When I was in my early 20s, I saw a doctor for weight loss. During my treatment, he directly told me I had a pathological and ingrain fear of success. For years I have mulled this over. What is success? What is fear? What is fear of success? What is a successful fear? What IS failure? Why can someone be comfortable with it? What is mediocrity? What is effort and what are results? The good news is that I have found profound insights through my pondering. The bad news is that i have found some disturbing insights as well.
Not the least of which is that I am willing to use the old good news/paradigm model.
Here is what I learned:
- My fear of success was imprinted me as a chilld
- My fear of failure I learned from trying things and failing, mostly because of my fear of success
- I consolidated both fears into a grand scheme of avoiding DOING anything
- I decided somewhere along the way that the only way to do anything is to do it for my own enjoyment
- It is best for me to try and fail than for me to second guess what I am doing, because that just plays into my fears and paralyses me
- I struggle with the preception of selfishness more than the activity of selfishness
- My motives will never be purely altruistic, but my actions usually are
- Loving friends who insert doubts that lead me to second guess my efforts do more harm to me than people than people who actually hope for my failure
- I am encouraged when I am reminded that I CAN accomplish something, that I HAVE talents, that I am good enough in myself; that I am doing what is FUN for me; that SUCCESS is in the effort, not the result.
- I am discouraged when I am reminded that I AGREED to something; I am forced to look at my activities as RESPONSIBILITIES; that people are COUNTING on me; or when I am asked to consider my motives for things
This is a far-from-complete analysis of my own motivations and demotivations, but it gives a starting point for discussion. Now that I have revealed more about myself than I planned, let’s talk about other people.
You have your own fears and regrets. You have your own desires and needs. They guide you, limit you, inspire you, and basically keep you going or hold you back. You probably can name them as clearly as I did, but maybe you can’t. Maybe you have un-examined areas of your psyche you haven’t addressed or tamed. Regardless, as you look at other people today, take the time to appreciate that they also are driven by their own needs, orientations, fears and predispositions.
Other people are operating through a web Most folks have heard of Maslow’s hierach of needs, but fewer are aware of McClelland’s Need theory. In a nutshell (another cliche I still use), it works like this: We have three needs: affiliation (social), success (doing things right), and power(well…power). Each of us have a preferred need to fulfill as a priority. I am, for instance, affiliation-oriented. If you want to move me to action, it will be invoking or expanding my social contacts. If you are power oriented, then your motivation would be to the acquisition and exercise of power on a personal or societal level. If you are driven by achievement, your goals are dedicated to what you accomplish and the feelings associated with success.
There are an additional dozen or so other systems that could easy define our reasons. One thing I am a believer in is this: asking why is something to be avoided in many cases because it’s retrograde and used often as a manipulative tool. I was once in a relationship where my partner used “why?” to begin questions that could only be answered “because I am an idiot.” I usually ask the teleological question: what for? This gives me answers without setting up negative answers.
Everyone’s individual experiences created references points for both positive and negative experiences. You carry your filters and your lenses through which you read the clues of the world. Your third grade trip to a museum may set the foundation for how you look at art and culture, and your first day of driving may create the reference for how you look at left turns. This is no less true of those around you.
I encourage (see what I did there?) everyone to spend a little time looking up personal motivators and thinking about other people’s needs.
As those around you struggle, and you want to share encouragement…don’t be afraid to ask how you can help. Your default moves may be the wrong ones. What words or support actions will work for your loved ones? They can usually tell you. How do you encourage or spur on subordinates? Ask them, they might tell you. How can you make sure your boss knows you have their back? Tell them you have their back! Then ask if they need anything specific.
And, as you share and encourage those around you, remember that what works for one….doesn’t necessarily work for another.
Spread the word!