“Only mediocre people are always at their best.”

— Somerset Maugham


 Are you afraid to succeed?

Last week we looked at overcoming fear of failure, but I’m finding that quite a number of my clients – especially the ones who have a powerful vision for what they want to achieve in the world – are struggling with procrastination, avoidance and other self-sabotaging behaviours. They know it, but seem helpless to break the cycle. It is as if they are afraid of succe


Why would these amazing and enlightened people, who have so much to offer, find it so hard to JFDI (Just Flipping Do It!)?

I have some suggestions, which I’d like to explore over the coming weeks. If you have any ideas to share, please post a comment – we’d love to hear!

The first tip is to recognise the difference between Creative Tension and Emotional Tension. I came across this concept in Peter Senge’s book, The Fifth Discipline.


Creative Tension

Creative Tension is the gap between our vision and our current reality. It is actually a source of energy, because if there was no gap then there would be no need for any action to move towards the vision.

Imagine a rubber band, stretched between your vision and current reality. When stretched, the rubber band creates tension.

What does tension seek? Resolution or release.

There are only two possible ways for the tension to release itself: pull reality toward the vision or pull the vision toward reality. Which do you want to do? Hold true to your vision, or lower your sights to bring the vision closer to your reality?


Emotional Tension

Emotional Tension often leads to feelings or emotions associated with anxiety, such as sadness, discouragement, hopelessness, or worry. This happens so often that people easily confuse these emotions with creative tension. People come to think that the creative process is all about being in a state of anxiety. But it is important to realise that these “negative” emotions that may arise when there is creative tension are not creative tension – they are emotional tension.

It’s crucial to recognize the difference between emotional tension and creative tension, or we run the risk of lowering our vision not out of conscious choice, but purely to alleviate our discomfort.

Put another way, emotional tension can be relieved by adjusting the one pole of the creative tension that is completely under our control at all times – the vision. The feelings that we dislike go away because the creative tension that was their source is reduced.

Escaping emotional tension is easy – the only price we pay is abandoning what we truly want, our vision.

We allow our goals to erode when we are unwilling to live with emotional tension. But when we understand creative tension and allow it to operate by not lowering our vision, vision becomes an active force, generating energy that we can use to raise current reality and bring it closer to our vision.


“Truly creative people use the gap between vision and current reality to generate energy for change.”

— Peter Senge


Please remember to post a comment with your thoughts on fear of success. I’d love to hear from you!


  • Thank you for the inspiring thoughts!
    At some point, can you comment on the external barriers to success? These barriers are also out of our control and delay reaching our vision. Makes the rubber band tighter. How do we navigate around or over them so they do not become excuses for failure?
    Thank you and keep up the great work!

    • Hi Rick – good to hear from you! I think you answered your own question – if there is a way to navigate around or over (or under!) them, or somehow take them out of the picture altogether (blow them up!), or decouple them from your vision, that is the way to go. It might take some creativity to find a way. Try taking different perspectives – from other people’s point of view, or from a point in the future, or pick a (super)hero and think how they might overcome the barrier. That’s about all I can say without knowing more about the specific nature of the barrier. I hope it helps. If not, email me privately with more details and I’ll see what I can do to help.

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