When “Fear of Success” masquerades as procrastination and how to get past this

So, you have a plan. It’s all worked out in your head and you know exactly how, when and what to do. You just can’t seem to find the time to get around to it. There are so many times you sit to execute a plan and something comes in the way or you are distracted. Maybe you need to study more on what you want to do, read or research more on it, watch some more videos of how to, discuss it with others and get feedback or opinion, and when you finally park yourself in front of the task at hand, you are distracted by hunger or a cute animal or remember to return a phone call/text or order something online, even sit and contemplate on life. After what seems like an eternity when you finally resign to the task at hand, you want a break because studies say you need to stretch and not sit too long at your desk, but it’s been only five minutes on the clock, yet you still do it. Also, that it-will-take-a-minute-to-order-it has been an hour as amazon had a sale going on, that phone call another hour, and while you are on the net you decide to read about other people’s success stories and share it (and of course, there’s an advertisement there since you researched about them before), you scour Instagram and twitter and follow the right people, your Facebook posts could inspire thousands to get their butts moving, you become the “go-to” for others who have a dream, you are filled with advice and guidance…in short, you KNOW everything!

If just by the way you planned, studied, researched, consulted, thought it through, you should have achieved your goal by now and been a huge success. But nothing has moved. You have been fuelling what you felt is inadequate about you and went around plugging all the gaps in getting started. What if that was never the problem, to begin with? You have always been enough, always known enough, always felt you could do it. Then what stopped you?

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure ~ Marianne Williamson, USA Presidential candidate – 2020 & Author and Spiritual Leader.

In our bid to buy time and delay our own success, we use our greatest weapon. Procrastination. In the past, you have had chances to see success swiftly once you decided to move and make a choice or take action, that things transpired or got created. It gave you a sense of your own power and potency to create. And once you created it, you had to maintain it, and be responsible for it, and maybe it restricted your time, space and energy in some way and then you felt it became a burden of sorts or you didn’t feel like doing it anymore, and you regretted creating that thing so big, and although you got to been seen as successful, you didn’t care about that so much anymore as this was now a burden.

Your direct experience of this at some point in your life or a close brush with someone who went through this inspired you to keep applying the brakes to your own success once again.

When success is seen as a burden, responsibility, given enormous significance to, or possibly one has experienced it for a period of time and understands it as hollow, we systematically begin the process of sabotaging the next action that we know will lead us to success. 

I have this client who I’ve known for 13 years. He did something purely for fun around a decade ago and for some reason, it went viral. He was then requested to do the same for others and people began throwing money at him for it. It was all fun. He was hard broke at the time, newly married with a baby along the way. He jumped in. For many years he loved the creative process and everything about it. It is now a full-fledged company with offices in 4 countries and still growing. Around 3 years ago he went through a divorce, was detected with a life-threatening illness, got addicted to certain substances and went into depression. He tried to slow down his business. A year ago he admitted it to himself and me for the first time, “I created a monster and I try every way to stop it from growing in the form of illness, addiction, personal battles, monetary issues, poor staff retention, saying no to extremely influential clients, making poor friends and if that’s not all, now being clinically depressed.” He is fed up, tired of the success and wants to run away. I told him, “you have two choices, go all out or sell” After much contemplation, there’s a new surge of energy coming for him and he’s chosen to go all out, setting up branches in many more countries and suddenly finds that these other issues that delay things, are sorting themselves out.

I am sharing this story because it highlights wonderfully how we procrastinate our own success. While sometimes a creative idea or a business idea will come through you for sure without asking your permission and you are expected to jump right in, most often ideas require your full participation. In these instances, we get way more opportunity to thwart our own success. For example, writing a movie script requires a lot from the writer initially until the story and protagonists are breathed life into and get matured enough for the story to be dictated to the writer. If this process is not followed through as a discipline, it dies its own death.

Discipline is the procrastinator killer. It is the antidote to it and the medicine for success.  Hence much abhorred and avoided like the plague. Especially if you fear success.

Procrastination is sometimes so subtle that we miss seeing it. We are only left to wonder why things are not taking off as they should have. But if start to get self-aware and observe much of our time we spend on going away from where we desire to go instead of towards it, we may be in for a rude shock. Asking yourself the question, “Is this going to take me where I want to go” is a good one to remain in check.  Some other questions are “is putting my time and energy in this going to be productive to my creative process/business/work/task?” or simply “Am I trying to wiggle my way out of success with what I am doing right now?”

