The four biggest fears that hold you back from success


Are you letting one of the four biggest fears hold you back from the success you want? And if so, what can you do about it?

Are you sick of staying where you are? Do you long to do or have more, but it just never happens? Or do you often find yourself thinking ‘why not me?’ when you see yet another friend or colleague get a promotion or achieve the success you crave?

If so, you could be allowing a common fear to hold you back – and the bad news is that more women are allowing this to happen than men.

The four biggest fears that hold us back

Just as we all have our motivators – the things that encourage us to work harder and make us better at what we do, we a have things that discourage us, and keep us from achieving.

These de-motivators are often disguised as fears. And to help you spot yours (and eliminate it) we’ve identified the four biggest fears that hold us back.

1) Fear of loss

Often big ambitions come with some kind of risk. You may need to leave a comfortable, secure work position to reach for a promotion or new job – with no guarantee the new job will work out.

Equally a new business usually requires investment of some kind – certainly time but often money too. It may even necessitate spending money on training to give you the skills you need to make a success of it.

But if this fear of loss is stopping you from going for what you really want, you’re focusing on the wrong angle. Rather than concentrate on what you’re losing, instead recognise what you have to gain.

In her bestselling book Feel the fear and do it anyway, Susan Jeffers says there’s no such thing as a bad decision. As she says: “There really is nothing to lose, only something to gain, whatever the choices you make or actions you take in life.”

Jeffers describes the fear of loss mindset as a no-win model, in which you’re paralysed by choice when making decisions, trying to predict the future outcome. You worry that whatever choice you make may be ‘wrong’. Even when you’ve made a decision you’re not liberated from this fear; you continue to worry whether your choice was the right one.

Instead, Jeffers recommends following the no-lose model, in which you take the perspective that any outcome from a decision is right. In this model, the learnings and experience you gain from your choice are your rewards. This means that no decision is the ‘wrong’ one. Every choice will take you somewhere different, with new perspectives and understandings that you will take forward in your life – whatever the outcome.

Even failure has its rewards, as The Apprentice winner Yasmina Siadatan recognises: “Even when a business ‘fails’ there are still valuable lessons people can learn – and they can take those skills and learnings back into the job market”.

This no-lose model frees you from fear, and empowers you to take control of what happens in your life – not remain a victim of circumstances that may be beyond your control. Like Jeffers says: “All you have to do to change your world is change the way you think about it.”

2) Self-doubt

Nothing sabotages perfectly realistic dreams as powerfully as self-doubt – the feeling that you don’t deserve, or aren’t worthy (or capable of achieving) the goals you desire.

And these doubts are magnified when added to by the reservations of others who know us and the unintentionally limiting things they say, such as:

  • You’ll never do that!
  • That’s not you.
  • You’ve never been entrepreneurial.
  • Really? Are you sure?

So how do you overcome crippling self-doubt? Simple – by using it as fuel to your fire! Decide that you WILL achieve your goal and allow yourself to get ‘usefully angry’ at any negative self-talk, or the negative comments others may make.

When Sophie Cornish and Holly Tucker started they had a You’ll be sorry box in which they’d place the names of anyone who doubted or rejected them when launching and growing their business. And it’s a fantastic idea.

So why not create your own? If you like, you can even write the doubting and damaging thoughts you think, and words others say to you down, and place them in the box. Then set a date (or a goal you want to achieve) and open the box then, proving just how wrong those words were!

 3) Fear of failure

No one likes to get things wrong or ‘fail’, but some failure is inevitable when you are stretching yourself, reaching for ambitious goals and and learning new skills.

And indeed, sometimes the only way you CAN learn what to do right is by experimenting, getting things wrong, and keeping going until you discover what works.

It’s a tactic we’ve used from the start with Talented Ladies Club – failing our way to success! When we started we had very limited knowledge and zero experience. We couldn’t afford to pay experts to do things for us, so we’ve had to learn SEO, digital marketing, social media and traffic and list building.

Our unintentional pattern is to get things wrong in the beginning, and slowly work out the right way. It may take us longer to get where we want to be, and sometimes we publically try things that don’t work out, but the experience we gain is invaluable. It also means that we can pass our experience onto you so you don’t have to make the same errors!

Another perspective is that failure is only failure if you see it as such. Instead, maybe it’s better to adopt Thomas Edison’s point of view: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Or, as Annabel Karmel wisely says: ‘The opposite to success isn’t failure, it is not trying.”

You only have to read about the failures of some of the world’s most successful people to appreciate that no one is born successful. (If you really want to get a different perspective on failure, and beat the pants off it, you could even learn to love it!)

4) Fear of change

It’s quite natural to be wary of change. It’s much easier to stay where we are (better the devil you know…), however uncomfortable that may be, than risk venturing into the unknown. After all, we may just find ourselves jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

But while such caution may be logical, it’s also highly limiting. If man never ventured anywhere new, or tried anything different, we’d still be crammed into caves on one continent, without fire or wheels!

And it’s not just change of environment that scares us, but fear of becoming someone different; of outgrowing our perceived notions of who we are. (We can also allow ourselves to be held back by the projected fear of others that we will outgrow them and their relationships with us.)

By reaching for something wildly ambitious we risk becoming someone different – someone we don’t recognise right now, who doesn’t fit our limiting self-belief, and living a life that is unfamiliar. But personal change rarely happens overnight. It usually occurs slowly and naturally, enabling you to adapt and get used to the new ‘you’ as you evolve.

So how can you overcome a fear of change? The easiest way to deal with it is to recognise it and acknowledge it, then develop strategies to work around it. (You can read eight strategies to help you cope with change here.)

It’s time to beat your fear!

If any of these four fears ring true for you, it’s time to take charge and beat it! In addition to the strategies we’ve already suggested, you may find some of these articles helpful:

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