How Do You Define Courage?
Do you think you are courageous? I know I didn't think I was. A couple of years ago, I found myself curled up in my bed, depressed.
I had a good life. I had a reliable job and a nice place to live. I had friends around me. And I felt guilty about being depressed.
Deep inside, I knew that I was meant for more but I felt paralyzed to make a change because I didn't have a clear vision of how to move forward.
I remember wrapping my arms around my knees and hugging them to my chest. I was so afraid to move forward, but I knew that I could not continue living a "good" life when my spirit longed to be free. I wanted to express my greatness!
You may feel the same way I did. Maybe not. You may doubt that same greatness lies within you or you may have absolute confidence in it.
No matter what your situation is, courage is the common denominator when it comes to success. Let me share what I did to move from depression to momentum.
Fundamentally courage means taking responsibility for your life.
When I lay in my bed, depressed with a "good" life that I felt was going nowhere, the first step out of the quagmire was to start to take responsibility.
What can I do right this minute that will make me feel happy? I thought. What will help me to feel connected to my purpose?
Instinctively, I sat up, flipped on the light and grabbed a notebook that was nearby. I started writing a conversation with myself. I wrote all the advice that I knew the "best version" of myself would give me. I wrote it all down. My hand cramped and I didn't lay down my pen till nearly 3 a.m.
It was a small step, but it was the first step in taking responsibility for where I was in life.
Courage means exercising the strength to see life as it is, to see yourself as you are, to see life as you would like it to be and to take action consistent with that vision.
Why do I say that courage means being able to see life and yourself as they are? Honestly? Because most of us do not.
If you think about it, you usually view life according to one of two extremes. You either look at your life from a "fantasy-land" perspective. You fail to take action because you're afraid you will fracture the fantasy. The other extreme is that you see your life worse than it really is. You look at the circumstances of your life and wonder, what's the point?
Did you notice that the results of both ways of being in the world are the same? Paralysis.
Why is this?
Fear keeps you from moving forward in both examples. So courage is looking at life how it really is. The next question is "how?"
None of us can be completely objective in our own experiences. Here are some tips that can help you, however.
1. The Courage to See Life As It Is
- Look Through Someone Else's "Lens"
Take a look at your life from someone else's perspective. You can gain perspective from another person by listening for their observation of you and your circumstances. The key with this practice is not to solicit a response. In other words, don't go around asking people, "What do you think of me/my situation?"
This is where most people flub up. They go around soliciting all sorts of input from our friends, loved ones and even strangers. Everyone has an opinion. You will find that when you fill your mind with the opinions of others, you will just feel more confused.
Has this ever happened to you? If so, then you know exactly what I'm talking about.
The reason this happens is that most of us want to maintain equilibrium in our lives. Your friends and family are no different. They do not really want you making major changes or shifts in your life which might upset their view of their own life and how you fit into it.
- What Are Your Stories?
Human beings tell stories. We tell stories about ourselves, our lives and our circumstances. And we trust our stories and believe that they are the truth. Because we believe them to be true, they often manifest in our lives as truth. The more we believe them, the more substantiating circumstances appear in our experience to "prove" to us that our stories are true.
I had all sorts of stories about what I was worth and about what I could accomplish. When I started writing that night, I remember thinking, I'm just going to suspend my beliefs about what's possible for me while I write.
Day after day, page upon page flowed out of me. Suddenly, someone asked, "Are you writing a book?"
I hadn't planned on it being a book at all. I was writing for the sheer joy of writing, but that's what it was turning into. That single question gave me a view through someone else's "lens," and I started to craft a new story about myself.
Soon, I was telling my friends and colleagues, "I'm writing a book." I was finally doing my "important" work–the work I felt I was meant to do.
If you can become aware of your stories, you have a much better perspective on yourself and life. Awareness automatically provides an opportunity to decide if the story serves you or not. If not, you have the chance to choose a different story to tell.
2. The Courage To See The Life You Desire
Let me make a helpful distinction between a vision of the life you desire and a fantasy created for the purpose of escape.
If you spend your time daydreaming of "if only…" and "what if…?" situations, then you are probably living in a fantasy. The purpose of creating a vision of the life you desire is not to escape reality; it is to create a new one.
If you spend your valuable time and energy dreaming of a past that will never return or of a future that will never appear, then you are wasting your life.
Creating a vision of the life you desire means looking clearly at your present life and making a decision to change it. It does not mean wishing for it to change. It means taking responsibility for the present and deciding to create something different going forward.
This is much more challenging than simple daydreaming, because it requires you to take absolute responsibility for everything in your life. It also requires you to take responsibility for the life you want to create.
3. The Courage to Take Action
Most of us automatically think of taking action when we think about courage. But unless you exercise the first two steps in the process (i.e., do the internal work), you will be far less successful producing the results you are looking for.
Almost as soon as I started writing–and decided that I was writing a book–the next question was "how?" That's when the doubt came!
You don't know anything about real writing.
You don't have any connections in the publishing industry.
What if no one wants to read a thing you write?
The doubts began to fill my head. I was facing fear of my own insecurities and each was clamoring for attention.
How will it all come together? I wondered.
This is what I did.
- Take the Step You Can See
It's easy to get distracted making lists and plans and projections. Do your homework, but then focus, unwavering, on taking the step you can see. There's an amazing thing that happens when you take the step you can see. More steps are revealed to you.
- Clarify Your Purpose
As you start moving forward, you'll gain more insight, experience and information. Keep clear on your goal, but constantly clarify your purpose. When you get results you don't want, lay aside the actions and tools that created those results and pick up new or different ones.
- Keep Moving
Don't stop moving. Even when you face obstacles and hurdles, don't stop moving. Don't allow your fear or uncertainty to trap you into a immobility. If you keep moving, the path will eventually open up for you. It has to. It's the way of everything.
Eventually, I finished my book. It took a lot of determination and effort, but the pieces fell into place, one step at a time.
The Bottom Line for You
The main point is that you don't think you have courage. Or you don't think you have enough courage. That's horsepucky!
Don't mistake courage for valor. Every human being has the capacity for courage.
Courage is exercised every day in small decisions that you make when you decide to take responsibility for your own life.
Be strong. Be confident. Live courageously!