Ask Jess: Fear of Success?

Q: A lot of people tend to panic as they get close to a goal (because after investing so much of oneself in it, the possibility of it not working out gets scarier) and then back out. What would you say to them? Do you ever feel that way?

A: I definitely feel that way sometimes. Actually, I feel that way most of the time, when it comes to just about anything not having to do with normal, everyday life. Which, interestingly, happens a lot.

If I felt compelled to speak my mind to someone who was panicking or seriously felt like backing out of a certain goal, no matter how close or far away they were, I would start by helping them examine why they started feeling this way in the first place.

One thing I might ask first is, “Are you afraid of it not working out, or are you afraid of it not working out this certain way?” Because, the truth is, things work out more often than not. I personally think that the harder thing for us to come to terms with is that nothing is going to be exactly like it looks in our imaginations.

There is also the fear (fear is core issue) of the unknown. No matter how far along a person is to a goal, no matter how much of it they have already accomplished, and no matter how much research they have done in order to be as confident and competent as possible, there is going to be fear of the unknown. If a person has recorded an album, sold countless copies, gotten it produced, and only has to sign on the dotted line for a five-year contract with a reputable record company, that person, who has already accomplished so many goals-within-goals, is probably scared out of their wits. What if I make it big? What if I don’t? What if I can’t write enough songs to keep them happy, or what if I start writing horrible songs, or I contract chronic laryngitis? What if I hate being a star, or turn into a pompous jerk who drinks all the time?

After prompting them to think about their real reasons, I would ask for them to think of reasons why all this worry might not be necessary. (If they are in an unreasonable mood, the answer will probably be “yes”, but that would be the point at which I shake my head and tell them to try again.) After that, I think I will have put enough things in their head to think critically about for a while; so I would probably then pat them on the knee, tell them “DON’T DO IT. DON’T YOU DARE GIVE UP YOU SILLY.” And leave them to ponder.

Fear of Success is about as common as eating apples. I don’t know if anybody doesn’t have it. We just have to watch out for it if we ever want to get anything done! Also, like I said in my last blog entry about dreaming and accomplishing goals (https://lifewithoutcollege.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/dreams-vs-reality-fearless-following/), most goals are progressive, with many steps which are accomplished steps in themselves. So one last piece of advice I would give anyone is to look at where they are right now, and the things which they have already accomplished. How did you come to where you are now? What were your fears? How did you overcome those fears?

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