Facing Down Fears That Limit You

Facing Down Fears That Limit You

Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, named six ancient fears that limit your success if they continue not confronted. The first step to successfully prevailing over them is first to recognize where they’re limiting you.

In his timeless success book Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill names six basic fears that you should heedful of, before they haunt your business development initiative or even personal life steps you take. He calls them “ghosts”—disturbing creatures that actually appear real. Actually though, he suggests that they are actually imaginary. Let’s go over all six of the fears using quotes from Hill. I want to thank my friend and advisor Mark Newfield for whipping me into reading this book about 8 years back.

The fear of poverty or failure

“Now, why anybody should be afraid of poverty in a great nation like this where opportunity abounds on every hand is more than I can understand, but I do know that the vast majority of my students have to be treated first for the fear of poverty. They have to be made success-conscious, and you’ll never be successful at anything until you become success-conscious. You have to get over the idea of self-limitation.”

Napoleon Hill published Think and Grow Rich in 1937 as a response to the changes brought on by the Great Depression. Millions of people were suddenly unemployed, and people’s worries, monies and other wise, were at an all-time high. Hope for some people was a thing of the past. Things were indescribably worse than they were in the last economic downturn here in the US. As a coach I have found that today, people in our society don’t fear poverty as such, but rather fear simple failure—of risking something and coming out worse off that before—is their major underlying issue. Mr. Hill encouraged people to develop a “success consciousness”— he describes it as the practice of visualizing their wealth in their own minds before it has actually arrived in their hands. Failing to do so leads a person to fear poverty or fear failure—that paralyzing mindset where you repeatedly think or say things like, “I’ll never have enough money for retirement,” “I’ll never have enough clients to make a decent living,” “I’ll never be able to unroll a new marketing plan,” or “I’ll never be any good at cold-calling.” Take it from me; those thoughts become a self-fulfilling prophecy leading into a downward mental spiral and the very failure that you so fear.

Coaching Question:

1.   Do you have a success consciousness or a poverty consciousness?  …Be honest….

2.   If you do have Mr. Hill’s poverty consciousness, how would your practice be different if you could replace it with a success consciousness?

The fear of criticism

 You’re lucky indeed if you’ve come this far in life, all of you or any of you, without having suffered from the fear of criticism, the fear of what ‘they’ will say. And I have heard so many people say, ‘Well, I’d do so-and-so if it weren’t for what ‘they’ will say,’ and I have never yet found out who ‘they’ were. ‘They’ are entirely imaginary beings, but you’d be surprised how powerful ‘they’ are. ‘They’ stupefy enthusiasm. ‘They’ cut down your personal initiative. ‘They’ destroy your imagination. And ‘they’ make it practically impossible for you to accomplish anything above mediocrity.”

In my experiences as a coach, this is the most common fear holding my clients back—the fear of how other people will, or might judge them if they do what you want to do –like succeeding fabulously in their own business—rather than being just another average guy with a desk and a phone. These dark judgments often come from well-intended family members and friends who want to protect them from trying something out of their comfort zone.  Sometimes it’s their personal Gremlin who is at the core of the message.  Regardless, what’s interesting about the messengers is that they have most likely never taken on anything challenging themselves—if they don’t think they themselves can do it, they tend to discourage you. Many people don’t like others to go beyond their own personal limits.

Coaching Question:

1.   How has the fear of criticism from others held you back?

2.   How would your practice be different if you were able to shed those fears and wholeheartedly pursue your dreams?

The fear of poor health (“excusitis”)

“The doctors know too well what that fear does. It results in a condition known as hypochondria, imaginary illness.”

Napoleon Hill focused on an imaginary illness, but the truth is that we often invent handy excuses justifying our dodging doing the things we fear to do. It’s easy to fall victim to ‘excusitis’:

“I don’t know how to talk to affluent people.” “I don’t have enough time.” “I’ve never been much of a writer; I can’t write that article.”

