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Fear of Flying: Facing the Fear of Success

Fear of Flying: Facing the Fear of Success

Fear of Flying: Facing the Fear of Success

    Believe it or not, one of the most paralyzing fears is the fear of success. That’s right, the fear of achieving one’s goals. It seems insane, because of course, we want to reach our goals, right? I mean, don’t we?

    The short answer is that yes, we do want to accomplish our goals, but that it’s complicated. There are several factors that complicate our relationship with achievement. For example, we may fear that pursuing our goals might cause tension between ourselves and our family, friends, and other acquaintances. People close to us can exacerbate this by scolding us for having a big head, being too big for our britches, or thinking we’re better than them. Success can feel like abandoning the people we care about.

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    Or we might fear the way that accomplishing something big opens us up to criticism. Even one negative review among dozens of positives can feel like failure if we’re deeply-enough invested into a project’s outcome. Accomplishment also brings with it heightened expectations, new responsibilities, and new goals more difficult than the ones just realized — all of which can cause us to fear the accomplishment itself.

    Finally, our projects are often so much a part of ourselves that finishing feels like a death of sorts — what will I do, or more importantly, who will I be when I no longer have my novel/dissertation/degree/start-up/other big project to define my days and my self? That’s a pretty big whammy!

    Success and Other People

    Working on any big project can cause conflict with the people around  us. There are practical concerns — not being able to socialize, for instance, or neglecting day-to-day chores to work on our life’s work — and there are emotional ones — feeling selfish about choosing your work over your family and friends, for example. This is why it’s vitally important to build relationships with supportive people (and be genuinely supportive in return) and to nourish those relationships no matter what else is going  on.

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    No matter how big a project or goal, we must make time for socializing, relaxing, and playing. For one  thing, non-work time can be just as crucial to our success as the time we spend directly working towards our goals, because it recharges our batteries and lets our minds move our work to an unconscious part of our mind where it often continues to work (ts is why the solution to so many problems pops into our heads as soon as we stop thinking about them). But just as important, this “together time” with the people who matter to us strengthens our relationships and lets them know that they are a big part of the life you’re working toward your goals to create.

    Of course, there are always one or two emotional vampires who, because of jealousy, resentment, or just an overly negative nature, will never be quite satisfied. If you can cut them loose, do so — life’s too short to try to please theunpleasable . If you can’t, though — if they’re family, for example — then do what you can to firewall them from your life while you’re working, and let the results speak for themselves down the line. If you can learn to see their negativity as their problem, not yours, all the better.

    Fear of Falling

    Not achieving our goals has something really big going for it — if you don’t get off the ground, it won’t hurt if you fall. Striving for success always involves a risk — and the higher you climb, the farther you have to fall. Dreaming without acting can even be soothing: we can dream of a brighter future without risking anything. At least for a while.

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    A fear of failure or of negative criticism can instill in us a perfectionism that leads us to shy away from finishing a big project, and even from starting. We internalize and amplify the criticism we expect, and almost always find ourselves lacking. “Who am I to attempt something this big?” our inner critic asks — and all-too-often, answers, “Nobody.”

    While that inner critic may not be totally unavoidable, you can make an end-run around it by giving yourself permission to suck. Realize that some of the greatest works of art were profoundly disappointing to their creators, that the greatest entrepreneurs are always striving to make their companies better, that some of the most brilliant scientists of all time made incredible mistakes. Einstein almost undermined his entire Theory of Relativity by adding a cosmological constant to his formulae because he couldn’t accept what his work was telling him about the universe. Bill Gates became the richest person in the world releasing software that consistently failed to live up to expectations.

    Who Do You Want to Be Today?

    The biggest psychic beast roaming the jungles of our mind is the fear of the unknown that comes when we’re done with whatever big project we’re working on. In it’s mild form, it is simply a fear of deferred failure — we may succeed in the short term, but that success will give way to more and greater projects that will, eventually, overwhelm us.

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    In its more chronic form, this is a fear of becoming someone else — finishing a novel makes us an author, finishing a dissertation makes us a Doctor, building a company makes us a CEO, and so on. Life may be better, we hope — but it will also be different. Our lives will change in ways we cannot imagine, and that’s pretty scary!

    It’s important to remember, though, that life doesn’t work like it plays out in our imaginations. We don’t suddenly jump from wherever we are into some unknown future where we have no idea what we’re doing. The responsibilities that might evolve from the successful completion of a big project will build on the skills and talents we developed in executing that project. That is, the entrepreneur hustling to make her first big sale today isn’t going to be the CEO of her company when it’s successful; the CEO will be the person she gradually becomes as she amasses experience and know-how in the course of building her company.

    But most important of all, we need to cultivate joy and satisfaction in the work itself — and in our lives as they are. That might seem counter-intuitive; after all, why strive to improve your life if you’re satisfied with it as it is? But how can we expect to be satisfied with some unknown future life if we can’t be satisfied with the life we already know? We have to replace the notion of a better tomorrow with a sense of purpose, with each step towards that purpose being equally as important as the next and the last. It’s not that who you are today is lacking, somehow, but that who you are today is essential to the realization of your life’s purpose.

