I am going to pose a scenario for self employed people—this can also apply to employed people, so either alter the scenario to one that fits for you or pretend that you are making the jump to self employment. Okay? Here’s the scenario:
Imagine an acquaintance contacts you. S/he says, “______(name), you do _______ (your awesome service) better than anyone I have come across in recent history and I really respect your skills. I was recently talking you up to a large group I am involved in, and fifteen people decided to write checks to you on the spot so they could start working with you. They want you to contact them and get started as soon as possible. And, I think that the other 50 people will start working with you in the next 3-4 months, so get ready.”
What’s your first reaction? What happened in your body? Anxiety? Excitement? Fear? And what was your first thought after reading this? These things are a really good indicator of how much you fear success. (If you felt no physical reaction, double the number of clients and try again!)
What’s Your Reaction Telling You?
I often pose this scenario to my clients so that they can start to become aware of the ways they are holding themselves back from more success. Here are some common reactions:
Overwhelm. “I can’t possibly handle that many clients at once!” My client Adam’s internal “NO” barrier went up when he couldn’t fathom how to accommodate the influx of business.
Defensiveness. “There’s no way all of those clients are actually going to work with me; it’s going to be a pain in the neck to go back and forth with them!” When one client said this to me, I could actually hear the annoyance in his voice. How dare these (imaginary) people bother him? He reminded me of a turtle pulling into his shell so that he wouldn’t be affected by the onslaught.
Self Consciousness. “I can’t do that, I know I am going to screw it up or drop the ball somehow, I’d need to have someone else to give away some of those clients.” Client Diana became paralyzed when she felt like all eyes were on her next move and wanted to hide behind someone she saw as more professional than she.
Resentment. “I don’t WANT that many clients at once; I would have no free time for myself or my family!” Client Tim actually became angry; how dare all of these (imaginary) people take up his free time?
The Reaction and the Pay Off
When people have a fear of success, they often don’t even realize it. They simply see as a reasonable reaction to a significant change. Unfortunately, if you aren’t aware of your tendencies, you can get stuck at the same place, over and over again.
One way to get at the core of whatever is holding you back is to identify the payoff you get for things staying the same. For me, I had to acknowledge that I was afraid that success would send me right back into the old life I fled from. I was afraid that success meant working 60-hour weeks again. When I finally brought that fear into my conscious awareness, it was just a matter of realizing that 1) success doesn’t have to look like that, there are many different versions where I can be successful and still be master of my own time, and 2) I would NEVER let myself do that same thing again, because I am a changed woman.
Identify Your Polarity and Payoff
I have a little exercise that I like to review when I feel stuck or suspect I might be undermining myself. I create four sections with the following headings for each:
Things I LOVE about my business success AND Things I HATE about my business success
Things I LOVE about my business failure AND Things I HATE about my business failure
You can replace “Business Success” and “Business Failure” with any two opposites that work in your situation; some of my clients use the term “Having Lots of Clients” and “Having Very Few Clients” that better express the polarity around the specific wall they have come up against.
The next step is to fill each section with journaling or bullet points. You might believe that you can’t think of any reason that you would hate business success and certainly not any reason you would love business failure, right? Guess again.
You need to sit with it long enough to get over your initial objections or refusal to allow for the possibility you might “love” something that seems so counter intuitive. Give yourself time to let your mind wander. Eventually, a small voice inside will tell you the reasons why you may not necessarily “love” business failure, but why you might be comfortable with it. Write that down. Once you have one, more will come. Just think about how your life might change with great success or failure.
When I first did this, I was horrified at what came out of me. I knew that the reasons I listed shouldn’t be an issue, but until I had used this process to ferret them out, they only existed in my emotional-energetic body, unable to be detected through logic and reason. Once I uncovered them, I could then consciously work on them, negotiate with them and reassure myself that I wasn’t required to allow the “dark side” of success come with the good.
Actions This Week
- Identify your payoffs for playing small. This is an ongoing process for me, and I try to do it 3-4 times per year to see what new stuff has come up!
- Write down your reasons why your success will make your life better, not worse. I have a list of all of the ways that success brings me MORE time to play, and I keep that posted by my desk.
- Monitor your emotional reactions. If you pay attention, you can tell when that internal “NO” barrier gets activated, so be a detective about your reactions so you can notice what triggers you.
P.S. Here is a link to my free ebook Money Chakra, which helps people process these kinds of money blocks – you can download that here.
Photo image courtesy of gogoloopie.