Mackay: Don't let fear of success hold you back

Legend has it that one day a man was walking in the desert when he met Fear and Plague. They said they were on the way to a city to kill 10,000 people. The man asked Plague if he was going to do all the work.

Plague smiled and said, “No, I’ll take care of only a few hundred. I’ll let my friend Fear do the rest.”

Can you actually die from fear? Most likely not. But it can kill your spirit.

Every crisis is multiplied when acting out of fear, because when you fear something, you empower it. If you refuse to concede to fear, there is nothing to be afraid of.

Success usually depends on overcoming your fears: fear of taking a risk, fear of asserting yourself, and ultimately, fear of failure. But for some people, the real fear is success itself.

Fear of failure can be crippling, but fear of success can paralyze your efforts just as severely. Avoiding success may seem irrational, but success brings change, and change is often threatening.

Achieving a major goal is hard work. What happens if people expect you to keep doing it indefinitely? Can you continue to produce?

Another concern is that co-workers may look to you for advice or assistance once you’ve proven you can succeed. You may lose control over your time or your privacy. Or you might offer advice that doesn’t work as well as hoped. Then your achievements might become suspect.

And you certainly don’t want to make enemies of colleagues. Some people delight in taking down those who are successful. Envious or hostile peers can make life miserable. Can you bring them on board on another project so they can also celebrate some success?

The prospect of actually reaching a goal can be terrifying: What comes next? What if your goal turns out to be meaningless? These worries can lead to procrastination and self-sabotage. To overcome them and achieve success, follow this advice:

Face your fears. Explore the emotions you have about success. Analyze what you’re really afraid of, and it will usually lose its impact.

Focus on the process. The end result may be important, but the journey can be more meaningful than the destination. Concentrate on what you’re learning, the people you meet and the experiences you collect as you move closer to your goal.

Analyze past successes. Look at projects or achievements from your past. What obstacles did you face? How did success make you feel? What changed as a result? This will help you sort through your fears overcome them.

Anticipate the changes. Ask yourself, “What will happen when I succeed?” You take away fear’s power when you confront it.

Select worthwhile goals. Pursue goals that address your needs, not anyone else’s. Take the time to think through what success will really mean before committing yourself.

Think about the rewards. Don’t let concerns about the future distract you from the positive benefits of reaching your goals. Visualize the upside: the final product, a satisfied customer, a check or some other tangible results.

Create new behaviors. After you’ve looked through the issues, start devising strategies for moving forward. How can you reinforce your self-confidence? What excuses do you need to eliminate? How can you sustain your motivation?

Be realistic. Remember that success won’t solve all your problems, but the feeling of accomplishment can make everyday irritations easier to tolerate.

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