Sabotaging our own success is so common that psychologists frequently explore why so many people wreck their relationships, careers and life-goals. We tend to undermine our own dreams chiefly in three ways. A) Self-destructive behavior such as excessive and unwholesome involvement with alcohol, food, sex, or drugs. B) Procrastinating by means of television, movies, or other entertainment or social activity. C) Talking far too much about one’s goals and dreams while doing far too little.
Social scientists have so far failed to explain why people sabotage their success but they did give it a name. They call it fear of success.
Here is a quick quiz.
1. When good things happen to me I often refrain from telling others.
2. When a friend enjoys success, deep down I feel as if I’ve suffered a setback.
3. When things are going really well for me, I worry that something will happen to ruin it.
4. When friends complain about their problems, I feel guilty about my happiness.
5. I tend to be judgmental about people who look out for themselves.
6. I feel as if I’m being bothersome by asking anyone for help.
7. Instead of doing what I should do, I often procrastinate.
8. When someone important compliments me, I feel self-conscious.
9. Deep down, I believe that expecting a lot usually brings disappointment.
10. I often say “yes” or “okay” when I should say “no” or “I can’t.”
How many of these ten questions did you answer “yes”? That’s your fear of success index on the scale of one to ten.
You might say, “Fear of success? That makes no sense.” I fear failure, not success.
Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that we sabotage our success because of two reasons: The first one is easy to understand. We lack the character strength and self-discipline to postpone present gratification in favor of future benefit. The second one is less obvious. We subconsciously consider ourselves morally unworthy of success. We know we fall short of our virtue potential.
You will notice that both reasons are spiritual not organic. In other words, you can’t simply take medication or psych yourself out of it.
Happily, there are spiritual strategies to overcome spiritual problems and unleash your potential whether in the areas of business and revenue generation or marriage, family, and social relationships. I’d like to share one with you.
In discussing the various creatures such as pigs and crustaceans that God prohibited Jews from eating, a peculiar verse appears.
You shall not eat of their meat nor shall you touch their carcasses…
Why did God use unnecessary words? He could merely have said “Don’t touch the carcasses of unkosher creatures.” Since one can hardly eat a pig or a lobster if one is not permitted to touch their carcasses, that would have been sufficient.
Yet, the Torah repeatedly cautions against touching unkosher carcasses, warning that this renders one ‘TaMaY.’ (Leviticus 11:8; 24-26; 39 & Deuteronomy 14:8)
This mysterious Hebrew word, TaMaY, is often inadequately translated as ‘unclean’ or ‘impure’ but that misses the mark. TaMaY is a complex concept meaning that we become subconsciously overwhelmed by a debilitating and disturbing sense of hopelessness, gloom, personal inadequacy and even death. That causes us to sabotage our success.
Of course eating prohibited foods is unthinkable for a Jew. But let’s add a layer of virtue. We won’t even touch them because handling something which we know is wrong for us brings us closer to that very thing. Avoiding them entirely is an added discipline that strengthens our ability to defer gratification and adds to our inner sense of moral virtue and our conviction that we are worthy of success.
We all know of things which are not good for us. When you identify such a thing, distance yourself from it building up your self-discipline with many small triumphs. Try to act with added virtue each day and weaken your success sabotaging behaviors.
I explain why this time of the year is particularly suited for spiritual renewal in my audio CD, Day for Atonement: Spiritual Strategies for Success. Get it online for only $5 for the next 48 hours and tap into this special season.