...I had the Courage.
This is what we're going to explore in this article, as a follow up to If Only I Had A Choice.
In that article we came to the realisation that we do Always have a Choice. We have a Choice what we use our time and energy for in every second of the day. Some Choices are, by their nature, more difficult than others. Some Choices have more impact than others. Nonetheless, Choice does exist.
What we discovered was that it's often our Fear and the Stories we tell ourselves that convince us there is a lack of Choice. We left that article inspired to think big and to look at all the opportunities around us, of which there are many during these Extraordinary Times.
We have an opportunity to review what's been serving us, what hasn't, and what our future could look like if we made some different Choices.
With all this new-found possibility, and with this abundant Choice available to us, one reaction can be
“If only I had the Courage to make that Choice.”
You see, it's in human nature to fear the unknown. To fear the path that we haven't trodden before. For 66 million years this very thing has kept us safe, because the unknown could be a sabre-toothed tiger! So, we understandably prefer to remain safe with what we know and where we know.
In this modern world, however, ironically what can happen is the “safe place” or “comfort zone” can be pretty uncomfortable – but we convince ourselves that in order to limit risk, to avoid the sabre-toothed tiger of our times, we should stay where we are.
In caveman times that would be like staying in your solid, safe, albeit dark, cave … even though, as it rains heavily for weeks, the cave starts flooding. For the sake of familiarity, your relationship with the cave, and fear of what’s outside … you stay. Yet ever moment you stay in the cave, the health of you and your loved ones is being increasingly put at risk. The longer you leave it, it will also become more difficult to leave. You HAVE to make a Choice.
Do I Stay, or do I Leave?
Do I Accept my fate, or do I Fight for a better tomorrow?
It may not be a cave and flood, but the modern-day bubbles we can find ourselves in – at work, at home, in relationships, with health – can be just as serious.
If something, anything, doesn't serve you positively or is making you exhausted and ill, you HAVE to make a Choice. A Conscious, Intentional, Deliberate Choice. Stay or Leave? Accept or Fight? Compromise or Challenge? Exist or Live?
In the cold light of day, thinking clearly, it’s obvious what we could do. Yet we'll still convince ourselves that we can't possibly risk the unknown.
If Only I had the Courage
Maybe this is where Courage comes in. The Courage to step forward into the unknown. The Courage to see risk as an Opportunity for a better Life.
So, could Courage be the thing that helps raise the realisation that Change is ESSENTIAL, and we need to take the Action required? It certainly sounds like it would be useful; but realistically how do you summon Courage?
Courage feels like a very spontaneous, emotional reaction to fear. Have we really got to get to the point of no return to summon our Courage? Have things got to get so totally, unbearably bad that we have no option than to summon our Courage? I’m not sure. If that really was it – a natural reaction to unbearable pain - a great many people’s lives would have been so much better. Miserable existences, mental illness from stress and overwhelm, suicides – they would be so much less. It seems like something’s missing.
Is there something that could not only build our Courage and Confidence to Act, but even reduce our reliance on those admirable qualities?
How about a rock-solid Purpose, Aim, Goal, Vision? Something so powerful it could both propel you away from danger and towards freedom.
A Great Big BECAUSE!
Now we’re getting somewhere. A Purpose, a Reason, a Because that makes it absolutely critical that you make a different Choice to the one you’ve been living. Something you are so mentally, physically and emotionally committed to that there becomes no question that you need to do something different. Sticking to the current course is no longer even an option.
In fact, this could not only help with taking that first step towards a better tomorrow, but could also be the thing that keeps you driving forward when the going gets tough; or when you doubt yourself and are tempted to take steps backwards towards your previous uncomfortable “safety”.
Now, if we’re going to build your Great Big Because, we're going to have to dig deep. This isn’t surface level stuff. We’ve got to peel away those layers and get to the root, emotional core of Your Because.
Look around. Look at your life, your work, your relationships, your health, your family. What Choices are there that could improve your life? What opportunities do you have, but maybe you’ve always found a regrettable excuse to turn the other way? These are things that could seriously shape your life going forward. Got something? Pause until you do have something.