    Where you get that sense of purpose will differ from person to person. For some, it is religion; for others, a commitment to their art; for still others, humanitarian ideals; and others will find purpose in the face of their newborn child, their spouse, or their parents. Each of us has our own path to walk, and each of us has to find it on our own — though there are plenty of markers out there if you just look, given that the quest for purpose is humanity’s oldest preoccupation after the sheer fact of survival. And even just accepting that there is some purpose in your life, without necessarily knowing what it is, can be a huge motivator — that alone can give you wings and help overcome the fear that keeps you from using them.

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    Last Updated on November 18, 2020

    15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

    15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

    It’s okay, you can finally admit it. It’s been two months since you’ve seen the inside of the gym. Getting sick, family crisis, overtime at work and school papers that needed to get finished all kept you for exercising. Now, the question is: how do you start again?
    Once you have an exercise habit, it becomes automatic. You just go to the gym, there is no force involved. But after a month, two months or possibly a year off, it can be hard to get started again. Here are some tips to climb back on that treadmill after you’ve fallen off.

    1. Don’t Break the Habit – The easiest way to keep things going is simply not to stop. Avoid long breaks in exercising or rebuilding the habit will take some effort. This may be advice a little too late for some people. But if you have an exercise habit going, don’t drop it at the first sign of trouble.
    2. Reward Showing Up – Woody Allen once said that, “Half of life is showing up.” I’d argue that 90% of making a habit is just making the effort to get there. You can worry about your weight, amount of laps you run or the amount you can bench press later.
    3. Commit for Thirty Days – Make a commitment to go every day (even just for 20 minutes) for one month. This will solidify the exercise habit. By making a commitment you also take pressure off yourself in the first weeks back of deciding whether to go.
    4. Make it Fun – If you don’t enjoy yourself at the gym, it is going to be hard to keep it a habit. There are thousands of ways you can move your body and exercise, so don’t give up if you’ve decided lifting weights or doing crunches isn’t for you. Many large fitness centers will offer a range of programs that can suit your tastes.
    5. Schedule During Quiet Hours – Don’t put exercise time in a place where it will easily be pushed aside by something more important. Right after work or first thing in the morning are often good places to put it. Lunch-hour workouts might be too easy to skip if work demands start mounting.
    6. Get a Buddy – Grab a friend to join you. Having a social aspect to exercising can boost your commitment to the exercise habit.
    7. X Your Calendar – One person I know has the habit of drawing a red “X” through any day on the calendar he goes to the gym. The benefit of this is it quickly shows how long it has been since you’ve gone to the gym. Keeping a steady amount of X’s on your calendar is an easy way to motivate yourself.
    8. Enjoyment Before Effort – After you finish any work out, ask yourself what parts you enjoyed and what parts you did not. As a rule, the enjoyable aspects of your workout will get done and the rest will be avoided. By focusing on how you can make workouts more enjoyable, you can make sure you want to keep going to the gym.
    9. Create a Ritual – Your workout routine should become so ingrained that it becomes a ritual. This means that the time of day, place or cue automatically starts you towards grabbing your bag and heading out. If your workout times are completely random, it will be harder to benefit from the momentum of a ritual.
    10. Stress Relief – What do you do when your stressed? Chances are it isn’t running. But exercise can be a great way to relieve stress, releasing endorphin which will improve your mood. The next time you feel stressed or tired, try doing an exercise you enjoy. When stress relief is linked to exercise, it is easy to regain the habit even after a leave of absence.
    11. Measure Fitness – Weight isn’t always the best number to track. Increase in muscle can offset decreases in fat so the scale doesn’t change even if your body is. But fitness improvements are a great way to stay motivated. Recording simple numbers such as the number of push-ups, sit-ups or speed you can run can help you see that the exercise is making you stronger and faster.
    12. Habits First, Equipment Later – Fancy equipment doesn’t create a habit for exercise. Despite this, some people still believe that buying a thousand dollar machine will make up for their inactivity. It won’t. Start building the exercise habit first, only afterwards should you worry about having a personal gym.
    13. Isolate Your Weakness – If falling off the exercise wagon is a common occurrence for you, find out why. Do you not enjoy exercising? Is it a lack of time? Is it feeling self-conscious at the gym? Is it a lack of fitness know-how? As soon as you can isolate your weakness, you can make steps to improve the situation.
    14. Start Small – Trying to run fifteen miles your first workout isn’t a good way to build a habit. Work below your capacity for the first few weeks to build the habit. Otherwise you might scare yourself off after a brutal workout.
    15. Go for Yourself, Not to Impress – Going to the gym with the only goal of looking great is like starting a business with only the goal to make money. The effort can’t justify the results. But if you go to the gym to push yourself, gain energy and have a good time, then you can keep going even when results are slow.

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