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Number one job fear costing Australians happiness

A friend of mine, Julie, recently decided to make a complete career change and her fears are all too common. Can this really work out? Will I make any money? Will I end up back in a job in a few months – with my tail between my legs because I didn’t “make it” on my own?

If you’re one of the 76 per cent of Australians seeking a career move this year, or one of the 52 per cent of people actively seeking opportunities outside their current field – the time to be bold and proactively make moves is now.

It can be easy to get discouraged and fear failure. Because there are so many unknowns when it comes to change. But what if sometimes what holds us back from going for it is, in fact, us?

We’ve all heard about the fear of failure … but what about the fear of success? How do you know you’re experiencing it – and what might it be costing you?

As a life coach, fear of success is something I coach people on regularly (they just don’t know that’s what it is). It’s a subconscious, hidden fear that’s typically rooted in us not feeling worthy. It develops as a result of our belief system, which is driven by things like our family, friends, culture, education, and the news. It shows up in the most common ways – procrastinating, excuse-making, overplanning, and overthinking.

Because our belief system drives our day-to-day thoughts, which determine our actions, that produce our results, fear of success stops us from receiving the good that’s waiting for us on the other side of taking fresh, inspired action.

My friend Julie was deciding whether to make the same career shift I did a decade ago – switching from a full-time corporate employee to a life coach – and this fear was holding her back.

Could one of these five sneaky traps that underpin the fear of success be holding you back, without you even realising it?

Fear of change

There are no two ways about it. New levels of success bring the unknown. Like my life coach friend Julie – she has no idea what a coaching career will look like in her life. How much money will she make? What will her day-to-day look like? What new skills does she need to learn?

Human beings are wired for safety and comfort, not change. We fear what we don’t know and so avoid seeking it out – often until the pain or frustration of staying where we are becomes too great.

Fear of an identity shift

When we transition into something new – we often fear losing an established reputation and even personal relationships as a result. Julie is a respected manager in a well-known company. Shifting identity into a life coach can be a scary one. She is losing her “status” as a manager and her camaraderie with her co-workers who know her well and respect her as a leader.

The most successful people I know rapidly shift identities with ease and detachment. How does an identity shift feel to you?

Fear of increased expectations

Oh, the pressure of being somewhere new! What will this require of you? Familiarity feels so safe – because we know what’s expected of us.

But what if new expectations could be seen as a positive? We are meant to expand and stretch in our short lifetimes. How else can we fulfil our potential?

Fear of sacrifice

When we make a new move, there may be increased responsibilities. Julie fears spending less time with her kids and friends as she builds her life coaching business. If you fear sacrifice, my two questions for you are:

Is it true? Are you truly sacrificing? Or are you perhaps gaining more than you sacrifice – in terms of money, fulfilment, and self-expression?

Is it worth it? Everything in life has a cost – including the pain and frustration of being stuck in a job you don’t love. To me – that’s the worst sacrifice. Is a new move, in fact, the opposite of sacrifice because you’re already living an (expensive) compromise?

Fear of the end of the journey – Julie told me that she’s dreamt of a career change for over five years. What happens when she “makes it”? I reassured her the same thing that I reassured everyone of. When you fulfil one desire, the next one appears. As soon as I got into the swing of coaching, next came books, a podcast, and online services. But nothing happens without those first steps forward now!

Fear of success subconsciously sabotages us as we want to avoid the perceived negative consequences of success.

Sometimes I use the metaphor of success being like a lighthouse. A new opportunity can feel this way – a bright, comforting, reassuring light in the distance. But what happens when the lighthouse becomes a close-up – right there before us? It can feel overwhelming, daunting – even a little unsafe – shining a light on any parts of us that we might not feel are quite ready or capable of success.

In a world that often celebrates the status quo, daring to desire more — to become more — is a courageous act. If you’re standing on the brink of change, feeling the weight of what it might mean to succeed, you can lean into that light. You can let it guide you, let it challenge you, and most importantly, let it change you.

As we embrace change success, we do not just find fulfilment — we find ourselves. And we generously pave the way for others to follow, too.

Susie Moore is an Australian life coach, author, and host of the top-rated podcast, Let It Be Easy. Sign up to 6 Journal Prompts to Coach Yourself to Success in 6 Days.