What courage really looks like

what-courage-looks-like-courageous-living

I was having a conversation with Andrea Owen about courage when I said, “I don’t think that I’m courageous because I do these big, grandiose things with my life. On paper, my life is pretty ordinary–husband, house, kid, career, and always plenty of laundry to do.”

Yet a lot of people end up here, at Your Courageous Life, thinking, “Courageous people do big stuff, and my life is so ordinary.”

There are plenty of people who are seeking to “become more courageous” so that they can quit their jobs and travel the world, or start a non-profit that saves lives, or write the Next Great American Novel, or they think that anyone who is courageous walks through life not giving any fucks what people think of them and always doing whatever they want.

While those things certainly require courage, that’s not the kind of courage that I’m particularly interested in. That’s not really what this website is about.

(I might be a little late in having publicly stated that, all these years in–forgive me).

The courage that myself and my clients, coaching trainees, and program readers have been most interested in is the courage that it takes to:

  • Prioritize what matters most–to stop telling themselves every reason not to go after what they really desire, and start really making it happen.
  • Know themselves–to start filling their lives with the activities that truly feel authentic.
  • Speak up–to respectfully and powerfully speaking up when something doesn’t feel right.
  • Totally trust themselves–to start making decisions without endless hesitation or back-and forth.
  • To love all parts of themselves–to get totally honest with all parts of who you are, and give yourself the love, self-respect, and compassion you deserve. (Part of that love? Actually feeling like you deserve it).

Yes, These Things Take Courage

When people are afraid to prioritize what matters most, they spend lifetimes swearing they’ll start without actually starting; swearing they’ll finish without ever finishing.

When people don’t know themselves, their lives are run by perfectionism or trying to live according to a Pinterest board. This is particularly prevalent among high-achieving women who know how to do it all right and tick off all the right boxes, yet something remains elusive and unfulfilling.

When people don’t speak up, they’re constantly “taking it” from those around them. Nay-sayers, negativity, sarcasm, and wet-blanket comments create endless energetic drains.

When people don’t totally trust themselves, the doubt and second-guessing not only make things feel impossible–that pattern sucks the joy out of life.

When people don’t love all parts of themselves, they have trouble truly connecting with others. They struggle to feel like they can enter a room and show up just as they are. They judge others, which kills countless marriages and friendships.

Ordinary on Paper, Extraordinary in Life

If I’m totally transparent about how I practice courage, I’d add to that “ordinary on paper” statement that I made, earlier.

My “ordinary life” of husband, house, kid, career is actually pretty extraordinary. It’s extraordinary because lives that are infused with connection, truth-telling, or being totally real about what you really want are still not the norm.

What does a courageous life look like? For me, it’s:

Laughter, people. It means a shit-ton of laughter, most days.

Feeling like people “get” me.

Doing very little that’s about how it “should” look or to fulfill obligations. The things that do fall into that category (smiling instead of rolling my eyes at day care bureaucracy; coming through for a friend even if it’s an inconvenience for my schedule) are things that hold a larger purpose for me.

Seeing the wounds behind shitty behavior–and when a relationship has a toxic dynamic, I have the self-respect to let it go.

Crying with kindreds on those “this day really sucks” kinds of days, with zero self-consciousness.

Courage isn’t something you “have” or even what you “are.” It’s what you choose to practice.

Yes, you can practice courage in order to have a life that looks amazing on paper. Absolutely.

The bigger win is whether or not you’re practicing the kind of courage that has you laughing, crying, and connecting with the people you love the most (and putting yourself on that list of “people you love”).

A courageous life is defined not by what you do, but by the love in it.

it’s all about the people: how to create a support team

create-a-support-team-courageous-living

#CCTP2015 is kicking off this weekend.

(!).

It’s hard to believe, but a year ago we ran our inaugural training of the Courageous Coaching Training Program. I say “we” because initially, the two beautiful souls Valerie Tookes and Rachael Maddox were only going to assist during the kick-off retreat weekend that’s held outside of San Francisco, before the rest of the training goes virtual. At the end of our weekend together, I proposed that we keep-on keeping-on, because we were having a seriously fun time.

Valerie Tookes   Rachael Maddox
valerie2015   rachael2015

 
The experience of working with others collaboratively has created the most fun, most nourishing, most supportive year of my business–ever. Hands down. I wouldn’t think it would be possible to beat that, but this year, four of our 2014 graduates are coming on as mentor coaches:

 

Lara Heacock   Michelle Crank
lara2015   michelle2015
 
Molly Larkin   Natalia Chouklina
molly2015   natalia2015

 

How to Create A Support Team

Follow the energy. Just paying attention when you talk about an idea reveals everything–what happens in your body? Are you excited and lifted up? Or are you feeling, on some gut-level, like something just isn’t quite right or might not work out. As I learned in 2014, “as in the beginning, so in the middle, so in the end.” If you feel uncomfortable the first time the idea of working with someone is presented to you, there’s a reason for that.

Get clear on leadership structures. Yeah, it’s more “democratic” if everyone is in agreement and no one leaves the table until that agreement is reached. But, um, that also takes a lot of time, and things that take time drain spontaneity, creativity, and innovation, not to mention…it’s exhausting to go five rounds until everyone is happy. If everyone is in alignment about who is making the final call and what the roles are, things go much more smoothly.

