“The secret to happiness is freedom… And the secret to freedom is courage.” ~Thucydides
Courage is the difference between where you are now and where you want to be. It’s impossible to create an epic life without courage. Without it, you stay in your comfort zone and nothing interesting happens there!
There’s a difference between being fearless and being courageous. Fearless means you’re not afraid, which is rare. Courage is being scared and choosing to do it anyway. This is what can change your life from simply existing to some epic adventures, my friend!
There are a few things required for a courageous life. Let’s explore.
Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone
“Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.” ~Neale Donald Walsch
This quote has helped me muster up my courage more times than I can count. Its truth is simple and profound. If you want to change your life, you have to get uncomfortable. There’s no way around it.
You can move through discomfort with more ease and grace. It starts with understanding the comfort zone.
Our comfort zone is made up of all the things we’ve experienced and decided aren’t going to kill us. No seriously, this is the leftovers of our cavewoman brains. This means that any new experience is automatically going to be outside the comfort zone, no matter how small it seems. If we’ve never done it, we don’t know what to expect. Our brain automatically flags this as potentially threatening. Expect it anytime you want to try something new.
When we think about doing anything we’ve never done before, our brain sets off warning bells and screaming, “Stop! Don’t! Stay here in safety!”. That fear of failure, embarrassment, ridicule, and total destruction is your brain’s safety mechanism. It’s just trying to keep you unharmed, both physically and emotionally. That’s fine. Do it anyway.
Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable
After you’ve done the new thing once and survived, it starts inching its way into the comfort zone. It’s no longer in the “death and destruction” category and might move to the “still uncomfortable and I’m not sure I like it” zone. Baby steps. Every time you do it, it moves a little closer to “comfortable”.
There’s a super simple exercise you can do when you want to do epic shit and the fear is trying to stop you. Ready?
Acknowledge your fear and make room for it. It’s going to show up. Ignoring it just makes things more difficult.
Say “thank you”. Thank your fear for showing up and reminding you that you’re taking brave new steps toward the life you want.
Let your fear know you’re going to do it anyway. In Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic she likens it to having fear along on a road trip. I love the conversation she has with her fear. She says to her fears , “You’re allowed to have a seat and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you’re not allowed to have a vote.”
We can totally make peace with our fear and let it be there without letting it run the show. You’ve got this, girl. Next time you want to do some super rad shit and start freaking out, try these three little steps.
Give Your Courage Time to Grow
I wasn’t always courageous. I stayed in a shitty relationship for five years longer than I should have because I was scared. It was more comfortable to stay in a situation I knew was terrible than to jump out into the unknown. That sounds so crazy now! One of the things I remember thinking when I was getting divorced was, “Damn, if I’d known it was this easy, I would have done this so long ago!”
It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t nearly as scary as the stories my fears told me about how I couldn’t make it on my own. I was 25. I’d never lived alone. I didn’t want to be seen as weak and run home to my family.
My pride and fear kept me from admitting I’d made a mistake. When it was all said and done I swore, “Never again”. If I’m not happy and I know something isn’t right for me, I won’t stay out of fear. I’ll put on my big girl pants, step out of my comfort zone, and handle it.
It’s not easy. It’s scary every single time, but I’ll take the unknown over something that isn’t right for me. Leaving my “successful” corporate job was even scarier, but I knew I had to do it. There’s no way I could wake up and look in the mirror everyday knowing that I was trading my soul for “comfortable”.
Yes, going your own way is scary, but at least you’ll be able to sleep at night and know that you’re doing what’s right for you. Once you’ve done the scariest thing you’ve ever done, everything else is just a little easier. You’ll know that you’ve made it through some seriously scary shit and can do it again. That is courage.
You Have to Choose: Comfort or Magic
You have a choice. Do you want what’s comfortable or are you ready to face your fears and make some magic? There’s no wrong answer. Sometimes it’s a little of both. There’s nothing wrong with choosing what’s safe or easy, as long as it’s what makes you happy!
What will you regret if you don’t go for the magic? Yes, it’s going to be challenging, but it’s also going to be fun! You get to be the creator of your own life! What’s more fun than that?! What else are we here for? To pay bills and die? I think not, my friend.
Find the Courage to Try
If you choose to be courageous and go for the life you really fucking want, then you’ll live with far fewer regrets than if you watch it from the sidelines. It takes courage to try. It means that you’re willing to fail.Brene Brown’s work has been so influential for me. She put into words so much of how I experience the world. Trying requires us to be vulnerable. We take courageous action knowing full well we might fall on our faces. And while failure might hurt, it’s not nearly as painful as wondering, “what if.”
You Have to Give Yourself Permission
One of the things Brene talks about is her “permission slips”. She writes herself a sticky note with permission to step outside her comfort zone and go for the thing she wants. I’ve started doing it myself and it’s powerful!
When COVID-19 hit and demolished my ability to travel and my business, I was lost. It brought me back to my “why”, which has always been my desire to empower women to bigger, more epic lives. I want to change the world so women no longer expect less in position and happiness than their male counterparts. Small potatoes, right? Not so much.
It feels so completely massive and unattainable for one person. Where do I even start with a mission that big?! After spinning in circles about it, I decided to give myself permission to try. I wrote my first permission slip and it’s hanging on the wall in my office.
“Permission to try to change the world”, is what I wrote on that sticky note. That’s it. I get to try. If I fail epically, I’ll survive. What I can’t bear is the idea that I could have done something to help women see themselves and the possibilities for their life differently and didn’t.
Try. Fail. Get up. Try again. Be courageous in your pursuits of joy. It’s worth it. Every time.
Use Your Voice
What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail? What are you willing to try, even though you might fail? Share your stories in the comments!