Life decisions all have one thing in common: courage. To try anything new takes courage—a new relationship, going back to school, starting a family, changing careers, speaking up at a meeting, starting your own business.
A few months ago, I had a big birthday (one with a 0 at the end). On that day, it really dawned on me that I am not going to live forever. I thought about what really mattered and what I want my life to be about. Then it came to me: courage. Without courage, nothing really matters, nothing exciting and meaningful happens.
How many times in your life have you…
- Had a great idea but didn’t pursue it?
- Started an exciting project but never completed it?
- Felt strongly about something but never spoke up about it?
- Procrastinated or talked yourself out of a dream you had?
- Met someone special but did not take the time to allow a relationship to blossom?
- Became overwhelmed with choices in your life and ended up not doing any of them?
When you feel stuck or unhappy with your present life situation, you might be lacking the courage to change it. On my birthday, I decided that I would make my life about courage and do all I can to live a fearless life, and inspire others to do the same.
With courage, all things are possible. You become unstoppable. With courage, you are living from your heart and moving forward in a way that is authentic for you. When that happens, everything just works better. You are free. Life becomes a grand adventure of your own design.
A courageous life sounds great, doesn’t it? Why, then, aren’t more of us living this kind of extraordinary life?
Fear. Fear happens when we let our mind rule more than our heart. Fear holds us back. Fear is the inner critic and the ultra-conservative voice in your head that tells you to play it safe. You need security and comfort. Your brain makes you second-guess.
- What if I fail?
- What if I am ridiculed?
- What if, what if, what if?!
I am not going to tell you that fear does not exist. Some people might tell you that it’s all in your head or that it’s not real and it’s just something you are imagining. “Just be fearless and brave,” they might advise. But I believe fear is real. From the time we are born, we are faced with life’s uncertainties.
Courage does not mean you are fearless. Courage is doing something despite your fear. Like a muscle that gets stronger, the more your work your courage muscle, the stronger it gets. With practice and consistent effort, you will become more courageous and live a more successful life in the areas that matter to you.
Your dreams are waiting for you. The time to begin is now. To get started, here are five bold exercises to jumpstart your courage regimen.
Ideally, you know what you want and where you wish to end up. Even if you are not clear on your destination (or your goals change, which happens as you grow), you can always move in the direction of courage. Set that compass. Chart your course.
I like to think of courage as my North Star. Whenever I have to make a decision or choice about something, I close my eyes, imagine the brightest star in the night sky, and aim for that. Even if it means doing something scary or risky, I know that by choosing courage, I am on the right path.
In a notebook or journal, write down a list of fears you have. Perhaps it’s public speaking, asking someone on a date, taking that exotic trip abroad or asking your boss for a raise. Write them down. As you write down your fears, notice how you feel. If you are feeling anxiety, good. Now you know what to work on. The more afraid you feel about something, the greater benefit you’ll reap by doing it.
No matter how uncomfortable, commit to taking action on the fears you just wrote down. Take an impromptu speaking class, ask that special person out for dinner, plan your dream vacation or prepare for a meeting with your boss about your value to the company. Once you begin to face and then do what you are afraid of, your confidence grows exponentially. The more you get into the habit of choosing courage, the more you walk toward becoming unstoppable.
We tend to be creatures of habit. It’s scary to do something new when we don’t know what the outcome will be. I am going to challenge you to lean into and embrace uncertainty. In his book Courage: The Joy of Living Dangerously, the late spiritual teacher Osho encourages us to look at uncertainty and call it wonder instead. He would advise us to not worry about insecurity, but rather focus on the freedom we will enjoy by taking risks. What a great perspective. Imagine having a life filled with wonder and freedom…. Sign me up!
This is very difficult. It’s scary to show our vulnerable selves to others. We are social creatures. We so want and need to belong. But the mere thought and threat of being judged and rejected sends most of us back to our “safe and secure” existence. Don’t hide and keep yourself from the world. Not only is it tremendously painful and exhausting to not be yourself, but the world also loses out on the special gifts that only you have to offer.
Don’t be afraid to shine. Someone might need your light. It starts with courage.