I recently started listening to a new podcast called Do It Scared (link at the end) and the presenter Ruth Soukup always starts the podcast by stating that courage is not the absence of fear, courage is being scared but taking action anyway (paraphrased).
I happen to believe that is true – my fear does not go anywhere, and so I have had to learn to cultivate courage in order to move forward on my goals and projects. I was recently thinking about the things that I have been doing to cultivate this courage, and decided to share a few of them here on the blog.
1. Take action. I am making this sound easier than it is. In truth, when I am afraid sometimes taking action is the last thing I want to do (and the very thing that I am afraid of) and so I can easily procrastinate myself into a corner. One strategy I started using for this is something I call lowering the stakes (and I wrote about it in this blog post). If I am afraid to take action on something that is big, and meaningful and important, then I find something that is related, but may be less meaningful or involved, and take action on that. In truth – action and momentum can allow us to move forward, even with our fear. One of the examples I gave – starting the blog – before I shared it with anyone! I just wanted to take the action of writing and pushing publish. It took me writing several blog posts before I shared them with anyone. Taking these actions eventually allowed me to write my book, which I will be self-publishing later this year. I have realized that for me two of the biggest ways my fear shows up is through procrastination and perfectionism. This is especially true when the stakes are high and I am thinking about doing “the thing” – whatever that big goal or aim is. Often the perfectionism and procrastination leads me to not take any action at all, and so taking action on a task that is less important can sometimes help me build up the courage to step into the task or action that I truly want to take. Lowering the stakes can often give me the courage to take imperfect action and this can lead me on the path to the outcome that I eventually am working towards, and sometimes to even better outcomes, on a path that I can enjoy and learn along the way.
2. Finish something. I found that setting small goals and reaching them built huge amounts of courage. Sometimes just knowing that I have the ability to finish something I started, or to reach a goal that I set out can give me courage to set bigger goals and reach those as well. I learned a long time ago that planning a project, starting it and finishing it require varying skillsets and taking that process through from start to finish can build tremendous amounts of courage, as well as give me a blueprint of where I need the most support throughout the process. I am a great planner and starter, but when it comes to finishing, that is when the procrastination I spoke about earlier sets in, and that is where I need the most accountability and encouragement. Knowing this about myself means that I can put these things in place so that I can finish what I started, and the boost of courage from that can propel me into my next project. This also leads back to my first point when I spoke about lowering the stakes. I realized that when I found smaller projects that were less important and finished them I had the confidence in myself that I could finish what I started and that was huge for me.
3. Celebrate your wins – even the small ones. So when you finish that low stakes project, or reach that small goal celebrate the heck out of it! I am terrible at this I must confess. This requires having clarity – know what “finished” looks like, or define when you have reached the goal so that you can celebrate it. Even if you have a big goal, break it down into little mini goals and celebrate each one. I am a big picture person, so for me I tend to focus on what is left undone rather than what was done. But I decided that instead of deciding to celebrate when the book is finally finished, I decided to celebrate when I had done 3 writing sessions in one week. Or when I had reached the halfway point. Or when I had written the first draft – and so on. I found this built my courage as I moved onto the next step.
4. Hang around with inspiring people. These can be people on the same journey as you so that you can encourage one another, or people working towards different goals. I always found courage in seeing other people working towards their goals whatever they were. I also found that I would lose courage if I was around people who were convinced that there was no point in working towards goals, or who were finding more excuses not to try than reasons to try. This can include people to give you practical tips on actually reaching your goal to help steer you if you have gone off track, accountability buddies to check in and cheerleaders to encourage you. I find that all of these people are so helpful in building courage, and sometimes I can borrow a bit of theirs when I don’t have enough of my own.
So there are a few things I do to build the courage I need to take action in spite of my fears. How do you build courage, or take action in spite of your fears? I would love to have some new tactics to try!
I send you big love from a small island.
PS Here is the link to the podcast I mentioned - Do It Scared by Ruth Soukup.
PPS Above is a photo I took in beautiful Switzerland! Just because…