I also invite you to examine your definition and story of what it means to be successful. If you are already successful as per your definition of it, find out if you are still having fun. If you can think back as to how it all started for you and recall the state of mind you were in at the time, you may realize that you were a lot lighter and flowing when you first began. And as the years passed, got way more serious. It is this level of seriousness, gravity, and significance that starts to make us see our own creations as a burden and responsibility. We desire the money, name, fame, glory, etc that come with it, but an eye only on that takes us farther away from the actual process of committing ourselves to something greater than us and allow it to steer us to surprising spaces and places in our lives.

Nagging thought-forms such as the ones below are the key to you not making success significant enough to begin procrastinating.

“I cannot believe I got this, so let me quit now while I have this much, if I try some more, I will lose it…” (fear of failure)

Or worse,

“if this is how it’s going to go, I won’t be able to do this every day and it’s too much responsibility, let me wait some more time…” (fear of success)

So, what IS the way out?

  1. Mindset Shift: From a “planning and contingency” mindset to a “playful experimental mindset”, changes everything. When you plan and do contingency, you are playing safe and serving your fears. Fears make everything bigger than they are. The classic “objects in the mirror are larger than they appear to be” is what you are feeding on.
  2. In the experimental mindset, we are more in the space of “let’s do this. Sounds interesting and feels light, let’s try this and see what happens”. There is the least investment in the outcome and zero pressure on yourself. You are in a play and learn mode. The best way human beings learn (you did it as a kid, remember?).
  3. Taking two steps a day keeps procrastination away. Figure out what is your mojo window. That time of the day when you are at your best. Maybe you are doing 1000 things for others at that time. Politely decline to do that for now. You will get back to filling their cup later. Fill yours for now. Let it overflow to them later.
  4. Have an idea of how you would like to accomplish your goal. Not a plan cast in stone, not anything in concrete. That will push you into the planning contingency zone. You want to be experimental. Get a really good idea of how to get there while leaving space for changes.
  5. “Feel” your way through things and not just “think” your way through them. Get out of your head and into your heart space or gut space. This will allow you to get deeper into your awareness zone instead of head-tripping and never doing anything.
  6. When gut says yes, do it. Even if the voices in your head scream “fear”, “it’s too much”, “what if”, “you are not ready”, etc. Say thank you for giving you fair warnings, but this time you are going with Mr. Gut.
  7. Keep a notepad handy and have it travel with you. Before you sleep at night, write down in what way was your day productive towards actualizing your dream. Get obsessive here. It’s fine.
  8. If success seems huge and discomforting, make a simple list of its pros and cons on one side of the paper and do the same with failure. Include things like how many millions of people you could actually support when you are successful vs. the lip service you give them now, how you could bring wealth and health to your family and friends, how happy you would be to actually do stuff for them that matters, how your work could touch millions of lives and so on.
  9. Write an email describing to yourself why being successful is a horrible thing. Write every detail about why it is the worst thing in the world. Send it to yourself. Read that email after 24 hours as if it sent to you by a friend and reply to that friend.
  10. Write an email describing to yourself why being a failure is a fantastic thing. Write every detail of why it is the most amazing thing in the world. Send it to yourself. Read that email after 24 hours as if it sent to you by a friend and reply to that friend.
  11. Start creating boundaries with people. Saying no to anything and anyone that drains on the time you can spend in creating something today. Stop using others as an excuse to “why not” in your life. It’s ok to be a little selfish … self-ish. Get it?
  12. It is fine to have some days where you procrastinate. You may feel like not touching your work or your personal growth can take a back seat and those days are as important. You cannot be highly driven and consistent every day. You will have seasons like nature does. Know well what seasons you can do what. You may have a creative and ideation season, a season for pure action, a season for connections and collaborations and another season perhaps to vegetate and each is critical to growth. But a year around the single season of sitting back and procrastinating in fear of success is perhaps the biggest killer of your soul and spirit.

When you relax about being a success and it doesn’t matter so much now, you will find that being in an experimental state of play will open you up to lots more without it ever being burdensome. It can also teach you some of life’s greatest lessons as you are open to learning so much more. Eventually, evolve to becoming that being that you know is within you but has been refusing to surface. Give him/her permission to do so now. It’s time, don’t you think?


Aditi Nirvaan

  1. Hey I know this is off topic but I was wondering if you knew of any widgets
    I could add to my blog that automatically tweet my newest twitter updates.

    I’ve been looking for a plug-in like this for quite some time and was hoping
    maybe you would have some experience with something
    like this. Please let me know if you run into anything. I truly enjoy reading your blog
    and I look forward to your new updates.

    • I will have to check with my website design team for that. Would you like me to?

  2. I could not resist commenting. Well written!

    • Thank you so much! Hope you are well.

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