This is the first line I wrote for The Courage Habit: “Here’s the thing about the day you realize you’ve got to change your life: you don’t even see it coming.”
I’ve heard hundreds of stories of people realizing that they were DONE / FINITO / THIS CANNOT GO ON FOR ANOTHER MOMENT with something that wasn’t working in their lives.
– The perpetual and endless feelings of not enough.
– Careers that have stalled.
– Conflicts with friends or family that never seem to sort themselves out.
– Watching yet another senseless tragedy on the news, and how political pundits offer “thoughts and prayers” instead of taking real action that could save lives.
We try to keep on keeping on in our lives, until the moment arises: I’M DONE WITH THIS.
Without exception, when the moment of THIS NEEDS TO CHANGE, NOW, has arrived, all of us have felt side-swiped by that moment. It’s not convenient. It’s a moment that acts as both our albatross and our lighthouse, in equal measure.
How did we get here, by the way?
We arrive at these points where we won’t take it anymore, because fear has been in the driver’s seat for far too long–fear-based behavior has become a habit–and because it’s far too intimidating to ask the question, “So if this isn’t working…now what?”
It’s hard to ask that “Now what?” question, because…
You might not have the resources you really need.
You might not be able to exit the job, immediately.
You might not be able to fix a relationship that has been carrying the weight of problems that are nuanced and complicated.
You might not be able to easily green smoothie your way back to perfect health.
And goodness knows politicians take their sweet time about listening to their constituents who are demanding justice.
All of those things are true. Yet I know that every single person who has ever started a movement, changed her life, or gone after a dream has decided that fear had to stop calling the shots. Your Most Courageous Self has to step forward, if things are going to get better.
Here’s my perspective, after walking through the fire (more than once) of realizing that the job, the relationship, the perfectionism, the pessimism, the people-pleasing, the self-sabotage, the swallowing my words, the political system, the injustice were all “too much” and I was at the point of fed up and “no more”:
If I want things to change, then I’ve got to change. Even things for the benefit of the community, start with me getting unstuck so that I can get out of my own way and truly be of service. The habits that got us here will be the habits that keep us here…and if you change your habits, you change your life.
Most people don’t think of habits as sexy or soulful or life-changing. I get it. We think “habit” and we think “remember to brush your teeth.”
But here’s the exciting thing that opened up for me when I let my geek flag fly and began to really research the connection between courage and habit-formation: if fear and sadness and grief and feeling stuck and frustrated are the result of fear-based habits, then happiness and joy and connection and heart-centered vulnerability and faith in trust in our enoughness and inherent goodness could become habits, too.
Creating Conscious Joy
In The Courage Habit, I talk about the four predominant habits to cultivate if you want to live a more courageous life. Here are just a few examples of things that you can do that fall within the domain of each of those four habits.
Habit #1: Access the Body
Examples: Create a playlist of the happiest, most uplifting music you know. Dance. Train for triathlon (or any endurance event). Meditate. Stretch or do yoga. Scream into a towel to let go of anger. Intentionally laugh.
Habit #2: Listen without attachment
Examples: Wipe your schedule clean and create space that’s totally unfocused. Meander and tune in to what’s really going on, inside. Practice “not believing” what your critic says about you.
Habit #3: Reframe Limiting “Stories”
Examples: Write down the harshest criticisms that my critic offers, and then refute them. Remind myself of my proudest moments. Keep a folder where you store all of the kindest emails you receive. Do a kind deed, to remind yourself that kindness exists in the world. Go through old love letters.
Habit #4: Reach out and create community.
Examples: Join online communities with other soulful, courageous, like-minded people (like the Courage Habit community on Facebook). Call up your grandmother, and ask her to tell you stories about when you were a kid, so that you can remember yourself at your essence. Take a stand for justice–make the freaking call, because it really does not take that much time (nope, no matter what we tell ourselves…it just doesn’t). Send a handwritten note for your thank-you to the person who supported you when you were down and out.
What fear will tell you about creating conscious joy
If you really knew me well, you’d know that in many, many moments of doubt, my fear was loud, telling me that taking steps like these “didn’t really matter.” Perhaps the most courageous thing I do, or that any of us do, is in hearing what fear has to say and deciding to take an action that’s healthy, nurturing, and uplifting, anyway.
You deserve to live a life where you feel consciously aware of your access at any given moment, to creating conscious joy. Fear can tell you that these words about creating conscious joy are “just another silly self-help exercise,” with false promises, and if you want to? You can believe that. That’s your choice.
But thank goodness that the people who have changed unjust systems never thought that it was just silly to be optimistic and committed to the idea that change is possible.
And thank goodness that as a result of millions of people who face their fear and show up to work every day, innovation happens and new technologies develop and things are created that make our lives better.
And thank goodness that there are so many people out there who derive their joy from helping others to get free from emotional pain.
And thank goodness that the art that takes your breath away at the museum, or the song that always makes you cry happy tears, or the dance that lifts you up, exists–and thank goodness someone who felt fear and self-doubt when she created those things was willing to face their own fears and doubts.
The people who choose to live with courage create a ripple effect. A more courageous world is a better place to live. Here’s to living a happier, bolder, more confident life.