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We have all dealt with fear of failure when it comes to our professional progress. What if it doesn’t work? What if no one likes it? What if it was a complete waste of time? We navigate through this minefield of doubt on a regular basis and we find ways to overcome and cope with the inner self doubt. But what if your fear is really not the fear of failure but instead the fear of success? You may ask, how can that be? Of course you want success! Well, I recently had an experience with a very close friend that I would like to share with you that may help illustrate this point.

My close friend, we’ll call him Gary (names are changed to protect the innocent), works in a highly competitive field. He is in his late 30s, is highly educated, has several years of experience in his field and is extremely talented. This talent, however, has made him a target at past jobs. For example, while working for a small company, he noticed that once he began excelling in the job, his supervisors began to downplay his work, berate his talent and assign him to menial tasks that were way below his expertise and skill.

He moved on to a job at a larger company and, for the first few months, found the environment to be more accepting to his skill level and talents than the previous job. However, after delivering an excellent presentation, which aired live on the company’s website and received positive and raving reviews, the demeanor of his supervisors began to change. Again, his supervisors began to criticize his work, pull him off of highly technical assignments, and assign him to work that was not within his expertise. Eventually, that job terminated his employment without warning, simply stating that it wasn’t working out.

Subsequently, Gary spent nearly three months searching for new jobs. I worked with him to help him with the spiritual side of his job search: determining exactly what type of work environment he wanted, recalling times in the past when his work environment was not full of insecure people, and working through a lot of self-doubt issues.

Finally, Gary got a job at a large company. He was thrilled at how nice his co-workers and supervisors were, but remained cautious and guarded due to what happened at his previous jobs. He did several presentations that went very well, and his supervisors applauded and encouraged him and assigned him better work. Still, Gary remained cautious.

After being at the new job for over 7 months, he was asked to do a big presentation that was going to take place over several hours and was going to be heard state-wide. In the time leading up to this presentation, Gary was a wreck. I asked him why he was so nervous about the presentation since it was similar to things he had done several times before and he could not articulate a reason. A couple days before the presentation, he did a run-through and it did no go well: the audio equipment was malfunctioning, he was doing certain things in the wrong order and was stumbling all over his words. He called me frustrated and defeated. When he told me he was afraid that he was going to fail and be fired, I reminded him that this job was not like the previous ones. He worked for encouraging, professional and secure individuals who wanted him to succeed. I also reminded him that that spiritual work that he had done to align with the career that he wanted had aligned him with a successful outcome. He seemed to take my advice to heart, and continued to prepare for his presentation.

Finally, on the day of the presentation, he got up extremely early, went into work to test all the equipment necessary for the presentation and practice his presentation. Then, he delivered a flawless performance. HIs supervisors were very pleased with his work, and the CEO stopped him in the hallway to tell him how good he was.

Afterwards, I asked him what he was so afraid of. Then, it was like a lightbulb went off for both of us: He wasn’t afraid of failure, he was afraid of his success. Every time in the past that he had been successful, his insecure supervisors had stifled his progress. However, since he worked on the spiritual side of his business before getting this new job, he attracted a workplace with secure and encouraging supervisors who were not intimidated by his skill-set and wanted him to succeed.  The fear still remained, however, until he showed his subconscious a positive outcome was possible. This presentation and subsequent encouragement from his bosses was the positive outcome that he  and his subconscious needed. I expect promotions in his future.

So, the next time you encounter fear with regard to your career or business, ask yourself whether you are afraid of success. What is the worst that can happen if you succeed? For Gary, success meant a volatile workplace and impending unfounded termination. That is, until, he got into alignment with the career he really wanted. When that happened, success had a new meaning. Think about this the next time you are hit with fear and allow yourself to have the successful outcome that you deserve.