The next time you catch yourself thinking, saying, or doing something like this when contemplating taking action, stop yourself. Just stop.  Take a moment and consider whether you’re just reacting to fear.

Coaching Question:

1.   Do you make excuses instead of doing tough but necessary tasks?

2.   What tasks would you take on if you knew you could not fail?

The fear of loss of love

“Jealousy doesn’t require reason. It can be just as violent or just as destructive where there is no basis for it as where there is a basis, but it is a motivating force.”

Indeed jealousy is destructive and it can be disastrous to those not secure in their relationships, but I want to expand the definition of the fear of loss of love for this article.  I want you to consider that it can also include concerns about losing the approval of loved ones if you aren’t successful in your work. You’re coming from a weakened and negative place if you’re always trying to please others; fearing you will lose them gets you no where fast. And in fact, you almost guarantee your own failure focusing on acting out approval seeking ways of being, rather than creating both a positive mindset and a clear plan for success in chosen business. Just imagine for a moment how this might affect your relationships with clients. Will you decide to tell a client only what he wants to hear instead of the truth, what he needs to hear, out of fear that he might drop you for another advisor?  Really?

Coaching Question:

1.   Whose approval do you fear losing?

2.   What do you have to accomplish to gain your own approval?

The fear of old age

 “I don’t know why men and women should be afraid that they’re going to dry up and blow away when they get to that nice, ripe old age of 40 to 50. The real achievements of the world were the results of men and women who had gone well beyond the age of 50, and the greatest age of achievement was between 65 and 75, so I don’t know why one should be afraid of old age, but nevertheless they are.”

 How do you hear people say, “I can’t believe I’m xy years old!” Translation: “Buddy, I’m getting up there! I might just be past my prime. I fear that time is running out for me. Where did it all go?” I’m of the philosophy that age is only a number—As long as you are learning, laughing, and loving, you’re young. I personally try and keep a relaxed attitude about the coming years—I have all the time in the world to get better. Besides, I have no control over that part of my life…so why fret over it? My thought is I’ll be that much more experienced as time goes by. In this way, I’m always aware that if I keep learning, my best is yet to come.

Coaching Question:

1.    How old do you feel?

2.   What would you tackle if you didn’t feel the

limitation of time?

The fear of death

 “It’s the rarest thing in the world to find a person who hasn’t at one time or another been afraid of dying.”

I learned over time to not spend much time thinking about death because, frankly, I’m too busy living. From a work standpoint, I think this fear is about the death of anything: The end of your business or a bankruptcy, the end of a job or getting fired, the end of a relationship through breakup or divorce. Going through those kinds of traumatic experiences doesn’t kill you, but you certainly can get that panicky feeling that they will.In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill states:

“Every adversity, every heartache, every failure carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit.”

Everyone who’s ever had big successes has had equally big disappointments, losses, and rejections. Want they did different though, is they used them as motivation to get back up and go at it again and again until they won. So in the above-mentioned “deaths” you have the opportunity to be reborn. You have the opportunity to achieve even greater successes; a new career, a solid relationship, they are just past where you look. Keep moving and you will find them!

Coaching Question:

1.   What “death” do you fear?

2.   If you lost that fear what could you achieve in the next 6 months?

Closing the Circle:

I hope that some of these thoughts and images have helped you realize that the six ‘ghosts of fear’ don’t have to be all that spooky. When you begin by committing yourself to becoming the successful person you were destined to be, despite their interference, you take the first step to achieve your goals. Heck, you can behave like it’s Halloween all the time, knowing that those ghosts that confront you aren’t as spooky as you once thought.

Give it some thought; if you get this stuff right, it’s your fabulous future that’s out there waiting for you.


Frank Hopkins is a life coach in Baton Rouge who is certified as a Professional Coach (CPC) by the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). Frank has helped numerous people to go through emotional change in a way that is positively transformative.