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Why you may be holding back from success

Updated: Jul 8


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Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

Have you ever held back from starting a coaching or leadership development programme because you are afraid it would be too successful?


One of my favourite quotes from the book "A Return to Love" by Marianne Williamson states, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure."


When speaking to people about coaching, I often hear why they’re not ready for it just yet. Sometimes they have too much going on at home or work to focus on; sometimes, they’re not prepared to open themselves up to the level of self-awareness required; sometimes, what they actually need is therapy.


Occasionally though, I hear from someone who is afraid of what may happen if they fully engage with the process and then find themselves feeling confident, powerful and ready to grasp the challenges that come their way. They can imagine having all they need to get that dream job or excel in their current role. Then the fear of success starts growing within them, and they hesitate.


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Photo by kalei peek on Unsplash

What are these fears?

  • Of setting expectations that they may not be able to live up to. If you know that you can get that big client win, be seen as “top talent” in your organisation or succeed in challenging circumstances, then surely you are setting yourself up to fail? You can’t possibly do that consistently, can you? Whether we worry about meeting our own expectations or those of others, fear of failure against a perceived standard can be paralysing. Getting over these fears involves listening to your inner critic, understanding what it’s trying to say and replacing it with messages that are kinder and more career-boosting.


  • Of feeling exhausted at the thought of always needing to be at the top of their game. To dispel this fear, I want to ask a different question - how exhausting does it feel never to be quite where you want to be? How does it feel to see where you want to get to but not able to reach it? Equipping yourself with the tools and mindset required to move forward is less exhausting and not more - you can get further with the same amount of effort.


  • Of feeling a responsibility to do something with their newfound confidence and power. Whereas we may not become “powerful without measure”, we may believe we should be consistently using our newfound power for good - to lift up others and look beyond ourselves - to make something happen. Having a clear sense of purpose and a clear “why” can help us choose what to focus our power and confidence on and what we can leave to others.

Ultimately, we often become more confident and capable through gradual change. If I look back to my twelve-year-old self, terrified of having to do a talk in front of my English class, I never would have dreamt that I’d eventually be speaking at a conference in front of 300 global senior accounting experts. Or from getting over my shyness to being seen as a role model for building authentic, trusted relationships in my last corporate job.


A good coach will always help you go at a balanced pace that’s out of your comfort zone but is still within your current capabilities. And then when you look back, a few months or years later, you’ll see how far you have come and how what’s a “normal” level of success to you now was “abnormal” when you started.


So if you think coaching may be able to help you, but you’re hesitating because of a fear of success, then take a deep breath and reach out!


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