We’ve reached the sixth and final High Performance Habit in this series of blog posts, which is demonstrating courage. I’m sure your mind went straight to dramatic ideas of courage, like rescuing someone from a burning building; but in the context of building habits to create an extraordinary life, courage is made up of the smaller actions we take that push us beyond our comfort zone. To me, being courageous is stretching to become a better, stronger version of yourself - and it’s something we can all learn to do.
Demonstrating courage will look different for each person, since we all have different goals we want to achieve. In my Design Your Decade workshop, I ask my students to look at their goals and dreams, and identify what courageous actions they can take now to achieve their ten year dreams. More often than not, it’s very small, brave steps that will add up over time (which is why it’s so important to look that far ahead).
Yes, your goals and dreams will certainly shift over the next decade, but you still need to set them in order to stretch yourself. There are several ways to build your courage “muscle” that we work through in my Extraordinary Life Tribe group coaching program, and “honoring the struggle” is the first and most important one.
We all encounter struggle in our lives, especially during times of transition. While most of my listeners are experiencing midlife transitions, I have a loyal group of listeners amongst my daughter’s friends that are just beginning college. I have something for each group to keep in mind before continuing on:
Take a moment to stop and think of a time in your past when you underestimated how difficult it would be to achieve a specific goal or dream. Think about how moving forward wasn’t as easy as you thought it would be. Try to remember how you continued, nonetheless. What resources did you use? Did you have to change your course? Course correcting can sometimes take even more courage than sticking to your plan.
Looking back like this is a practice that I use in my coaching. We connect to a time in your past when you felt successful at demonstrating courage, increasing your productivity, or being more influential, and we apply it to what you’re working on now.
I want you to know that I see you, too. Don't be afraid to ask for help, or change your course if it feels like the right thing to do for you. One caveat is to not change your path out of fear or because things are hard.
I’m drawing attention to these two specific groups because I want to remind you that we all will continue to face transitions and challenges that require us to show courage. There’s the first transition of moving from home and heading to college, and more will come. There will be new jobs, buying a home, getting married or not getting married, or one day watching your own children leave the nest. It’s important to use our experiences, tools, and perspectives from our past to apply to future transitions - like being courageous.
All week, I was thinking up examples of being courageous with your dreams, and I came up with a lot! The story I’m going to use is from the younger group. It’s easy to think that the struggles of a young adult are not a big deal, as they don’t have as much to lose. I’d argue that it may be more difficult, as they don’t have a life of evidence that, in the end, most things eventually work out.
It takes a lot of courage to step out into the unknown as a young adult, something all of us have done (or are doing right now). So as you read this, tap into a time in your own life when you struggled and made it through. While your struggles will be different in your fifties than in your twenties, changing your perspective and honoring the struggle to help you move forward will help at any age.
Once upon a time there was a teenager named Madeline, or Maddie for short. Even though she had just started high school, she had a big dream in mind. After graduation, she wanted to go to a faraway college. Every day, she used that goal to motivate her to study, do volunteer work, and participate in extracurriculars like soccer and mock trial.
One day, Maddie realized she didn’t like soccer much anymore, and that she was only playing to put it on her college applications. It didn’t feel right to do something just to put it on an application, so she stopped playing soccer. Instead, she took a break and thought about what she wanted to be spending her time on,
This is a great example of using the fourth High Performance Habit, increasing productivity. By saying “no” to the things that didn’t matter to her anymore, Maddie was better able to focus on the things that did matter. With her extra time, she focused more of her attention on mock trial, which had more to do with her career interests of being an attorney or diplomat.
High school graduation was looming, but because she had lost her focus for a while, she didn’t get into her first choice of schools, nor the scholarships she needed for the ones she was accepted to. Then, at the last minute Maddie was accepted to a school in London. It fit perfectly with her dream of being far away from home, and had the international relations program she was interested in.
Maddie was so excited to see her dream of going to school in England being realized, but when she arrived in London, reality hit. While the school is perfect for her major, it’s considered a commuter school; this means she’s not getting the on-campus college experience she imagined. Her apartment is a thirty-minute tube ride away, and because of Covid, she doesn’t have a roommate. Everything is unfamiliar, and her romanticized vision of going to school in central London, meeting friends easily, and going out all the time was very different from the reality of commuting from west London.
Like most of us would, Maddie wanted to come home to her comfort zone. That is, until she changed her perspective and decided to focus on what was good. For example, she enjoys riding on the tube and relaxing with a book. She likes to go grocery shopping, and is challenging herself to eat all the produce she buys before it goes bad. There’s no fresh California produce in London! She’s also liking spending time in the beautiful London parks, even if she is by herself for now.
Maddie’s challenge isn’t over yet, but it took courage for her to stay in London and change her perspective. She’s even started blogging about her experience (honoring the struggle), which has been cathartic for her, and the comments and support from her readers has been a big help. No matter what her next step is, she should be proud of what she’s accomplished this far.
After reading Maddie's story, can you think of a time when taking action towards a goal or dream was harder than you expected it to be? Or when unexpected obstacles cropped up, and you had to work through them? Think about how you can use the lessons you learned, the perspective you gained, or the tools you used in achieving your current goals and dreams. If you spend time journaling this, I’m sure you’ll be surprised what you come up with.
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