The 8 Habits of Agility – Emotional Agility is a Foundation for Sustainable Peak Performance, Creative Flow and Agile Productivity

Becoming Agile is about developing fluency, competence and EASE with rolling with life’s curve balls – whatever the source. It’s about finding your rhythms with creative flow and peak performance. Literally everything you want to achieve in life requires cultivating emotional agility: the ability to utilize the power of your emotional energy cycles to lead yourself on the journey through daily living and personal growth.  

Emotional Agility is a critical foundation for becoming wiser, healthier, happier, for  designing and evolving a meaningful career and lifestyle, and for continuously evolving sustainable productivity systems and practices. You can’t be productive if you are frequently overwhelmed, anxious, exhausted, pressured, depressed, and/or are emotionally triggered by your perceived mistakes or shortcomings, right?

In my take on Agile philosophy which I call AgiliZen, I define Agility as the practice of 8 Habits that empower us to master the 8 Dances of Life; creatively orchestrate time, tasks, and projects; and connect and collaborate with others in a way that contributes to our overall well-being instead of exhausting and draining us. Of the 8 habits, mental and emotional agility are the keystones – the ones upon which all the other habits are built. 

The 8 Habits of Personal Agility

When personal agility in the 8 Habits is low, life may be experienced as a painful struggle full of conflict and stuckness which may show up in any or all of the following ways: under-achieving, under-earning, chronic overwhelm, frustration and/or resentment, inability to rest without feeling guilty or lazy, clutter, depression, anxiety, procrastination, and addictions – just to name a few.     

The 8 Habits of Personal Agility are: 

1. Mental agility – the habit of countering  either / or, good or bad, dualistic thinking with full spectrum thinking- thinking constructively, critically, and creatively – seeing things from multiple perspectives, expand options or set limits as the situation requires.  There are always more than two options.  Mental agility is composed of the keystone habits of:

  • Pausing to define needs, options and criteria to make wiser decisions before acting.
  • Exercising your ability to notice your own biases or “default settings”. 
  • Becoming willing and ready to relinquish your mind’s default settings so that you can entertain ideas and thoughts that are different and even opposite of your own. Embracing opposition and uncertainty are vital to your ability to organically learn and grow. 
  • Becoming ready to adapt your thinking, choices, ideas, strategies to fit the challenges, limits and available resources of your current context.   

2. Emotional agility – the habit of consciously utilizing your emotional energy to navigate life. We cannot fully control our emotional lives, but we can influence, shape and facilitate our emotional well-being to support both our short and long term best interests. Agile emotional attachments and resiliency are essential ingredients of emotional agility. Attaching with Agility is the skill of attaching consciously, deeply and yet lightly enough that you are able to detach easily when necessary is a powerful and necessary emotional agility skill for the digital age and the constant, rapid change that comes with it. The habit of “agilizing” our attachments to things, ideas, information, people, solutions, systems, technology etc is a prerequisite to overall emotional agility and well-being. 

3. Task agility –  the habit of regularly adapting tasks to fit the situation, context and resources at hand.  It includes the art of strategizing your systems, time, energy and attention to facilitate transitioning from one task, project, or function to the next without fear that you won’t get back to it. Task agility requires trusting that tasks can be achieved in more flexible, non-linear ways if you keep an open mind about them.  Designing task completion strategies to fit the way your unique brain naturally functions is addressed in one of the 10 AgiliZen Mantras:  Design for Your Brain.


4. Attention agility - the habit of mindfully “paying attention to the way we pay attention”. Becoming aware of how our attention cycles work, our natural limits, what diverts it, and what helps us refuel and sustain it so that we can facilitate our own ability to focus and to be creative as needed.  Attention agility involves designing our commitments and environments with this precious and limited resource in mind. Assessing the cognitive load of each task, decision, project etc along with knowing your own limits and cycles helps you plan more realistic timelines and time when you do things.  Managing the load on your attention circuits throughout the day is a critical skill for managing time, stress and overall health and wellbeing – especially if your career and/or lifestyle exposes you to information and attention overload on a regular basis.

