Fear of success

When I quit my job in the corporate world recently, most of my colleagues were excited for me. They assured me that they knew I would succeed at any chosen path. It was a confidence-booster. I was grateful for their kind words.

There were people who seemed very worried and concerned for me, leaving the “mother ship” as I used to call my former workplace. What would I do if I did not find another “gig” right away? Or if it did not work out to be self-employed?

To be honest, fear of failure was not on my mind. I am more concerned about decisions I will make about which direction to pursue. Since I was a young girl I wanted to do LOTS of different things in my life. I still remember being very distressed when someone asked what I was going to be when I grew up (around age 6). I listed off a bunch of things: teacher, writer, doctor, actor, store owner, etc.

The woman who had asked the question had good intentions, I suppose, but she laughed and said, “Oh honey, you can’t do ALL those things. You will have to choose one (or two).” I was immediately sad and surprised too. Seriously? You could only do ONE thing in your life?!? Crap!

I suppose that was much more true then than it is today. So she was not really trying to burst my bubble. She just did not understand my intention. I got bored easily when I mastered things. And I suppose that might have been a clue that I had an active imagination and could create compelling visions of possibilities in my life (and maybe a sign of a.d.d.)

It never even occurred to me that I might try one of those careers and fail. My parents, bless their hearts, had helped instill confidence in my abilities, and in my resilience. I still remember my Dad teaching me about “meta-cognition” when I was in grade school. Thinking was important, he said, but understanding HOW we think (or learn) is even more important.

Recently as I was completing an application for a fellowship I had a major realization – sometimes I have a greater fear of success than I do of failure. Huh? Who is afraid of success?

fear of success
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As an introvert, I have often looked to leaders or people who are very successful in their careers (say, in public speaking) and thought: that’s so awesome. But I would hate to be surrounded by all those people all the time… yikes. While I like some professional acknowledgement, fame has never really been a goal for my life. I value my privacy and solitude too much.

It did not occur to me that success can look a lot of different ways, or that I could succeed in a career and set appropriate boundaries around my time and space. When you are successful, people seek you out. I guess another of those fears has to do with the future – if I succeed, people will have even greater expectations of me. I will have greater expectations of myself as well.

Where does that end? Oy! The thought makes me tired.

Right now I am considering my definition of success, first of all. For some people, that means money, a nice home, a fancy car, a corner office. I am not the kind of person that craves a lot of material things. I feel pretty weighed down by things, actually. I love going on vacation adventures, so regular travel is part of my success definition.

I love time and space. I love the ability to think, learn new skills, take classes, design workshops and collaborate with my favorite people. The spaciousness of my days has been a distinct benefit to this sabbatical, and I am trying to figure out how to build this into my new gig.

My hubby might say that success means I can retire early and do whatever I want. While that is a lovely idea, I actually enjoy working, when I do the kinds of things that make my heart sing. Success is about giving back, because to some extent, I feel I have already succeeded in my life. Sure, I failed at certain things I tried. But I learned so much along the way.

Truly I am happy in my life, right now, and I appreciate the wealth of my relationships. Ultimately is that not the best measure of success?

Happy weekend,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

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Throwback Thursday – Love over fear

**Re-posting an edited blog from February, because it is very relevant to the feelings I have as I navigate the final two days of corporate life. Thanks for reading and commenting! **

Recently I started practicing a new mantra, as I began to consider my actions in light of love or fear. This came from some reflection on yesterday’s blog and a conclusion I came to in seeing my work situation in a new way.

I started asking: “How can I act with more love and less fear in this moment?” It became apparent to me, when I realized that in leaving my current position soon, I am not leaving my team. I am showing them what it is to be brave and to take on a new challenge. For months, I worried, anxious about who would “look out” for them when I am gone. But by staying in department that constantly demands more from them, without providing the resources, I am just keeping a broken system intact. It’s like being a brick in the wall. But it may be a wall that needs to come down. Staying there is not an act of love, on a long-term basis.

Acting out of love rather than fear seems to require that we “re-wire” our brain in new ways, because fear is familiar to us. We are used to doing things the way we have habitually learned to do them. Learning a new way requires practice and commitment.

I took a break from my work and headed to the gym for a quick treadmill run, to clear my head and get my endorphins flowing over the lunch hour. I practiced my new mantra: how can I act with more love and less fear in this moment?