Now, with this Choice, this opportunity, let’s start to really align you with this new path. What’s driving you to make this decision? Honestly. Deep down. When you have an answer, keep asking yourself “Why?”, “How?” or “Because?”. Drill down to the brutally honest, passionate core of your Great Big Because.
I want to get fit
This drill down exercise can sometimes be tricky, so let’s use “I want to get fit” to illustrate both the process and the depth of answers.
“I want to get fit” is a noble quest. It's the kind of quest that many have as a New Year's Resolution. Yet we all know what generally happens to “I want to get fit” three or four weeks down the line. Life gets in the way. Old habits creep in. The excuses, reasons and stories start. “I want to get fit” soon becomes “I’ll go tomorrow”, “It’s too late”, “I’m too tired”, “I’ve had a rough day”, “Tea’s ready”, “It’s dark and wet outside”.
When we started, we were convinced this was going to be it. This was going to be the time. So, what went wrong? What was the missing part?
Now, there’s a whole lot of work on making that “I want to get fit” far more specific so that it means something tangible and measurable. There’s also a need to understand, appreciate and plan for the facts that committing to an exercise programme changes your current routine. You're going to have to sacrifice something that you're doing now and replace it with this new thing. This alone is tied up in all sorts of routines, habits, autopilot and even guilt. You may decide to sacrifice sleep, another activity, movie night or time with family. Each one of these things having a knock-on impact on you and/or others.
I’m, however, going to start with the Why, because if you don’t have a Great Big Because, not only will you talk yourself out of sacrificing anything, you can also be as specific as you like but you still won’t turn up.
We need to dig deeper.
Q. So, why do you want to get fit?
A. “Well, I've kind of neglected myself for a good number of years now.”
Q. Why have you done that?
A. “I've been working really hard, focusing on my career.”
Q. Why has that stopped you keeping fit?
A. “I work long hours. I barely see my family, let alone being able to take time out for myself.”
Q. How is that making you feel?
A. “I feel absolutely terrible. I've got no energy. I'm exhausted all of the time.”
Q. How does that affect your life?
A. The biggest thing that upsets me is at the weekends when I'm in the garden with my children. I just can’t keep up with them. I move around for about 60 seconds before my heart is pounding out of my chest, I feel sick, I’m out of breath and need to sit down to rest.
Q. How does that make you feel?
A. “I feel embarrassed, guilty and like a bad Dad.”
Q. So, what’s the real reason you want to get fit?
A. “I want to keep up with my children, even for a little bit longer. To experience the joy they are experiencing. To not feel guilty or like a failure. Not letting my lack of basic fitness ruin my experience and shorten theirs.”
Can you see how we’ve stripped away the layers? With some simple Why and How questions we got to the core, the emotional reason – the Great Big Because.
How much more inspiration, motivation, commitment and focus do you have now to “get fit”? You’ve got Purpose – and indeed a Purpose bigger than yourself. You’ve even informed the kind of fitness to achieve. It also hints at simple tricks like keeping a photo handy of your children playing in the garden, so when it’s exercise time you’ll receive a visual and emotional motivational boost to keep you on track.
This is powerful stuff, that can firstly help you step forward, and secondly keep you moving forward, no matter what happens.
Now, admittedly in our example the answers bring out many other challenges – work–life balance, long hours, guilt and mindset – and ultimately what a new sustainable routine that includes regular exercise would look like. Our Great Big Because, however, will help with this too.
Back to you
So, now it’s back to You. If you’re ready to make a Choice, make it a great one that’s going to bring you closer to a better tomorrow. Then, keep asking the questions until you have an unshakeable level of Clarity, Passion and Purpose, because this will get you motivated to take Action.
So “If Only I had the Courage”. Maybe we’ve discovered that it's not all about Courage after all. In fact, we now have something even more powerful, that also significantly reduces our reliance on Courage.
If you’re raring to go with your newfound Choice and Purpose, join me in the final article of this series which will explore our very next step in If Only I knew where to start.