How fear of success causes procrastination

You probably know about the fear of failure, that impending sense of doom when looking at your goals, comparing them with your abilities, and finding them lacking. But that’s not the only thing that can get you stuck, frozen and unable to move. Fear of success can do it too.

But how’s that possible? The promise of success, you might think, is a powerful motivator that should get you going in the morning and keep you going until late at night. But that’s not all it is. Imagine someone who wants to climb mount Everest. They secure funding, build a team, train like crazy for a year or more all the while imagining that spectacular moment at sunrise on top of the highest mountain in the world, at the peak of their game. They imagine standing there, looking around and wondering – “OK, so now what?” That void, that sense of the future accomplishment combined with a devastating uncertainty of where you go next is what fear of success is about.

Turns out we’re not afraid of the actual success (which is why the title is a little misleading), we are instead afraid of the loss of identity that comes with it. If you’ve ever graduated, or got that job or that girl, or travelled to that exotic place you’ve always wanted to go, you probably experienced this. It is amazing for the first few hours or days, but then it fades leaving an emptiness in its stead. After defining yourself in terms of your ultimate goal for a long time, you suddenly don’t have that which leaves you a bit lost.

Your egoic minds recognizes this potential future and can try to sabotage your progress to keep you in the chase for as long as possible. And the harder you push to reach for your goal the more resistance you’re going to experience. So what can you do? You can’t stop pushing for your goals, can you? That won’t get you anywhere either.

The usual advice to try and enjoy the path, not the destination, applies of course. If you can find joy or peace in every step along the way and hold the goal gently without being too attached to it, the resistance should lessen considerably.

The other part is feeling your fear fully, deeply, and honestly. Find that knot in your belly, that tightness in your throat, that tingling in your elbows (yeah, don’t ask) and tune into it. Imagine yourself after having achieved your goal, staring at the void and the uncertainty. Brace yourself for the unknown. And dive in. By aiming at slightly beyond your goal, at the emptiness just after it, you’ll find the freedom you need to pursue your dreams.

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@finereli