Sometimes people hold themselves back from being successful because they’re subconsciously afraid of what might happen when things go well. I know this sounds ridiculous, and when I say it, my clients balk, as they do when I suggest that people don’t give themselves permission to live their lives. Coaches and therapists see this happen all the time.
I had a client, an artist, who was worried about being hugely successful because of the tax implications involved with becoming more profitable. If he brought in more money he would have to get an accountant and pay out more money in taxes. He held himself back from finding new outlets for his paintings because he didn’t understand the tax structure and was afraid of what more money would bring in the way of paperwork.
We decided that he needed to start gaining some tax knowledge to overcome this seemingly overarching impediment. As it turned out, he wasn’t afraid of money but of bureaucracy. He was soon able to get a better understanding of the tax system and his situation as a whole. Ultimately, he needed to do his taxes like everyone else. The worst thing that would happen was that he would have to pay more tax – because he was making more money!
As we’ve seen, people can be afraid of what success might bring. This can be irrational and even subconscious. An employee might be afraid of being in the public eye and knowing that a ‘manager’ would have to do public speaking, he subconsciously sabotage his chances of promotion so that he does not have to do something that he is uncomfortable with. A way around this could be to take public-speaking classes so that he becomes more at ease in the situation, and hence more comfortable in seeking a promotion.
The key is to deal with the tangible issues rather than worry about the unknown. The underlying issue or subconscious problem can be almost anything; it depends on the person in question. The solution lies in identifying the fear and addressing it rather than resorting to sabotaging behaviours. For some perspective, this process can also be done with a close friend, coach or therapist.