What changed: I put my phone away and began looking into people’s eyes, smiling if they met my eyes. I paid attention to my body while I ran, instead of feeding myself mindless distractions with my iPod or phone. I used my run as more of a “breathing meditation” rather than an excuse to check out from my life.

colorful-ripples.jpg
Photo credit link

When I got back to my desk, I focused on bringing more love and less fear to each interaction with my coworkers, each email, each phone call. I kept asking myself that question: how can I act with more love in this moment? It radically changed the amount of work I was able to get done, and the purposefulness in which I was able to complete the work.

When my husband returned home, I talked with him about my discovery, and then had a conversation about a topic I had been avoiding. I had not been sure how to talk about it. I was honest about feeling afraid before, and about how that has held me back sometimes. He was very open, and he was hearing me. He did not make me feel ashamed about that. He listened and he supported me. I felt much closer to him than I have in a long time.

It brings tears to my eyes as I write this, because I realize how often I have been acting from fear rather than acting to bring more love to all my interactions. I am extending compassion to myself also, knowing this is conditioned behavior, and it is not a character flaw on my part. I am exceeding grateful to recognize it now, and to be able to start consciously “un-conditioning” that automatic behavior. While it feels familiar, it does not serve me. It does not serve anyone.

When we choose to act to bring more love into our experience, rather than to react out of fear, we radically change the orientation of our lives. We bring new energy into our relationships, and into our spheres of influence. Some people may respond in confusion, as they are not used to this type of interaction. But most are grateful for this approach, and feel our caring.

***

I will start again in August to use this mantra regularly. I need it as much for myself as for others. I am eager to see what a difference it makes as I embark on a new chapter of my journey.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

 

 

On the eve of big things

I have started writing at different times of the day, to reflect the “rhythm” of my week as it ebbs and flows. I am trying to purge out the stuff that just needs to leave my head, and also make sense of changes in my consciousness I know that consistency is important, and that daily creative spark helps me to get energy for the rest of my day.

I am procrastinating on my coaching homework and deciding to put it off a bit more, so I am writing my blog instead.

Uh, why *am* I avoiding my coaching homework? I will use this space to examine the reasons. One of the assignments is to rewrite my career dream in a 1-year and a 5-year formats. But what is getting in the way of this is that I interviewed for a job at my current company last week that really excites me.

It is hard to write my 1-year dream in a way that is independent of my excitement for that role. I guess that’s okay. A year seems ultra-long when I consider my current role. But it seems like it could go by in a flash if I am doing something with full engagement and attention. But can I bring full engagement to it? Would I give up my blog for it? No, for sure not.

It is a fairly high profile role (Senior Program Manager) with visibility to the top executives and the CEO, but I think I could make some impact there. We could actually re-invent the way clinical data are used in health care. Whew! That could be amazing, right?

Of course, I still have a lot of unanswered questions, so I emailed them to the hiring manager as a follow up. I’m not sure if they will make me an offer, but I suspect I am their top candidate, given what HR has shared with me about their search.

restless screws.JPG
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Another BIG part of me was fantasizing about quitting this corporate thing in August and figure out how to make it on my own, doing consulting and writing, and perhaps coaching. I wanted to take a break from this “treadmill” to get some time and space to really pursue my writing goals in earnest.

The money thing crops up. By August, I am aiming to have 6 months of living expenses saved up for any kind of foolish job-quitting my soul beckons me to do. My hubby would prefer we use that money toward a down payment on a house, or maybe some land on the north shore of Lake Superior. That appeals to me too.

If I stay, I will have to work a lot harder this summer and fall. New jobs takes investment, focus and attention. I am not afraid to work hard. In talking with a good friend of mine yesterday about the job, she observed that she has not seen me so excited or energized about an opportunity in a while.

My massage therapist said the same thing, and she had a quote for me that popped into her head when I told her about my response to the interview: “Great things are done when man and mountain meet.”  William Blake.

My friend asked me “what would hold you back from taking the job” and my response was: having to wear grown-up clothes and go to the office every day. What this means is that my introvert self would have less alone-time during the standard work day. I have gotten spoiled working from home (when I am not traveling) a couple of days a week.

But other than that? Maybe the fear that my current role has provided a comfort level (3 years in this manager role, 11 years in the department), and I know I will be living in the “discomfort zone” for a while. But that may be the growth edge that I seek.

When things are too calm in my life, I tend to make trouble. But maybe this is the kind of trouble that I need to invite in, because “wildly improbable goals” have a strangely motivating effect on me. 

Done is Better than Good

Right now I am preparing to work on a few cover letters for some jobs I already applied for at my current company. The application process does not actually require them, but I believe that it is probably best to explain what interests me about these positions, and why I see myself as the best fit for them.

