You often hear about athletes, musicians, or performers who are catapulted from relative obscurity to the big time. Although that kind of success may have been their dream and aspiration, many say that they were just not ready for that level of success. Many talk about not being ready for the financial and social pressures, the lack of privacy, and the lifestyle changes from when no one knew them compared with now being household names. Public limelight aside, many of us experience the same kinds of fears about being prepared for what success is going to mean for us.
When I left my comfortable corporate Vice President job to start my own company, I experienced fear of failure and success. When I asked myself, "What if I fail? I could just go back to big corporate America. Everything would be different, and I wouldn't even really know the ways things would be different right away.
It would be uncharted territory with limited visibility. Would I become a different person as a result of being a successful entrepreneur? Would I like the person I became? Would there be more pressure? Was I really good enough to sustain the success? It turns out that my concerns weren't symptoms of my own neuroses but are actually common perceptions. It could be a bigger role where more people depend on you.
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It could be that more people care what you do and say, and that your opinions are further reaching. It sounds great, but bigger impact can also actually make you feel vulnerable because you are now more in the spotlight to more people. It can be easy to be scared off by that and feel ill equipped to handle the scrutiny, the judgment and everything else that comes with that broader exposure. It often prompts questions about whether you can live up to people's new expectations of you or if you even want to have to do that.
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Often, if you give it everything you have and still fail, you get pats on the back and respect for having put it all out there. It's the "you left it all out there on the field" concept. Could it be that you are holding yourself back out of the fear of failure? Are the prospects of another round of criticism from family, friends or co-workers preventing you from taking the risks that might help you improve?
5 Ways to Keep Fear of Failure From Holding You Back
If so, Dr. Dugan's thoughts about how failure and success are paired with one another may be enlightening for you. The odd thing about fear of failure is that so many of us have failed so many times -- or at least we have declared our efforts to be failures. Of course, there are all kinds of willing allies in the declaration of failure, from parents and teachers to friends and business associates.
You probably know the story about Edison going through over 1, combinations of gas and filament before he found a light bulb that would last. After the light bulb began to be distributed, the science editor of a preeminent national publication asked him how it felt to have failed so many times. Incredulous at the question, Edison responded with the simple fact that he had succeeded in producing the incandescent bulb.
When the editor persisted, Edison framed the problem of getting to a working light bulb as one that had over 1, steps along the way.
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Had he thought of each step along the way as yet another failure, we might still be working by candlelight. Thank goodness Edison did not have the science editor as his mentor! Are you more like Edison, holding a vision of a workable outcome, doing the work required and finding that persistence is a big part of the process? Or are you more like the science editor, willing to call missteps along the way "failure"? On the other side of the equation, the fear of success might also be operative in holding you back. This one is pretty counterintuitive.
What on Earth could be wrong with succeeding? The answer depends on what success looks like, what expectations are likely to ensue and who might be offended by your success.
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This is the question we will take up next week. In the meantime, what do you want out of life, and why?
What have you told yourself about taking the risks necessary to create what you want? How have others "supported" you in declaring failure? What have you found useful in overcoming obstacles, and in creating your own version of success in life? I'd love to hear from you, so please leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell russellbishop. If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life, and on how you can take a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, download a free chapter from Russell's new book, "Workarounds That Work.
You can buy "Workarounds That Work" here.
Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about his work by visiting his website at www.
You can contact him by email at Russell russellbishop. Real Life. Real News. Real Voices. Help us tell more of the stories that matter from voices that too often remain unheard. News Politics Entertainment Communities. HuffPost Personal Videos Horoscopes.
How to Never Let Fear Hold You Back Again
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