Overcoming the Fear of Success

By Chris Westfall

Fear is easy, success is hard. But what about when you fear the thing that you want the most?

Each of us defines success in different ways, in different areas of life. A successful career, a successful relationship, a successful outcome on the court (or in the court?) is what we all want.

Based on my experience, and my coaching practice, we all share the desire for success. We also seem to share a universal fear of that success. After all, what really happens when you "win"? Change!!

Instead of taking action towards the thing that we want most, the natural fear of change creeps in. What if we do land that contract? What if we buy our dream house? What if she says "Yes!" and I've got to book that chapel?

One of the things that I've discovered in the course of writing my book is that the human condition is about the human connection.

Connecting with others is an important focus for my work, but before we connect with others, we have to connect with ourselves. We have to get clear on what it is that we want, and understand what internal fears (such as the fear of success) are holding us back. Before we can convey a powerful message to someone else, I believe it's critical to understand the story we are telling ourselves.

We All Have a Fear of Success: It's easier to place blame than to take action

Blaming circumstances, blaming others or (my favorite) blaming ourselves is easier than the unknown consequences of the thing we want most. In my life, I've found that I'm often busy beating myself up when I should be stepping towards the thing that I want -- but there's a fear that turns me toward the thing I know (how to kick my own a&*) vs. the thing I don't (what really happens if this succeeds?)

My friend and Supercoach Michael Neill explains that we have to be careful about putting "shoulds," "ought to's" and "musts" on our current situation. (Check out his latest book, The Inside Out Revolution for more).

Example: I should be further along in my career by now, I must get married by the time I'm 31, I ought to be living in a better neighborhood. Locking in a series of "Shoulds" is another way to establish boundaries that keep us from success (Neill calls this "Musterbation"). When we change the should into a could, we get closer to our opportunities.

When I find myself standing in my own way, choking my own throat with some outdated ideas and fears, I try to focus on what I call "equal air time." While it may be true that landing that big contract will cause a lifestyle change that stuns and frightens me, I have to give "equal air time" to the fact that the impact on my finances and personal life could be as positive -- if not more positive -- than any fear I have imagined. What's bad is always available, especially from the voice inside my head. But, what's good is also available -- everything has a front and a back! By giving equal air time to possibilities that excite and interest me, I'm able to push through my fear of the unknown.

Where would you like to change in your life? If it's not a little scary, it's not really important! What is the success that you fear? Is it really about the fear of change -- or is there something deeper at stake? Here's an update: the voice inside your head is working on disrupting that plan, with fear and outdated information from your past. Better take a minute to give "equal air time" to your ideal outcomes. Have you taken time to script out some of the positives that could be?

By getting your story straight, you overcome the fear of success.

Remember: when you make a real connection, you can make a real difference.

Why not start with connecting with what you really want -- and don't write "fear" into the story!

Chris Westfall

About the Author

Chris Westfall
Chris Westfall is the national elevator pitch champion, and has appeared on CNN, ABC NEWS, NBC and in THE NEW YORK POST, among other media outlets. He is the author of The NEW Elevator Pitch. A consultant to Fortune 1000 companies, and an award-winning MBA instructor, he believes that powerful communication is the key to powerful results. Everyone has a story -- what's yours?