I am re-listening to Liz Gilbert’s wonderful book, Big Magic. She has a chapter on avoiding the trap of perfectionism, and making sure we complete our work. I love this book so much, and if you ever suffer during your creative moments, it is a must-read. I love her way of describing the beautiful gift of creative practice, this wonderful ability we humans have to engage with our gifts.

In the past, I have sometimes not completed things like job applications, a sort of failure ahead of time, convinced the result would not be good enough. Really what I was responding to was my inner “chicken,” the voice of fear that nearly all of us have (but some have overcome it more effectively) that avoids risk and seeks reward. There is no shame in realizing we have this voice. Risk aversion is a developmental necessity to keep us safe from threats, but sadly, we over-generalize it at some point in our lives.

woman writing
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The only way to overcome it is to practice acting despite our fears, realizing that everything we produce will have some imperfection, and yet putting it out there anyway. It helps if we can constrain the time we work on it, or give ourselves deadlines “ahead of time” so that if final polishing is necessary, we allow adequate time. But sometimes that is not practical, or there are enough other things clamoring for our attention, that if we waited for the ideal, we would never get there.

So I will keep this relatively short, and allow some time to write these cover letter while it is early and I still have optimal morning focus. Two of them will be relatively easy to write: I am very interested in those positions and one excites me greatly even though it is a stretch. The other two may be a little more tricky, since they are more “exploratory’ in nature, and I want to learn more about the positions, and am not necessarily sold on them.

What is it that you are putting off because you do not think it will be “good enough?” 

I will end with a quote from Liz Gilbert in Big Magic (p 177):

“You may want your work to be perfect, in other words; I just want mine to be finished.”

Love over fear

Yesterday, I started practicing a new mantra, as I began to consider my actions in light of love or fear. This came from some reflection on yesterday’s blog and a conclusion I came to in seeing my work situation in a new way.

I started asking: “How can I act with more love and less fear in this moment?” It became apparent to me, when I realized that in leaving my current position in the next few months, I am not leaving my team. I am showing them what it is to be brave and to take on a new challenge. For months, I have been worrying about that, anxious about who would “look out” for them when I am gone. But by staying in department that constantly demands more from them, without providing the resources, I am just keeping a broken system intact. It’s like being a brick in the wall. But it may be a wall that needs to come down. Staying there is not an act of love, on a long-term basis.

Acting out of love rather than fear seems to require that we “re-wire” our brain in new ways, because it will probably seem familiar to us. We are used to doing things the way we have habitually learned to do them. Learning a new way requires practice and commitment.

I took a break from my work and headed to the gym for a quick treadmill run, to clear my head and get my endorphins flowing over the lunch hour. I practiced my new mantra: how can I act with more love and less fear in this moment?

What changed: I put my phone away and began looking into people’s eyes, smiling if they met my eyes. I paid attention to my body while I ran, instead of feeding myself mindless distractions with my iPod or phone. I used my run as more of a “breathing meditation” rather than an excuse to check out from my life. (It was a little hard with all of those video screens at the gym to provide distraction, but I focused on my breath and body anyway).

colorful-ripples.jpg
Photo credit link

When I got back to my desk, I focused on bringing more love and less fear to each interaction with my coworkers, each email, each phone call. I kept asking myself that question: how can I act with more love in this moment? It kind of radically changed the amount of work I was able to get done, and the purposefulness in which I was able to complete the work.

When my husband returned home, I talked with him about my discovery, and then had a conversation about a topic I had been avoiding. I had not been sure how to talk about it. I was honest about feeling afraid before, and about how that has held me back sometimes. He was very open, and he was hearing me. He did not make me feel ashamed about that. He listened and he supported me. I felt much closer to him than I have in a long time.

It brings tears to my eyes as I write this, because I realize how often I have been acting from fear rather than acting to bring more love to all my interactions. I am extending compassion to myself also, knowing this is conditioned behavior, and it is not a character flaw on my part. I am exceeding grateful to recognize it now, and to be able to start consciously “un-conditioning” that automatic behavior. While it feels familiar, it does not serve me. It does not serve anyone.

When we choose to act to bring more love into our experience, rather than to react out of fear, we radically change the orientation of our lives. We bring different energy into our relationships, and into our spheres of influence. Some people may respond in confusion, as they are not used to this type of interaction. But most are grateful for this approach, and feel our caring.

I will try again today, as I am conducting interviews for an open position on my team, to use this mantra. I will need it as much for myself as for others. But I am eager to see what a difference it may make.