Can You Fear Success?

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Most people are familiar with the fear of failure. In fact it’s one of Larry Wilson’s Four Fatal Fears that he listed in his book “Play to Win.” In it he describes that there are four fears fatal to your personal growth and achieving your individual goals. They are fatal not to your physical well being but to your ability to maintain a sharp focus on the things that you determine matter most to your life. For instance, if you were asked what would be most important at the end of your time on earth, more than likely they would have little to do with the big houses, fine clothes, lots of money and prestige? Most people when asked about what they wanted to be remembered for at the end of life indicate things like being a loving family member, revered friend, responsible community member, inspiring leader and generous person of service to those less fortunate. These are the things that the four fears destroy. In fact, these fears are not those associated with dark alleys late at night or reckless motorists; these fears are spelled F.E.A.R. (false evidence appearing real). In other words just like those “illusions” that show up from time to time in the charts (more frequently than we’d care to mention) where we chase trades, move stops or otherwise violate our rules all predicated upon something that we “thought” we experienced that really wasn’t there. Also, associated with each fear is a need; for instance, with the fear of failure there is the “need” to be “seen” as a winner – even though he/she is not willing to do what it takes to actually succeed. The other three are the fear of rejection; and the need associated with this fear is the need to be accepted; the fear of emotional discomfort; with the need to feel emotionally comfortable; and finally the granddaddy trading fear, the fear of being wrong; with the need to be right. Sound familiar? It is quite apparent why these mind-sets and accompanying emotional states would demoralize, defuse and destroy your trading results.

Where does fear of success fit in? Fear of success is just as daunting as a fear of failure although fear of failure may be more easily understood because fear of success is somewhat counter intuitive. Firstly, fear of success stems from the meaning that you ascribe to it. Meaning gives context and definition to an idea as in what is the importance or significance. For example, your 16 year old son comes home one evening and is sporting a new tattoo…on his face! You would ascribe a significance to it, and it would define how you felt about it, and, what you intended to do about it. With regard to success, if your meaning entails having to be stronger, smarter, or somehow better-than then this could be very scary. Or, if your father told you as a child that rich people are jerks; then on a subconscious level that would mean that in order to be rich and successful you would be a jerk. That meaning would make it difficult to follow-through with behaviors designed to get successful results.

Another subconscious frightening obstacle is that when you grow, evolve and create another expression of yourself, you leave behind other aspects of you, which can represent inner conflicts. You may outgrow people, places and things. For instance, as a child you may have really enjoyed reading “Jack and Jill” stories; however as you grew and matured in your literary tastes, you no longer get the same level of enjoyment from reading less challenging and therefore less engaging works. As you grow and develop your sensibilities and sensitivities refine. That doesn’t mean that you have become “better” than anyone else, it’s just that your interests have expanded. Additionally and as an outcome of subconsciously considering such an idea you may harbor unconscious doubts, as in, “Have I done the right thing?” Or, “Will this success make me someone who I don’t want to be?”

Success can also be scary due to the level of complexity, commotion and potential turmoil that it can bring. You may be programmed to suppose that there “should” be no chaos and that would lead to subconscious limiting beliefs such as, “I can never be happy with success;” or, “Success is too chaotic for me.” These unconscious thoughts stem in part from childhood programming that seeks to stabilize chaos through “black or white” thinking; that is, it is either one way or the other, which makes it difficult to see elements of the confluence or grayness of life. The point is that this absolutist approach leaves little room for the possibilities of considering how things could be woven together.

Now that we have discussed to a degree how fear of success can become manifest in your life; it is important to view this or any fear from the standpoint of ally rather than foe. The meaning here is that your growth as a trader and human being is predicated upon identifying and confronting your fears along with your other emotional issues that take you outside of your comfort zone and drive behaviors that are not in your best interests. There is no growth without effort and courage to challenge your weaknesses and face your fears. These improvables are best approached as opportunities to learn more, do more and be more.

One of the ways to confront the fear of success is to ask the question: What will happen if you succeed? This question is not a few-moment perusal of what consciously seems obvious to you about what you would like success to be; or what you fear might happen. This question is one that you want to take quiet time to realistically contemplate. In other words, so you achieve your goal; then what? What will change in your life? If you take the time to allow the question to seep into lower levels of your awareness, your subconscious will answer the question. There are often unintended consequences associated with getting what you want and they could be enough to prevent you from taking committed action; such as the meaning, the inner conflicts or black and white thinking. The bottom line is that whatever the reasons that would motivate you to avoid the fear of unintended consequences you’ll want to root out and shed the light of day on them. By asking, “What will happen if I succeed?” you can focus your conscious attention on the potential unintended consequences and therefore the fears. This provides you with “grist for the mill” in other words, with what was causing you to shrink away from taking committed action in your trading. Then you can consciously deal with them in advance. You’ll send a message to your subconscious that you needn’t fear this because you have a practical way to solve it; you can devise a new strategy for moving forward.

Here are a few of the limiting beliefs associated with fear of success:

  • That you are undeserving of success.
  • That you will accomplish all that you set out to, but that you still won’t be content, satisfied or happy once your goal has been achieved.
  • Belief that there are others who will take away your success.
  • Fear that once you achieve success, the motivation to continue will fade.
  • Belief that you will find no happiness in your achievement and that you will always be dissatisfied with your life.

Any fear can be difficult to overcome. The important thing to remember is that you can’t overcome a fear that you are unwilling to confront and you can’t confront a fear that you are unaware of. Fear of success is real and if you are continually plagued by getting in your own way and sabotaging your efforts fear of success may be the culprit. In Mastering the Mental Game Online and On-location courses we help you to extricate, root out and neutralize unconscious limiting beliefs and other issues that are raising fears that get between you and the results that you want in your trading. Ask your Online Trading Academy representative for more information. Also, get my book, “From Pain to Profit: Secrets of the Peak Performance Trader.”

Happy Trading,

Dr. Woody Johnson

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