Why Everyone Needs a Little Appropriate Fear In Their Lives

Gregg Popovich once used the term “appropriate fear” to refer to how his team must prepare for their opponents. Here’s why those of us who have to operate in the real world should also have “appropriate fear” in our lives.

It’s NBA playoff season. As such, I’m watching A LOT of basketball.

My favorite team, the San Antonio Spurs just wrapped up an unusually precarious battle in the first round. All of this has made me think about the Spurs unbelievable run of success during my lifetime. As a fan, I know that I’m incredibly lucky to have grown up in an era where this team has won 4 championships and missed the playoffs only once in my memory. As the local radio guys call it, “its basketball utopia”.

But one of these days (and probably sooner rather than later) we won’t be so lucky. Retirements will take their toll and the team is bound to take a few steps back. That makes every season that they’re in the thick of things incredibly special.

What got them here?

In the words of the Spurs coach, Gregg Popovich: “Appropriate Fear”.

I can’t remember exactly when he said it or what the exact context was, but he was referring to the Spurs’ opponents. In essence, he said that the Spurs must have an “appropriate fear” of what the other team was capable of. Without appropriate fear, the Spurs wouldn’t be living up to their potential.

I took to this term immediately, as I think it applies in more than just a sports setting. I think it applies to our never ending need to evolve in our lives (careers, relationships, etc.). If we don’t have an “appropriate fear” we can get complacent and let mediocrity (or worse) sneak up on us.

Appropriate fear isn’t about LIVING in fear.

In my interpretation, appropriate fear doesn’t mean fearing failure or change to the extent that it paralyzes you. It isn’t literally FEAR; it doesn’t mean living in fright.

It MEANS having a healthy respect for our evolving world. It means understanding that the way things are today is not how they will be in the future, and that we too must stay at the top of our game(sharpen that saw) to continue succeeding in that changing world.

Appropriate fear is about managing change in a world where it is inevitable. It’s about choosing to do something before we are forced to. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that we could all use a little more proactivity in our lives. So that begs the question…

Where can appropriate fear take you?

Image Credit: By Katie Haugland – Flickr: NBA Playoffs Dallas Mavericks vs. San Antonio Spurs, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32475023

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