We may not often see the choices we make as requiring courage. In fact, too often, we find rational excuses to justify avoiding difficult decisions rather than recognise that we are motivated by fear, uncertainty, and doubt: deep seated emotional responses to the challenge of particular choices. We have developed programmes of default behaviour (habits of default choices) and anything new or different requires a conscious choice which our programming will resist. It will express its resistance through negative emotions that we need to acknowledge and confront.
The Challenge of Choice
A quick lesson from Tim (not his real name):
A few years ago, my friend Tim was in New Zealand, the home of serious bungee jumpers. He stood at the top of the tower with the instructor, like an army drill sergeant, giving the order “5,4,3,2,1, JUMP!”. Nothing happened. Tim froze. In his head, he understood stepping out into the void was all based on safe calculations about his body weight, the distance to the ground and the amount of elastic needed. He knew there was no skill in bungee jumping – gravity does all the hard work.
The real challenge was activating the courage to step off the platform. The instructor tried again. In his mind there was no going back: this was as easy as stepping off a curb. Tim told the instructor to stop talking. He closed his eyes for a second, made the choice, and stepped forward. It was in that moment he was committed. Without that step there was no way to truly experience what it’s like. Overcoming the fear, exercising courage is part of the experience.
When I met him later, he was looking to launch his new business. Again, no one was going to push him, and no amount of instruction was enough. Not even a different kind of safety cord in the form of a financial runway was much comfort in the face of potential failure. He had to find the courage to step into the unknown, make the choice to step out of the safety of his comfort zone and into the experience of discovering new things.
Finding Freedom and Joy at work means making a conscious choice. There are still risks and uncertainties but summoning the courage you’ve used in the past to make a decisive step now, will reward you with new possibilities that will otherwise never come to you no matter how long you stand where you are.
You probably don’t need me to remind you that doing what you’ve always done will just lead to more of the same.
What courage are you looking for?
Do you need courage to live out the dreams, purpose and passion you deserve? Consider: are the rational excuses that you have armed yourself with to stay as you are, just a cover story for emotions of fear, uncertainty and doubt that you can only resolve with courage? How often has the status quo given you enough to grumble about but you haven’t confronted the need for courage to make change. It saddens me to see people whose whole working life defined by ‘just not quite’: not quite happy, not quite enjoyable, not quite freedom, not quite rewarding, not quite successful, not quite sustainable. Is that really the life you want?
For each of us, the courage to succeed will mean a different thing. For one client, it was the courage to continue in a market where you expect many rejections. For another, it was the courage to believe in themselves. For a third, it was the courage to accept they had the knowledge, skills and experience people would pay a premium for.
It may be that past experiences are holding you back. Do you use them to give you rational excuses for not making changes you deserve? Are you holding the emotional pain of choices that didn’t work out before?
I have worked with many people who have found Freedom & Joy, whatever their initial circumstances. I know individuals, who you might never expect to succeed because of previous choices or bad situations. They have felt the fear of further disappointment and failure but found the courage to step out once again to build success.
Consider whether you need to take courage to address any of the following:
- Need to stand up for yourself
- Stop feeling like an imposter
- Believe in your knowledge, skills and experience
- Value your services at the right level
- Involve other people to strengthen your team
- Live with uncertainty of income
- Say good-bye to your past
- Get coaching to adopt more successful behaviours
- Employ people
- Keep momentum when things are hard
- Tell your current employer that it’s not working
- Ask for help
- Deal with those who don’t believe in you
Think again, what other things should be on your list where you need courage to move forward.
Finding courage from when you have had courage before
Courage is difficult to imagine in the abstract. However, there will be many times that you have had courage before. Consider: when have you had courage before making a first step or a big step? It might be physical courage, or it could be emotional courage. It might be financial courage, or it could social courage. Re-imagine that situation, paint the picture in your mind, position yourself physically for that moment in which you took courage, feel the fear and then the elation when you did it anyway.
Now you know that you can take courage. You have rehearsed the feelings. You can be confident that as you set out the pros and cons, weigh the risks and rewards and make a choice, you have that resource of courage to follow through with the first step or the big step that is going to give the opportunity to find a new future. And you can take fresh courage each and every day,
Too often you can kid yourself with reason not to when actually you need to address the fear, uncertainty and doubt that is limiting your choices and undermining your future. By identifying how you have found courage in the past, you can find courage again. It is courage that can enable you to make choices for Freedom and Joy and make your future work.
Charles McLachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.