What If I Succeed?

Some people fear failure. Some people, like me, fear mediocrity. Other people, fear success. Don’t worry. You can be human and fear all of them in different circumstances!

But if you fear success, you are not alone.

Maybe you’ve been trying to accomplish something for a long time. You may have convinced yourself that what you want is just about impossible. How can you succeed? Some of my Manage Your Job Search readers are in this position.

Seth Godin calls this our lizard brain. We want to succeed. But, sometimes, we are almost paralyzed with fear, so that the thing we want the most is the thing we sabotage, so we don’t get it.

If you think of an acronym for FEAR as “Fear Experienced As Reality,” (yes, another acronym I got from Jerry Weinberg), being afraid to succeed makes a lot of sense. Tons of sense. It’s not far from fear of failure (it’s a mirror image).

gordian knotWhat can you do?

  1. Acknowledge that you are afraid. Maybe this idea is new to you. Maybe this is a new way of trying. I know when I first tried to low-carb to lose weight, I was afraid. What if this didn’t work (fear of failure)? I had tried to lose weight my entire life. I was in my 40’s. If this didn’t work, did I even have any options left? I was scared. And, if I succeeded, what would happen then (fear of success)? All of the problems I had blamed on my weight? What if they weren’t my weight problems, but “me” problems? Oh boy. I had tied myself up in knots.
  2. Take one small step and experiment. I tried the weight loss for one week, and lost one pound. Best of all, I wasn’t hungry and felt great. (Of course, your mileage will vary.) I had never had results like this before. I was willing to try another week. Since I succeeded, I could try again. I was still me.
  3. See the results of the experiment and bring the feedback to another experiment.

Using the growth mindset can help change our lizard brains. It can make the difference between “I can’t do this” because I’ll fail/I’ll succeed/I’ll be mediocre, or “I’ll try something.”

For me, it’s about managing that first step. About creating an experiment that will allow me to try something. Then, I can say:

  • If I fail, “So what? I tried something. It didn’t work. Oh well. I tried.” I can try another experiment.
  • If I succeed, “Good for me. Let’s build on it.”
  • If I’m mediocre, “What do I need to do to get better?”

Fear of success, just like fear of failure, can paralyze you. Can you find a way to create an experiment that will allow you to succeed, in one small way? Then, use the results to learn from that experiment?

If you have the growth mindset, it’s not about you as a boxed-in person. It’s about you as an experiment. You build your emotional resilience and your experiences to help you along the way.

Now, how do you feel about success?

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