Genius Catalyst: Three Levels of Fearlessness

By Michael Neill

Feel fear less and less in body, mind and soul.
-by Michael Neill
"Nothing in life is to
be feared. It is only to
be understood."
-Marie Curie

What does it mean to you when you feel scared?  Time to step back or time to step up? Time to fight or time to hide?

One of the most interesting things that I've discovered over the years is that even people who continue to move forward in the face of their fears do so at three different levels. I call them "the three levels of fearlessness," not because they don't involve fear but because they make fear less and less of a factor in the way we live our lives.

Level One – Courage

Level one is the level of the body, where "feel the fear and do it anyway" isn't just a book title, it's a way of life. Courage says, "I think something bad is going to happen and I'm really scared but what the heck, here goes nothing…!" and then leaps into action, screaming all the while.

In many ways, courage is simply a choice-an interpretation of fear which says "this incredible burst of adrenaline I'm experiencing in my body is just energy – it doesn't mean 'turn back." In fact, if it means anything, it means 'go forward-and do it now!'"

Level Two – Confidence

At level two, the level of the mind, fear still comes up but it quickly goes down again when confidence says "Whatever happens, I'll handle it." Confidence can be faked, but seems to work best when it is earned. The most solid kind of confidence is based on solid preparation and a level of trust in your skills to deal with the situation you are walking into. In this sense, confidence is earned through experience.

While some people operate with confidence only in certain types of situation, it is possible to generalize confidence into most areas of your life. Your experience as an airline pilot does actually prepare you to deal with crises in your family; your experience as a mother of three can be excellent preparation for the high-stakes political intrigue of an executive boardroom.

Level Three – Freedom

Level three is the level of the spirit – that glorious place inside us where fear has become irrelevant. Freedom says "I am not my body and I am not my mind-and what I truly am is eternal, immortal, universal and infinite." Freedom knows no fear because it encompasses all possibilities. Nothing which can possibly happen would diminish it in any way. It is, to paraphrase Walt Whitman, vast – it contains multitudes.

The beauty and power of freedom is that it is a space which can be stepped into any time, from anywhere, in any situation. It is available to us all – and while we are in touch with it we are untouchable, fearless and strong.

As Zen teacher Cheri Huber says:

"We are desperate to control because we believe ourselves to be separate, alone, and vulnerable. When I am not separate, there is no one to protect. I am invincible-I can be defenseless."

Michael Neill is a life coach and the author of "The Seven Myths of Success," an audio program. Hear him Thursdays at 11am on HayHouse Radio or visit his website,

This article was originally published on June 28, 2007.