Have you ever looked back and wished you’d been braver? I certainly have. What we often don’t realise is the profound toll that fear can take when we let it call the shots. In fact, research shows that the number one regret of the dying is that they lived too safe and risked too little, living the life others wanted them to live but not the one they wanted for themselves. Overcoming our innate fear requires us to build courage. But not one big bold act of courage, lots of smaller ones, every day.
The good news is that courage is not an attribute endowed on the lucky few. It’s a learned behaviour, a skill. Like all skills, it can be strengthened and mastered with practice. Like building your muscles at the gym, you can build bravery in your life. Commit to ‘train the brave’ in small ways, often.
This requires embracing discomfort as a prerequisite for your success. That is, consciously choosing to take emotional risks and do the very things that put your pride and sense of safety, security and significance on the line for the sake of something more important. Like your hearts deepest longing and avoiding the greater risk of ever having to look back and ask yourself “But what if I’d tried?”
Having worked with clever, capable and creative women around the world for the last 20 years, I’ve learnt that there are few things more powerful than a woman who has found her courage to defy her doubts and step into her power. Here are seven acts of everyday courage to get you building your courage muscles for life.
I know that if you commit to one a day over the next 7 days, a week from now you will feel braver and your future will grow bigger and brighter.
Dial up your daring
We fail far more from timidity than we ever do from over-daring. So if there’s an area of your life right now you aren’t inspired about, build courage and set yourself a bold goal that really lights you up (even if it scares you a little, too). Like doubling your revenue in the next two years or running a marathon. Only when you dare to do more than you think you can do you realise how little reason you ever had to doubt yourself.
Say no to the ‘good’
It’s very easy to fill your day being busy. The question is, busy doing what? Many women struggle with saying no. But if you say yes to the many “good” offers, invitations and opportunities that come your way, you could be using up all your capacity to pursue the truly great things waiting for you. Does saying no mean you might disappoint people occasionally? Sure. But better that than to feel disappointed in yourself later on. Sometimes you have to say no to the good to create space for the great.
Make a bold request
If you find yourself frustrated that you’re not getting what you want or need, consider that you may not have asked for it. People aren’t mind readers, and expecting them to know what you want often just ends in frustration and resentment. If there’s something you want, dare to ask. Seriously, what have you got to lose? Even if they say no, at least you know where you stand. My experience has taught me that the more people who know what you want, the more who can help you get it.
Build courage and speak up
Too often, our fear of causing offence or ruffling feathers keeps us from saying what needs to be said. Kathy Calvin, President of the United Nations Foundation, shared with me, “Whatever your career, you have to be willing to take risks, to speak up and to push back when you don’t agree with what others are thinking.” When all you do is try to fit in, “people please” and keep the peace, you negate the difference your difference can make. Some boats need rocking.
Call it quits
If there’s something you’ve been investing in (whether it be time, money or energy) that is clearly not working for you, have the courage to call it quits, learn whatever lessons you can, then move on. Every day you spend investing in something that isn’t moving you closer to what you most want is a day you aren’t channelling your energy in something that could. In short, if you’ve landed in a hole, stop digging.
Be decisive despite your uncertainty
Fear of making a wrong decision can keep us from making the right one. Take a few moments to sit quietly and tune into the inner voice of wisdom that knows what is best, then make the call. Life rewards action, not indecision.
Break the rules
When all you do is conform, all you offer is conformity. This isn’t about breaking the rules for the sake of it. Rather it’s about doing what works for you even if that means defying the expectations and ideas of those around you and going out on a limb for whatever it is that tugs most at your heart. After all, how can you ever achieve outstanding success you’ve got to be willing to build courage and put yourself ‘out there.’ Just remember, playing it safe can provide a short-term sense of safety but in the long run, it just leaves us less secure, not more so.
So whatever it is that you’ve been putting off for fear of falling short or looking foolish, now is your time to stop letting your doubts call the shots. Only by daring to do the very things that make you scared can you ever come to realise how little reason you ever had to feel afraid to begin with.
Train the brave and build courage. Each time you take action in the presence of your fear you dilute its power and grow your own.
About the author
Margie Warrell is a bestselling author, international speaker and host of the Live Brave Women’s Weekends. If you’d love a little more support to step bravely toward a future that lights you up, please check out her Live Brave Women’s Weekend coming up this October 25-27 just outside Washington DC. Or register your interest for her Live Brave Weekend in Australia in 2020.