How To Prepare When Threatened by the Stress of Success

I’ve been thinking about fear…trying to understand its root (in me and others) and to discover from where it draws its power.

It’s easy to grasp the ‘fear of failure’. That fear spurs the competitive to strive harder and the passive to retreat. I don’t know a single soul who likes failing or losing. Thus, fear of doing so seems obvious. But it is the fear of success that has me a bit confounded. It's been the center of my queries.

And before you start getting on me, ‘fear of success’ is a thing, a real thing. Don't believe me? Look it up!

For some, the excitement of success is too close to familiar feelings of anxiety. Psychologically,  the thrill of success triggers the same physical responses experienced with past trauma. This creates a loop, where any change in the direction toward success stirs up the fear, and therefore, it's avoided.

This is most inconvenient for the business owner. For one thing, change is a constant. Until success (however you define it) is realized, you often shift items, big and small, to see what works best for your product or service, for your industry. Secondly, self-sabotage due to this sort of fear keeps you stagnant, in business and in life.

I am not qualified to expound on the psychological underpinnings of fear with any authority but I have done a bit of research. In the past, I would quip that in our culture today, almost all of us suffer from some form of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). I have no official stats but of the dozen friends that I polled, nine could recount adverse incidents in their lives that influence the way they move in the world. Maybe on some level, my hyperbole is accurate.

Since we’re all wired differently, responses to these fears are different. I believe that if each of us had an opportunity to share our personal countermeasures to combat fear, we’d all benefit. Here are some commitments that I’ve been exercising to identify and overcome my own fear and stress-induced tendencies.


It’s all about being brave, which is a choice. I’m not brave because I don’t feel fear; I’m brave because I choose not to allow that fear to dictate how I am going to proceed with my life and business. It used to paralyze me. What if this goes wrong? What if that doesn’t work out?

Embrace the philosophy of Drs. John D. Krumboltz and Ryan Babineaux, authors of Fail Fast, Fail Often: How Losing Can Help You Win. Early on in any venture, such as a business, relationship, etc., it good to fail a lot in the beginning. But here’s the key: Learn from those missteps and move on, fast.


Success can come upon you like a tidal wave. A friend shared with me recently about a client of hers who began her food business in August of 2017. Within a few months, her food wares were in Whole Foods. She wasn’t expecting such “overnight” success. And the experience was completely overwhelming.

Prepare by setting up systems early on. Systemize how you do what you do so that when you need to hire someone else to do it (because you’re too successful to do it all yourself), you can easily outline their responsibilities. This also takes the guess work out of the work flow. 


Grace is a pass. It’s what we give a small child who says the wrong thing with right intention. We simply smile and let it go. That’s what you need, as well. Give yourself the gift of grace.

When you fail, take a moment to feel the disappointment. Figure out how you could do it better or differently next time. Then take a deep breath and let it go.

These practices are not meant to be a catch all. If you have ongoing psychological needs that are unresolved. Please, seek professional help. There is nothing wrong with getting the support you need. Sometimes a season of exploration of your issues with a mental health professional can give you the perspective you need to get unstuck. There is NO shame in that!

Let us weed out any fear-based vestiges that attempt to counter the cultivation of our personal and business growth. It is not easy but I believe it is worth it!

Until next time…