Fear Sucks, How We Can Overcome It To Become More Agile

April 22, 2014
Taking Smart Risks

Taking Smart Risks

How many of you would like to be more Agile, but are afraid to make the necessary changes in your life? Are you concerned that if you leave a task for someone else to do it won’t get done right, so you continue doing it all yourself? Are you afraid to try a Personal Kanban, because you might lose an important Post-It Note, and besides the To Do list works just fine? Does conducting a personal retrospective seem like a waste of time because even if you do find your true passion, you won’t be able to express it?

In order for us to overcome fear we must be willing to recognize it for what it is. For anyone who has ever been snow skiing, fear plays a big role. Imagine strapping sticks to your feet and going 30+ mph down a steep rocky slope with trees and other obstacles all around you. In the book Inner Skiing the authors describe a concept called Self #1, “Most minds are active with a flow of instructions about how to do this and how to avoid doing that – self-criticism, self-analysis, worries, fears, and doubts.” Our minds become an inner critic that is trying to protect us from legitimate dangers and also making up imagined ones.

  • Fear #1 – Legitimate fear that protects us from bodily harm
  • Fear #2 – Imagined fear that is really holding us back

When we ski we have to contend with both fears; sometimes the fear is legitimate like when we are standing on top of a rocky cliff and sometimes it’s our mind playing tricks on us, like standing on top of our first black diamond run. For anyone who skis to progress from beginner to intermediate to expert they must be able to recognize when their fear is legitimate and when it’s simply their mind holding them back.

Not everyone skis so, let’s look at a list of the 10 most common fears and see how many of them are legitimate vs. how many are imagined (List from

Personal Agility - Level 1 Practice

Personal Agility – Level 1 Practice

  • Fear of flying – fear #2, to quote a statistic “A US National Safety Council study showed flying to be 22 times safer than travelling by car” –
  • Fear of public speaking – fear #2, to my knowledge no one has every died from speaking in front of others
  • Fear of heights – fear #1, this one is legitimate according to, “At least 30,000 are hurt each year, and 6,000 die from falling off a ladder”  
  • Fear of the dark – fear #2, anyone got a nightlight? Most of us quickly outgrow this fear in our youth
  • Fear of intimacy – fear #2, we have all had our hearts broken at one point in our lives, but being intimate with the right person is one of life’s greatest joys
  • Fear of death – fear #2, it’s inevitable and will happen one-day, but to fear it is unproductive
  • Fear of failure – fear #2, failure sucks, but think about the lessons you have learned in life, I bet the ones you remember the most came from your failures
  • Fear of rejection – fear #2, sweaty palms, dry mouth, do I have the guts to ask her out? What if she says no? Most of us outgrow this one
  • Fear of spiders – fear #1, spiders can be venomous and even if they aren’t their bites can hurt so I for one don’t play with spiders
  • Fear of commitment – fear #2, long term commitments can be frightening, but most of us realize the value that comes from institutions such as marriage

Did you find that surprising? Of the top 10 fears only 2 of them are legitimate and 8 of them are made up in our heads. In order to become Agile we have to be willing to take action and risk failing. If we are letting fear #2 hold us back, then we may never take action. Next time you are faced with fear over a decision that will add more Agility to your life; pause for moment and decide whether these is a legitimate reason for the fear or if it’s simply your mind holding you back. Fear #2 sucks, don’t let it rule your life. Live Agile!

Got a story about how you overcame fear #2 to become more Agile? We would love to hear about it in the comments below.



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