I was being interviewed for a podcast last week and was asked if taking off on a road trip of indefinite length after selling all of my stuff was out of character for me, or if it was on course with my personality.
(I did, in fact, do that in 2011. It was called The Freedom Tour, and it led to me marrying Mike. Best decision of my life.)
The question got me thinking about why we do things that are out of the ordinary, why we take risks, and what makes us push the boundaries of what we’ve learned is possible.
Courage comes from the Latin route “cor” which means heart.
So courage comes from our heart.
But when we’re shaking in our boots, feeling like we’re about to spew, and having trouble believing that no one else can see our heart fluttering wildly in our chest, we sometimes need something a little more substantial to hang onto.
I was asking Mike some business questions on a live video chat we were hosting last night. He told his story about leaving a really well paid job in corporate America to pursue his dream of being a business owner, so he could create the freedom to be at home with his family.
He didn’t come from a family of entrepreneurs.
He didn’t have a model to follow.
He took a lot of risks and colored way outside the lines.
He had no guarantees of success. But what he did have was way more valuable: courage.
Mike is a naturally pretty courageous guy. But not all of us feel so ballsy all the time. As I listened I began to wonder where courage comes from and how we get some if it’s eluding us.
After pondering Mike’s story of charting a new course for himself and thinking about the moments in my life when I’ve acted in spite of fear (which is how I define courage), I came up with the following.
So, for your pluck-bolstering pleasure, here are four places courage comes from and ways to get some if you’re feeling scared:
1. Have way-showers.
Way-showers are people who’ve walked the path before you. They’re people whose lives you admire and who have taken bold actions like you’d like to take. You don’t have to know these people, but sometimes you will. You can meet them at business events, in a coffee shop, or through reading biographies. They are the people who remind you of what’s possible when you’re sinking into the land of doubt. They are the people who hold the torch high, lighting the path, encouraging you that if they could do it, so can you. (It really does help to have a few of these people in your real life who you can call up from time to time, but it’s not necessary.)
2. Act on your intuition.
Two weeks before I left on The Freedom Tour, which was meant to be a solo trip, I got a very strong hunch to invite this guy I had barely met to come with me for the first 5 days from Buffalo to Phoenix. It didn’t make a ton of logical sense. I had only spent time with him on three occasions. But the feeling was super strong. So I acted. And I ended up with an amazing husband and business partner.
It’s one thing to know what your intuition is telling you. It’s another to act on it. Having people around you who also act on their intuition and support you in doing so really helps on this one.
(See way #1 above.)
Acting on your intuition is a different shade of listening to your heart. Courage is rooted in the heart. Your heart always knows the best answer. It doesn’t usually know the best answer. It always knows the best answer.
When you act on your intuition/listen to your heart, wonderful things happen. And then you prove to yourself that acting in spite of fear leads to good things. Which makes you feel more courageous. It’s an upward spiral that keeps on giving.
3. Avoid pain.
When Mike shared his story of leaving the corporate world and going out on his own, he said that he looked at his supervisors and realized he didn’t want their lives. He asked himself, “If I keep doing what I’m doing, what will my life look like in 5, 10, or even 20 years?” He didn’t like the answer. That image was painful to him. So he made a different choice.
While pleasure is nice, pain can be a beautiful motivator. Getting in touch with what will happen if you don’t act in spite of your fear can be just the ticket to get your rear in gear and tap the courage well.
4. Keep the dream alive.
While you’re avoiding pain, start to think about what you’re moving toward. Ask yourself: Will the discomfort I feel in taking this action be worth the outcome I desire on the other side?
99% of the time the answer is yes. (And if it’s not, then you know not to take the action, so that’s good information, too.)
Get in touch with your dream. For both Mike and me it’s been to create financial freedom so we can stay home with our kids one day. That dream is so palpable and meaningful to me that when I speak about it out loud, it makes me cry every single time.
When I have a phone call to make that I’m afraid to make or an ask to put out there that makes me want to hide in a cave, I think about my dream. I ask myself if the momentary discomfort of making this call or this ask would be worth being really present as my kids discover the world and being able to witness the magic of their childhood with them. The answer is always yes.
Do what you need to do to keep the dream alive. Make a vision board. Pin your heart out.
Create a circle of people who remind you of your dream when you’ve forgotten.
And remember this, if we’re not growing, we’re dying. Courage is the path of growth. Fear is the path of death.
As my dear friend Meggan Watterson, author of REVEAL, says:
“I’ve found when I move in the direction of fear, fear only increases.” And when we move in the direction of courage, our courage expands as well. The braver we get, the braver we get.
Which of the 4 ways to access courage most resonates with you? Do you have any other ways of tapping into your courage? I’d love to hear your ideas on this, so please leave a comment below!