We spend a lot of time studying the process of being successful, of living a conscious life of intention. We learn how to do it – and what it takes to perform at high levels. We don’t often expend as much effort considering what gets in the way. Let’s do that now.

Fear: “the state of being afraid … a distressing emotion … a sense of impending danger … dread, apprehension, angst, panic, suspicion, unease”

In my experience, as in my studies, the first obstacle, the first enemy of success – of abundance and contentment – is fear. Fear can stop us, sometimes before we even start. When we’re young, we don’t know what we don’t know, and we take on new challenges with almost reckless abandon. As we grow and mature, we begin to imagine the stakes, and we understand responsibility. The same thing happens in a new job as well. At some point, we become afraid – and keep in mind that almost every element in the definition of fear will reflect what might happen. Fear freezes us; it locks us up, and the antidote is action.

Certainty: “the state of being certain … being free from doubt or reservation … fixed, settled, convinced, satisfied”

The second enemy of performance is certainty. We face our fears, we act … we move. And with luck, we succeed. What, then, gets in the way at work and at play? In a word, certainty. Have you ever heard the phrase “often wrong – always certain?” With our early success comes a feeling of clarity and confidence. The same confidence that allows us to overcome fear can also blind us to options. We believe we have the answers to life’s challenges, even when we don’t. The remedy to false clarity is asking. We overcome the second enemy of success by learning how to learn from others.

Fatigue: “weariness from exertion … breakdown when subjected to stress … lethargy, weakness, dullness”

Our third enemy? Fatigue. With action and clarity to combat unfounded fears and with humility and curiosity to eliminate the arrogance of unearned certainty, we perform, and we perform well. We gain the quality time on task that it takes to achieve mastery, but a final enemy awaits: fatigue. We become tired, bored and numb. What is the cure to this enemy of performance? Variety and distance. We combat the weariness by widening our focus to include another endeavor and by separating ourselves, even temporarily, from the source of fatigue.

Let’s do something different. Let’s take down the enemies of success:

  1. Take one action. Do something that scares you, at work or at home. Fight fear by doing one thing that makes your heart race in unhealthy anticipation.
  2. Find someone to ask. Ask what to do in one single aspect of your personal or professional life. Fight the tendency to be wrong but certain by involving another person. Ask them, thank them and at least consider their solution.
  3. Change it up. What are you tired of? Take a break from it, but fill the void with a new task. Feel some fear again.