Fear Setting

How to Diminish your Fear of Success

Denise Griffitts, 'Your Partner In Success™' is a happy nerd in stilettos who works from her beautifully appointed home office with the enthusiastic assistance of her feline office assistants and one woefully outnumbered dog, Abbey Rose.

A long-time virtual assistance industry expert, online business manager, and web developer Denise Griffitts is also the host of the very popular podcast called Your Partner In Success Radio which has been identified on INC. com as one of the best business podcasts you need to be listening to now.


The first time I heard the term “fear of success” I admit to being baffled. That was a thing? Don’t we all want to be successful at some level and on our own terms?

It took me a while to dig deep enough into my own motivations for success and the steps I was willing and able to take to achieve my goals to find out that it is indeed a ‘thing’ and it was alive and kicking my butt on a pretty regular basis. To say I was not happy is a true understatement. How could I not know this about myself??

The truth is that many of us have an innate fear of failure and believe that if we make wrong decisions or take what we may perceive to be the wrong steps that the walls will come crashing down and we will be left not only where we started, but possibly buried beneath the rubble.

What has fear of failure have to do with fear of success?

According to this article on MindTools.com, “Fear of success is actually quite common, and it can cause us to lose out on a lot of opportunities in life. When we’re too afraid to take risks and move forward on our goals – either consciously or unconsciously – we get stuck in one place, neither moving forward nor backward.”

Real success though actually requires failure – and that’s why the world’s most successful people are actually not at all afraid of failing and are quite happy to put themselves out on a limb taking regular risks.

So how do you remove a fear of failure and/or success?

One option is to try fear setting.This is a technique that was first popularized by Tim Ferris in his book The Four Hour Workweek. The general idea is to ‘set’ your fears in the same way that you would normally ‘set’ your goals. This way you make those abstract and vague fears into things that are more concrete and real.

To do this, you write down those fears and contingencies in a list. Planning on trying something new? Then write down everything that could go wrong and why you’re afraid of it.

Next, write down all the ways you might deal with those things going wrong if they were to. And write down how likely each of those things is to go wrong in the first place. On the face of it, that might sound like it would make matters worse but in fact, the opposite is normally true. That’s because, writing down your fears and making them ‘real’ often robs them of their power – especially when you have a plan in place for how you would deal with them and you realize that they’re actually quite unlikely to be a problem in the first place.

Common Fears and Concerns

Since I am in the Virtual Assistance Industry we will use a common scenario that shows up in Facebook and LinkedIn Groups.

You are currently gainfully employed but in a job that you really hate with a commute that is leaving you frustrated and exhausted. In fact, you are too tired and angry to really relax and enjoy your home life when you get home. And your weekends are spent angsting about the terrible (in your mind) week to come. Sound like you?

But quitting your job is just not a real option. Or is it?

These fears are more than likely racing in what seems like an endless loop in your mind and are preventing you from moving forward into a business that really attracts you and where you can utilize your many hard and soft skills.

For example:

  • Leaving your current job means you will not be bringing much-needed steady income into the home.
  • You have no idea where to even start with learning how to be a Virtual Assistant.
  • Finding steady clients is a paralyzing thought.

While each of these is a legitimate fear, your job right now is to find a way to make them less of a problem and find solutions in order to move ahead.


For instance, could you survive on savings for a while as you build your new VA practice? Would your mate be willing to support the household for 6 months while you give it your all? (This is how I built my business. Because I only had 6 months to make it work or find a job, I gave it EVERYTHING! My fear of having to go back into a work environment that I absolutely despised was a huge motivating factor.)

Could you build up your skills nights and weekends by working with multi-VA firms before leaving your current job? Here is where Facebook and LinkedIn groups are very helpful. Join as many groups as reasonable and listen, learn and participate.

Could you freelance with a firm like UpWork to begin working with clients and honing your skills?

Could you offer your services on Fiverr?

Once you lay out your fears of both failure and success you will realize that they are pretty much the same thing. That allows you to begin really looking at them in terms of what is real and what is simply fear based and then deciding what your action steps are to overcome these largely made up obstacles.