Cultivating Courage

There are so many things that keep people from living a life they dream about. There is one thing is more powerful than even the dream itself though.

You probably have experienced this in your life, it’s the thing that prevents you from asking the pretty girl out or talking to that handsome guy. It’s the thing that prevents you for asking for the raise or promotion or starting your own dream business. It stands between you and what you really want.

It is FEAR

When I hear of this it breaks my heart because, although I’ve been stopped by fear too, I have learned to cultivate courage and because of this, a whole new world has opened up for me.

I would love to encourage you to explore and enhance your courage.

Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it is the making of action in spite of fear.

– M. Scott Peck

So how do we cultivate courage in the face of fear? There are several methods – what I do is; Name it and face it head on (not for the faint of heart!)

A prime example for you. I had a fear of drowning, so I did what every normal person does and signed up for scuba diving class. My thought was the best way to conquer this was to put a load of heavy stuff on my back and get dropped into the ocean where the bottom was forty feet down.

I know, for most people that is crazy! And for me, it was even a bit crazy, however all my fears disappeared when after having what felt like twenty pounds of equipment on my back where I could barely stand up, imagine my surprise when I couldn’t get below surface! My instructor had to come over and put more weight in my vest!

It turned out, and has almost proved true every time since, that usually my fear is completely made up out of my imagination. I have learned that I have an incredible imagination and one that works even better when I have few facts involved.  If I gather  more facts about that which I fear, I can sometimes ease my fear.

How about you?

If you begin to really think about something you are scared to do in your life. Regardless if this “thing” is small or large and really research it or look into it in detail, you might find out that you are making fake news about this “thing.” By looking into the real details you might find it no longer quite so scary. In some cases combatting your imagination with enough truth will allow the fear to subside enough to make a step.

Another technique I use is the best case/worst case scenario. I often find myself developing this worst case scenario which is (again with the incredible imagination) a spectacular fail. You know the kind, where you don’t only fail, but you have an epic fail where your whole life crumbles in one fell swoop.

I have come to realize – through many failings – that I rarely, if ever, have I failed this spectacularly. If I did, it would make a great story and one you would certainly one day find here, but alas, it has yet to happen.

The converse of this worst-case scenario is what would happen if you spectacularly succeed? We often get so caught up in preventing an epic fail, we hardly look at the benefits of taking such a risk. The benefits are usually great (which is why we want to do the “thing”) however we spend little time with our imagination focused on what life will be like if we succeed – even a little.

The final question to ask yourself is, what will your life be like if you never try? When I took my scuba course, I got a certified teacher and went though all the classes and guess what? I didn’t drown and I’m a certified diver and have been all over the world diving and I absolutely love it! My life is forever changed by the opportunity to explore a part of this planet that not everyone gets to see.

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

– Benjamin Mee

So I encourage you to work through one of these exercises in your journal, muster up your twenty seconds of courage and try something you’ve been afraid to try. The amount your life expands when you overcome a fear is fantastic and it leads you to the knowledge that you are truly only limited by your own thoughts.

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Becoming Limitless

**Warning this process can become addictive**

Fear is paralyzing at times. It causes us to remain in a place not necessarily of comfort but of familiarity. The old statement “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.”

However fear stifles growth if you let it. It shuts down the very essence of living because as the saying goes, “if you’re not living, you’re dying.” I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to be dying.

I have no desire to live a predictable life where outcomes and results are safe or guaranteed, so I live life in a manner that scares most people (mostly my poor father).  I move to places I’ve never been and don’t know anyone, I take risks like starting my own business and I dream big, like building an island retreat center.

I am constantly taking steps in the direction of my fear because although I’m not a thrill-seeker, I do like the feeling of overcoming my fear.  In the case of fear, the end justifies the means for me.

Most of what I do on a regular basis is something I hear others say they could “never do” – but I thoroughly disagree. I think everyone has the capacity to live the life I do however for some, it’s not what floats their boat, and for others they just haven’t mustered the courage to take the chance to try.

Here is the thing though. I did not wake up one day with the courage to do these “crazy” things and dream as big as I do. As a matter of fact, I was a child who was scared of the dark and had many fears that required an unimaginable amount of stuffed animals for comfort and a feeling of security while I was growing up.

I made little strides over time. My mother was not entirely gentle on pushing me through some of it, but it worked just the same. Sometimes the fear of your mother being mad is way bigger than whatever bogyman you think exists! Regardless of how, my mother was intent on raising me as a capable young woman and stretched me to do things I was afraid to do. Through the process I began to cultivate courage.

As I got older, I put myself into circumstances that were a bit difficult to say the least. I found that I was able to overcome incredible odds because I just had to. I learned that even if I thought something was not possible, I should try anyway.  Sometimes things turned out the way I hoped…and sometimes not, but I always learned something from the experience.

I found that my boundaries and limits were really not as clear as I thought. I continued to push them both figuratively and litterally. I started small and continued to expand as I had successes.

I can still remember the feeling of crossing the finish line of my first 5k race. Having been a two pack-a-day smoker for over ten years, this was not only an unthinkable achievement, but a goal I never would have even considered just years before.

Today I’m a marathoner.

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So this is where the warning comes in. I have found that once you start realizing that limits are self perceived, you may start looking for your next challenge. Each time I overcome a challenge or overtake fear, I think, well if I can do that, what else can I do?

Today I encourage you to take those baby steps to stretch your courage just a bit.  To work at something you feel might just be a bit out of reach for you.  You will be amazed at the feeling you get just by trying and as you build successes.

As you begin to expand your vision of what is possible for you, you may find yourself looking for the next big thing just out of reach, and the next, and the next. You get the point.

I’ll just remind you, you’ve been warned!

I can’t wait to hear where your newfound courage takes you!
-E