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Fear of Success? Fear of Failure? By Lorraine Cohen

What's holding you back?

One of my clients came to me saying he wanted to expand his business - something he had thought about for years. He described the changes he wanted to make but he had taken limited action to make those changes happen. When he talked about what he wanted, his eyes lit up, he smiled, and there was passion and joy in his voice. Years? What was stopping him? I listened as he expressed his internal conflict. He said “ My business is going well, and it’s not like I have to make changes, maybe it's not that important… on and on." Bottom line - some part of him inside continued to feel unfulfilled.

On the surface, it sounded like the changes he wanted to make were for financial gains. Talking further, he realized he was really speaking of a level of service (how he wanted to help people improve their quality of life) and personal fulfillment (actualizing his values, purpose, and vision) that would come from aligning who he is and what he does in a BIGGER way.

We discussed the things he told himself that allowed him to remain stationary. His initial objection was “If I put myself out and take some risks- what if I fail?” (What if this or that happens??? ) I replied, “ With all the years of experience you have thinking about what you want without committing to action, you have brilliantly SUCCEEDED in FAILING! “Congratulations!!!” His eyes widened, and he burst out laughing. By doing nothing, he insured his success at failing.

Going forward in our coaching sessions, we focused on his attitudes about success/failure AND identified his values, needs, purpose, and vision. Increased self-awareness enabled him to make choices and design strategic actions to create greater life satisfaction and self-fulfillment.

Consider a change you have been thinking/talking about for a while without much progress.

To learn more about what may be holding you back from moving forward, ask yourself:

-- What is your definition of success? What does success mean to you? Be specific.

-- Identify specific successes. What made them successes for you? What value did you receive from succeeding?

-- What fears, concerns, or assumptions do you have associated with success?

-- How would your life change if you were/felt more successful? (at whatever)

-- What would you have to give up? What would you gain?

-- Who would you become? (happier, self-confident, authentic, stronger???)

In exploring your attitudes about failure, consider the following:

-- What is your definition of failure? What does failure mean to you?

-- If you fail at something, does that define YOU as a failure?

-- What specific failures have you experienced? What value have you received from failing? Be specific

-- What fears, concerns, or assumptions do you associate with failure? Are they true?

-- Can there be success in failure? If yes, how? If no, say more.

-- If you could not fail, what would you be doing? Who would you be?

Fear of success/failure are two sides of the same experience. By definition, success and failure is perceived from multiple viewpoints. Both results offer opportunities for self-discovery and change. Developing the clarity to know who you are on the inside is a key ingredient to achieve rich outcomes with ease, strength, and focus! To live fully, you must fully participate – succeeding and failing for the joy of the experience.

Copyright 2003, Lorraine Cohen

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