Let people show off their particular genius. I wholeheartedly believe in what these women have to offer. If any of them were to lead a class next week and ask me to act as wing-woman, I’d sign right up to support them, sit back, and watch their genius at work. Each of these women has a lot in common with me, but they have many things that are different. Their perspectives and invitations round out everything.

Don’t ask for hand-outs. Your support team needs something, financial or energetic or otherwise, in exchange for their time. I’m putting my peeps up for a weekend in a four-star hotel with catered meals on my dime, and that’s just for starters (there will be other surprises in store, ladies!). Asking people simply to volunteer their time “just because” while you sit back and rake in the dough on a paid offering? Not a classy move. Consider that energetic support is also an exchange.

Think of them as family. Your support team is your chosen family. You’ll inevitably have moments of getting sick of one another, or thinking, “That move wasn’t knocking it out of the park” about someone’s choices or even feeling avoidant around doing the actual work. Yet there’s something about sticking together through both the highs that are exciting and the moments of ho-hum, that creates something bonded and brilliant: a sisterhood.

I can’t wait to play, this weekend!

Feel like following along, this weekend? Hit up Instagram and search for the hashtag #cctp2015.

 

being put together

put-together-courageous-living

You run a business AND you have a baby–how in the world do you do it?
You’ve got your shit together.
I can’t believe how much you can get done.

These are the things that people say to me. They are not totally untrue statements–more like top-layer statements that speak to pieces, but that don’t completely express the entire picture.

I’m a fan of the entire picture. This is what would bring any blurry edges into full focus:

I carry within me an essential strength. That is what people are picking up on, when they make these statements. Strength brings with it an energy that can be felt. I have had a baby, and I am tired most of the time no matter how much sleep I get, yet there is an essential foundation to who I am that remains unshaken.

That strength has been consciously curated over the past decade. When I think of the difference between how I looked at life ten or fifteen years ago, versus how I look at it now, I see that my entire psyche has been under renovation. I have rebuilt my internal house, one room at a time. Lots of dust and rubble. “Consciously curated” means a thoughtful, intentional process of rebuilding.

I make faster strides whenever I am not self-conscious. This is true of all of us, of course, but it occurs to me that this is important to share. On a deep level, I give little energy to reclaiming my pre-baby waistline, or to whether or not my house is messy, or to whether or not I’m wearing yoga pants for the umpteenth day in a row.

What I Care About

I care about coming up behind my husband while he chops the salad, after the baby is asleep, putting my arms around his waist and burrowing my head against his back.

I care about my daughter’s laughter; I care about how many different contortions I can make with my face so that she’ll laugh again, and again, and again, and again. I care about how she feels against my body when she’s snuggled close, asleep.

I care about the little ding in my inbox that someone is starting the Courageous Living Program. I care about how I smile and send them a prayer that they didn’t even know they had coming, that it will do good for their life and the people they love. Ripple-effect courage; my favorite kind.

I care about my life coach training trainees, and their hopes and dreams for themselves. I care about them waking up in the morning and looking forward to Monday, to their work, to their day. I care about them moving past the fears that say “Who do you think you are?” and I care very much about the day when they’re going to say to the world, “I’ll show you exactly who the fuck I am–let’s change the planet.”

I care about eating fresh, unprocessed, good food. So I add to my list meal planning, grocery shopping, and then I chop-chop-sautee-stir-bake-nom-nom-nom.

I care about my closest kindreds and connecting with them and telling them about when I’m pissed and when I’m happy. I care about knowing that I have people in my life with whom I can tell the truth, and tell it clean.

I care about releasing anything or anyone that makes life feel less than fabulous, even if the release is painful. Even if there are some parts that are good and that will be missed.

I care about creating a life that gives back. I care about not telling anyone about the things I do that are about “giving back.” I hold those cards close to my chest, because getting credit isn’t the point. I do good because the world requested it by showing me that someone was in need, not so that I can score points or public approval.

I care about saying “no” when I mean “no,” and “yes” when I mean “yes,” and meaning it absolutely every single time, and not betraying myself by saying one when I mean the other.

Being Put Together

I have a business AND a baby, and I don’t even really know how I do it.
Sure, I have some shit together, in the conventional sense.
I can’t believe how much I get done, either.

And I get tired, or wish I were back in half-marathon shape, or look at my to-do list and think of how that equals so many hours in front of the computer and OMG I can’t look at any more fucking pixels, I just can’t do it. I snap at my husband: “Am I the only one who can remember to put away the fucking butter?” I get cut off in traffic and glare at that driver and think unkind thoughts and don’t care who he is or what is important to him or whether or not he had good reasons for rushing, it is only ME in that moment–me, and HE cut me off, HE was wrong, HE was the shitty driver.

I’m not so very put together, so much as I hold the different pieces with care, and don’t expect any of them to fit back the way that they used to, and most of all–I appreciate what shows up, for exactly what it is.

I appreciate my joy, my fear, my expansiveness, my soul courage, my insecurities, my confidence–all of the contradictions.

I exhale, bend forward, inhale, rise up slowly, arms over head, exhale, hands over heart.

I laugh and laugh with our daughter in my arms as my husband pretends to chase us, back and forth across the living room we go, laughing; to her delight we do it again and again and again, and he wraps his arms around all of us and it is everything–

and that’s when I feel most put together, most like I’m winning at life.