Fear of Success Part 2 – Extrinsic Endpoints

This is the second part in a continuing series on the fear of success. (Part 1 here if you haven’t read it). This time we look closer at how one can be a success, and not be a success when the measuring stick is external.

For our discussion we have established two types of success. There is reaching an endpoint and being a success, or there is having success in particular experiences – not necessarily endpoints. Having two types of success in definition does not however make immediately clear where a fear of success emanates from. Linking the definitions into common examples can bring us closer to clarity.

When you meet a goal that you, someone else, or our society has set out for you then you have fallen under the first type of success. You are a success. If a person sets a goal to lose 10 pounds and he does, then he is, according to our first definition, a success. If a cyclist has marked out a win at the Tour de Gastown as her objective, and she is victorious, then she is a success. A student, or the student’s parents, may place high importance on completion of a degree, and when it’s done the student is viewed as a success. Sometimes people feel social pressures to secure a job, partner, or begin a family. When these things are checked off the list, surely a person can be a success. They are all endpoints in some way. However, you may be feeling an increasing uneasiness about these trail of “endpoint” examples – I am.

Two reasons give fuel to this uneasiness. Firstly, while in each of these examples a person is initially deemed to be a success, they can stop being a success. If success was linked to the weight loss, gain it back and one is no longer a success. Be found of doping to reach the objective of victory in a race and the cyclist will be decried as a cheat and not a success. If the student pays someone to write his essays, or another student goes on to adventures that had nothing to do with her degree she had earned, then the goal of attaining academia excellence becomes mute, and the endpoint of success lost. Further, if a person has a job, partner and family but is negligent in capacities as an employee, partner, or parent then society will quickly strip them of the title of success it so freely handed out earlier.

Secondly, these endpoints are all extrinsic. None are completely self-defined. T Granted, they can be intrinsic. I am fully aware that many people engage in jobs or relationships they find intrinsically rewarding, and do not treat them as endpoints. However, to make our point about the first definition of success I think it can be easily understood, and agreeable, that many people in our society enter into these arrangements for a host of extrinsic (or “endpoint”) reasons. One of these reasons – or the encompassing reason – is to be a success. However, when we do not have control of the measuring stick, when the pressure comes from without then fear can come into play.

The next point of discussion will bring this fear to light within our first type of success. That is unless you offer up some questions or comments that may lead the discussion somewhere else – and you are always encouraged to do that. While you no doubt begin to see I lean in a particular direction, I am not completely sold on any of specific arguments just yet. Are you?


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