Getting scared of success

*article by Financial Coach Rebecca Pritchard

I wholeheartedly believe that the journey towards our goals needs to be just as much fun as the endpoint.

It would surprise you (or not!) how many times I’ve reworked plans, spreadsheets, and scenarios on some of my medium and long-term goals just for the fun of it.

But what happens when we get close to a goal, maybe after years of planning, saving, and hard work?

It often turns out we’re not prepared for the fear, uncertainty or second-guessing that occurs when our goals are within our reach. Especially when it comes to using the money we’ve saved so hard for that purpose.

Self-doubt and fear

Nearly five years ago, I started working with a member to articulate meaningful goals and intentions for their future.

One of these required a reasonably large amount of capital to be saved (which we did through investing). It was $300,000, a lovely round number.

Sacrifices and compromises have been made in the years since, and that beautiful number became real. It was a catalyst to trigger a number of other decisions.

I was fascinated with what happened next.

There were daily text updates in the lead-up, celebration, pride and reflection.

But increasingly, there was also stalling and uncertainty.

The member seemed to be afraid or hesitant that the goal was becoming a reality, and afraid to use the money to act on it.

The question was raised, “If $300,000 is good, wouldn’t $350,000 be better?”

I experienced this feeling myself when working towards a longer-term goal, buying my house in the country.

I got hooked on the planning and the process, and fell in love with the buzz of seeing my savings and investments rise.

But when it came time to pick the house and spend the money to realise my goal, I felt scared, uncertain, filled with doubt… before I finally leaped.

Following through with our goals

From my members’ and my own experiences with goals and fear, I’ve learnt that we need two things to help us follow through with our intentions.

1. We need self-awareness.

This means acknowledging that fear of success is a real and critical step in the goal setting and achieving process.

Like going on a diet, starting to invest, or doing anything out of our comfort zones, there will always be a good reason to delay fulfilling our goals.

We can recognise this — and remember that we set our goals for a good reason.

2. We need to love the goal and not the money.

The key here is to obsess over the goal and its impending realisation, not the building bank account.

The member who saved $300,000, then became afraid of using that money, had become focused on the money, losing sight of the end result — a beautiful lifestyle change.

As a self-confessed numbers junkie, this means when I do my 10 million plans and forecasts for the future, I need to extend those forecasts one extra month or year, to show what it looks like when the money comes out, and goes towards the goal.

We need to forecast and plan not just for the build-up, but to complete the circle, and be prepared for how we’ll feel when we’re about to use that money on our goal— and when we’ve done it. We need to get ready for seeing the empty or low bank account or portfolio, and looking around us at whatever it was we achieved instead. That’s full circle, and it feels good.

What goals are you close to reaching, and how are you feeling as you get there?