Overcoming imposter syndrome, people pleasing, perfectionism and fear of failure

When do you do your most creative work? Under what conditions do you work most effectively? I was forced to come up with answers to these questions a few years ago when colleagues started to become curious about how I seemed to consistently achieve so much in so little time. Driven partly by the embarrassment of being unable to mentor these colleagues who were asking me for help, and partly by my own curiosity, I embarked on a project to understand what was going on, which culminated in my last book, The Productive Researcher. What I discovered was a powerful positive feedback loop between my purpose and my motivation, which gave me an unusual level of concentrated focus. Working on average 37 hours per week, in the three years since publishing the book, I published more than 30 peer-reviewed papers (seven as first author), led four projects worth over £2M (and contributed to eight more), and trained over 5000 researchers from more than 200 organisations in 55 counties through my company, Fast Track Impact.


However, as I tried to mentor and train researchers in my approach, I discovered five barriers that consistently prevented people from making progress: people-pleasing, perfectionism, imposter syndrome, fear of failure and disciplinary labels. In the next three pages, I want to show you how I have helped colleagues tackle each of these issues, empowering them to focus on the things that are most important to them, and enabling them fall in love again with what they do. However, to overcome these myself, I have found professional help to be invaluable, and regularly recommend that colleagues find themselves a coach who is also a trained counsellor, in case any of the barriers they identify have roots that are deeper than they expected.