5. Belief agility – the habit of noticing the unarticulated, incomplete and inaccurate beliefs that are shaping our emotional life, decisions and behaviors. Understanding how our culture, language, and interactions with others shape our nonverbal unconscious and often self-limiting beliefs.  The habit of bringing beliefs into awareness, compassionately challenging them, consciously designing our beliefs, and facilitating our own inner team to integrate the new beliefs that support our growth, development is a requirement for staying open to new learning. Knowledge is advancing so fast today that today our beliefs need to be more like “working assumptions” that we are ready to let go of as new insights emerge.  Our personal growth and evolution of wisdom DEMAND mastering this skill and cultivating it into a habit.

6. Learning agility –  the habit of recognizing when we have a need to learn something new, and when we need to “unlearn” something.  Understanding that learning requires patience and an an open mind, we develop the habit of becoming willing to tolerate and even encourage making mistakes.  The habit of self-acknowledging, appreciating and celebrating our own efforts and allowing progress to be slow is vital to teaching ourselves new habits and changing old ones.   Learning agility is essential to breaking through procrastination.  Realizing that procrastination is often a learned habit and a form of feedback to yourself empowers you to “listen to your resistance” and use it to learn and design solutions that support you in moving from stuckness into action.  If you aren’t putting what you think you know into action, some ingredient of full learning or mastery is missing. Rather than “blame” or criticize ourselves that learning “should” be easy, the agile learner seeks to figure out what is needed to inspire deeper learning and ultimately taking action.  

7. Commitment agility – the habit of designing commitments to make them easier to follow-through on, to gracefully juggle, adjust , renegotiate or terminate as needed.  Trusting yourself to dance with commitments without overcomitting and knowing that you have the time, energy and resources to follow-through is the ultimate source of confidence.  Trusting yourself to juggle commitments with basic self-care needs and ensure that your needs will NOT be ritually and consistently sacrificed to meet other people’s needs is the sign that you have strong healthy boundaries and have mastered the habits of commitment agility.  Your commitments are a reflection of your ability to make effective decisions,  How you say Yes or No is the driver of your ability to focus your energy and attention without constantly feeling overwhelmed or debilitated by the commitments you’ve made. 

8. Expectation agility –  the habit of articulating and clarifying the expectations and assumptions which are at the root of inner conflict, frustration, disappointment and dissatisfaction. When expectations are clear, you become able to openly and confidently negotiate and re-negotiating expectations with people.  The art of agilizing expectations is essential to designing flexibility AND follow-through into our commitments and avoiding the trap of becoming a “prisoner of your promises.”  Expectations are often used to compare ourselves to others and deeply shape the way we judge ourselves and others. Unclear, unspoken expectations are usually too rigid or too loose and wreak havoc in our lives and with our productivity. They deeply shape our ability to function in life. The habit of being able to modify and adjust our expectations to fit the realities of our present circumstances is a foundation of our ability to motivate ourselves and cultivate sustainable success and greater life satisfaction. 


To be notified when more articles like this are published, join my mailing list here


If you like this article and wish to share it with others I would be honored. Just include a link back to this article.  If you would like to reprint it contact me to discuss how you would like to use it. 

Thank you!


If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.

3 thoughts on “The 8 Habits of Agility – Emotional Agility is a Foundation for Sustainable Peak Performance, Creative Flow and Agile Productivity

  1. Pingback: The Truth about Chronic Disorganization: What Causes It and How to Heal the Trauma of Lifelong Overwhelm and Frustration | Ariane Benefit, M.S.Ed

  2. Pingback: 5 Steps to Cultivating the Power of Habit – How to Transform Self-Limiting Thought Habits with Agile Thinking Habits | Ariane Benefit, M.S.Ed

  3. Pingback: Suggested Resources for Getting Started in the Shift to Agility and Design Thinking | Ariane Benefit, M.S.Ed

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>