary to be successful as a self employed coach, consultant and leader.

STEP 4: Take Action

Action cures fear.  It is the most important of these four steps. Do something! The worst thing that can happen is that you’ll find it was the wrong thing to do, and you will have eliminated at least one thing from your list of possible actions. Action is the antidote to fear. In most cases, you’ll choose wisely and your fears won’t be realized. In the cases when you choose poorly, you’ll find that failure isn’t as catastrophic as you imagined. Successful people learn from their failures. By taking action on your fears, you win on both counts. You win if you make a good decision and things work out. You even win if you make a bad decision and things go poorly, because you have an opportunity to learn from your decision and the subsequent problems you faced.

The common sense point here is simple.  Successful people are self-confidence.  Self-confident people don’t let their fears get in the way of their success.  They face their fears and take action.  Fear often manifests itself as procrastination.  When you feel yourself procrastinating, take four small, but powerful steps.  1) Identify the fear behind your procrastination.  2) Admit to your fear.  3) Accept your fear.  4) Take action to defeat your fear.  And always remember, or even write it on a sticky note on your desk that says: "Action is the antidote to fear".

That’s my take on action and fear.  What’s yours?  How have you conquered some of your fears?  Please take a few minutes and share your story with us in a comment.  As always, thanks for reading.

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