Saturday, September 21, 2013

6 Steps to Overcome my Fear of Success

I don't have a fear of failure. I have a fear of success.

In everything I do, I give it my best effort, achieve immediate gains and successes, then for no good reason I stop short. If I relate this to running a marathon, it would be like running the first 13 miles with great ease then looking for reasons to not finish the remaining 13 miles such as saving a kitten from a tree, or help give out water at each water station. This wouldn’t be done out of fatigue or a need to rest, but out of a fear of succeeding. What if I finish this race and it wasn’t so hard? Or, what if I finished this race and it really wasn’t worth the time and effort?

While others ask themselves, “What if I fail?” I find myself asking, “What if I win?” How crazy is that?!

Does this sound like you?

People will notice. You won't be under the radar anymore. There will be more pressures to succeed to another level. Expectations from others will go up, and so many more variations of that "then what?" question pop into our minds.

Is there a sense of being an imposter?

There are different ideas and theories that try to explain the notion of “fear of success”, and one of those phenomena described by Carl V. Rabstejnek is the feeling of being an imposter (Rabstejnek, 2009.) This is what I honestly feel in every endeavor I take on. What if I succeed, and everyone finds out that I am not as qualified to have carried out this project in the first place?

There is a self-talk issue that needs to change within me.The reality is that I was chosen for that project because I AM qualified. I am no more an imposter than anyone else.

6 Steps I am Working to Overcome It Myself

There are 6 steps I have been using since the start of 2013 to help myself overcome my own fears of success. They are described and listed below.

1. Get accountability from a group of trusted advisors

Having a small group of trusted people who are encouraging, yet also have the ability to be candid, will keep you focused on my desired success. The biggest, and most important, ingredient in having accountability is that you must be open to the accountability in the first place. The maximum range for an excuse with this group is zero meters. They must know this, and you must honor it from the beginning. I sought out accountability from three sources: (1) my wife, (2) a small group of men who meet monthly specifically set on living our lives intentionally, and (3) co-workers who have an interest is seeing me succeed because my success means their success, too.

2. Recognize fear of success in myself

My fear of success is a mind issue, and a self-talk issue. I constantly share my progress with that small accountability group. I am honest with my updates including my concerns. Then, I am open to their feedback without getting defensive. Much of my progress this year has been the result of having five men, my wife, and a couple co-workers point out the self-defeatist attitudes I’ve expressed.

3. Immediately address and change the self-talk in my mind to set myself up for success

I take the positive feedback and suggestions from my accountability group, and rewrite the self-talk in my head.

4. Give myself a challenge to take “one more step”

Bil Cornelius once said, “When you fail to handle one problem, it multiplies (Cornelius, 2010.)” In the same way, when you fail to take that next step, the likelihood of not being able to take subsequent steps also multiplies. The way to completing a journey is taking one step after another, so when faced with a fear of success, I break my milestones into less daunting steps then agree to take the next “little” step. Seem simple? It is. The hard part is making the commitment to actually do something about that little step.

5. Achieve that "one more step

"Nike said it best, “Just do it!”

6. Repeat steps 2 through 5 until you reach that milestone of success and share your progress with your accountability partners

Success comes from doing the same simple steps consistently over and over and over. You build momentum this way and before you know it you have the success you’ve wanted and it seems to carry itself. I recommend you read Good to Great by Jim Collins about building flywheel momentum.

How do you overcome your fears of failure or success? Discuss in the comments below. 

Cornelius, B. (2010). I dare you to change!. New York: Guideposts.

Osteen, J. (2004). Your best life now: 7 steps to living at your full potential. New York: Warner Faith.

Rabstejnek, C. V. (2009). Fear of success.


  1. I've never felt the fear of success until I started blogging. The thought of putting out ideas for everyone to scrutinize and say things like, "Who does he think he is to be giving advice?" was quite paralyzing for a while. I had, actually still have, a really hard time adding the word "writer" to my other titles/positions. FEAR is definitely False Evidence Appearing Real. We give others way to much freedom to influence what we do, and fearing success is one of those things.

    1. I know exactly what you mean. When I started my Facebook Page right before the 2013 TEDxCorpusChristi event, I was fired up, excited, ready. The very first comment on that Page was a person from our church who's immediate question was, "What are your qualifications?" What I thought was a helping dialogue became a one-sided comparison game where this person attempted to one-up everything I said. It was kind of a pivotal moment for me. My initial gut reaction was, "She's right." My secondary response what, "Wait a sec! This person's bitter and her arguments have nothing to do with me." I simply moved on. A couple of years later, and I am hearing from people who tell me they share my content with their friends to help strengthen marriage and family. Last month, there were people in the UK, Canada, and Italy listening to Family Time Q&A. Wow! So, Shawn, keep going forward. You're right. We should let people influence us, especially through trolling.


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