We're exploring in more depth the ideas from last week's article on how to stay on course during turbulent times.
#2: Develop your courage muscles by doing something every day that scares the heck out of you.
I'm not talking about stepping in front of a bus or putting yourself at physical risk, although if the idea of bungee jumping or sky diving appeals to you, go for it! Oprah took a group of women to the desert for an outdoor challenge course and their self-esteem and self-confidence skyrocketed as a result of facing their fears and going beyond what they thought they could do.
Challenging yourself in the outdoors is one way to develop your courage muscles. But I suggest there are hundreds of ways to develop courage and build self-confidence so that you can be equipped to face your life head on. Here are a few:
1) See your life as an adventure instead of something to get through. When you visit a foreign country or go to a place you've never been, your everyday patterns are disrupted and nothing is predictable. You don't know what's around the next corner, but your curiosity is stronger than your fear, so you go for it anyway. You try new things; eat foods you've never eaten, ride on the back of an elephant, climb to the top of a temple, meet new people and make new friends. What if you could approach your everyday life with that same attitude?
The truth is: every day is indeed, a new moment. You have never walked on the territory of this day before. It could be like every other day, in which you show up being who you've always been, doing what you've always done and creating pretty much the same results you've always had. Or you could wake up into the thought: "Today is a brand new day. I've never lived this day before. What could be possible?"
Seeing your life through the lens of adventure has your antennae in the up position. New possibilities become visible. Becoming an adventurer opens you to seeing new solutions to old problems. The impossible begins to look possible. You learn to tap into resources you didn't know you had.
2) Learn to stretch yourself. Bringing a sense of adventure to each day sets the frame within which you step outside your "comfort zone" and give yourself little "stretching assignments". Make a game of it. What would be a stretch for you?
Start with small stretches and work up to the bigger ones. Take a salsa class, join Toastmasters and learn public speaking, learn a new language, travel to a foreign country by yourself, approach a difficult person at work, ask for a raise, share with your boss your great new ideas for increasing productivity in the workplace. With you've tackled this level, graduate to the next.
3) Clean up the unfinished business of your relationships. This is probably the biggest source of avoidance for most people. Who are the people in your life with whom you have unfinished business? Things like: misunderstandings, hurt feelings, dishonesty, lack of trust, and betrayal sit like stones in the heart. When the heart is heavy with unexpressed painful emotions, we are stopped dead in our tracks.
Relationship breakdowns require authentic courage to address. But address them you must if your life is to move forward. Consider this too as a sort of adventure, not in a glib way, but in the sense that you have no idea what will happen if you do, but you know what will happen if you don't. No new risks, no new results. What you have to lose is your false sense of pride and the illusion of being right. I'll be writing more about cleaning up relationships in future posts.
4) Give up the need to look good and be right. These are deadly qualities guaranteed to keep you in your comfort zone and shrink your courage muscles. Worrying about what other people will think or say about you if you express yourself authentically may help you to "fit in", but it comes with a price.
"Fitting in" is like "being normal". It's not wrong to want to be normal. At some level, we all want and need to fit in and look at least somewhat "normal", but it's important to be clear about what it costs you. If you compromise your integrity or authenticity in order to look good and fit in, who loses in the end? If you stifle your creativity, and give up your personal power in order to look good and fit in, is it really worth it?
Needing to be right at all costs and fearing being wrong are also killers of courage. How can you take risks if you feel you need to be perfect? Olympic athletes strive for perfection, but they also take enormous risks. Sometimes they win and sometimes they fail. But failures are where the learning happens. Letting go of needing to be right and giving yourself permission to be wrong leaves room for learning. It allows for freedom and passion, which are both strong courage builders.
5) Trust yourself. Trust that you are enough. Trust that you can count on you to come through, no matter what. It's not about being perfect; it's about knowing that whether the chips are down or they're up, you will be there for yourself. Even if you have no idea how to accomplish your goals or go after your dreams, trust that there is a deeper well of wisdom to draw from. Finally:
6) Be a "YES"! Just say yes. Yes, you can. Yes, you will. Say yes, not because you need someone's approval, but because in your heart you know that being a "yes" to life opens the doors to new adventures and will take you to places you never dreamed of. So make a game out saying yes to something every day that makes you uncomfortable. What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail? Your courage is waiting for you. What will you say "yes" to today?
Stay tuned for more on navigating turbulent times as well as future posts on the Raisin Years. I love to read and respond to your comments, so please log on and let's hear what you think!
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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