As soon as I picked up the phone, Rachel started talking so rapidly I had to ask her to slow down. Her voice had an edge to it that sounded like frustration.
“So, things are going great. More than great. I gave my notice at my job as we discussed. They want me to keep doing contract work for them. I’ve had calls with two potential new clients for my consulting business.
“And I’ve even started dating someone who is so perfect for me I have to pinch myself. This is all crazy. I don’t know what to do. This makes me really nervous.”
When she paused, I summarized what I had heard thus far like this: “So, let me get this straight. You gave notice at your current job and it went better than you expected. You have business leads from the job you are leaving and from two other new clients. And you are in a happy, committed relationship.
“Did I miss anything? What else going on? All of the stuff you mentioned is awesome, yet as you gave me your update, I thought you were about to start yelling at me.”
Rachel and I had been working together for about 3 months at the time of this conversation.
She signed up for coaching the week after her 40th birthday with the intention of starting her own consulting business by the time she was 41. She was 8 months ahead of schedule.
I thought she would be thrilled, but she sounded like she was about to quit.
Rachel exhaled forcefully then said in a more normal tone of voice, “I am having a hard time with this. When good things have happened in the past, particularly in my childhood, they didn’t last.
“The last time I got excited about something was when I was up for a promotion six months ago. I thought my luck had changed, and then the day the promotion was to be announced, my boss informed me the new position was being eliminated because our company was being bought out.
“So now, with all of these good things going on in my life, I can’t enjoy it. I’m scared. How can I trust that this time will be different when I’ve gotten disappointed every time in the past?”
The Origins of The Mindset Block Around A Fear Of Success
This mindset block is one of the trickiest. If you have this fear, it was likely true for you in the past. Often times, a chaotic childhood or a series of bad work experiences (like layoffs) will convince you this is true.
The challenge is that when you fear something, you instinctively pull away from it. By pulling away in fear, Rachel was withdrawing the mental attention and actions that had created her success in the first place.
By withdrawing, she was ensuring that her success wouldn’t last.
Creating A Mindset Shift Toward Success
One of the best pieces of advice I ever got about mountain biking was, “Look where you want to go; don’t look where you don’t want to go.”
You will steer your bike in whatever direction you are looking. If you look over at a creek you don’t want to fall into, you will most likely steer toward the creek because that’s where you placed your focus.
(Trust me on this.)
The same is true in life.
When you steer in the direction of “success doesn’t last,” you end up acting in a way that ensures your success won’t last. These actions are controlled by a part of you that is stuck in fear.
I asked Rachel what part of her was steering her life with the belief, “good things don’t last.”
“Probably the part of me that got disappointed by my parents when I was 7,” she said.
“Rachel, would you trust a 7-year-old to drive your car?”
“OK. Then why are you allowing a 7-year-old to drive your life?” I asked.
I could hear the smile in her voice when she said, “You have a really good point.”
Operating from past limiting beliefs feels as uncomfortable and dangerous as letting a 7- year-old drive your car.
The mindset shift around a fear of success is to stop allowing the part of you that is afraid to guide your actions. You must purposefully put the wisest and calmest part of yourself in the driver’s seat.
Here’s how to switch drivers and put your wise self in the driver’s seat:
1- Recognize and acknowledge the part of you that is afraid.
Here are some specifics to consider: How old is the part? What life experience(s) made her afraid of success? What situations trigger that part of you to sit in the driver’s seat?
2- Thank the “young you” for doing the best that she could under stressful circumstances and let her know that she no longer needs to drive.
3- Ask the “wise you” to step into the driver’s seat of your life. Acknowledge all of the ways the wise you is better equipped to make decisions that the young you. (ie, she has more life experience, she is more emotionally mature, etc.)
4- Make a list of the ways success benefits all parts of you, including your wise self and the “young you”.
5- What new belief can you develop to replace the old belief of “Success doesn’t last?”
A fear of success is almost as common as a fear of failure, particularly if you had a challenging or chaotic childhood. In order to allow success into your life, you must let go of the old fears and beliefs from the past and allow the wisest part of you to take charge of your future.