Sometimes, right before bed and even when I’m tired, I will suddenly find that I can’t sleep. I’ll feel a low-grade anxiety, and it’s difficult to pinpoint what it’s about.

So my husband—he’s such a champ—and I will pull on jackets and take a few loops up and down the block, and we’ll talk about what’s going on.

What ends up coming out, is always this: a feeling of being caught between two difficult options.

Always, there are nuances and no easy answers—and this is what no one really talks about when they talk about how to be courageous.

When people talk about how to be courageous, it’s usually with binary, good vs. bad language: There’s the fearful choice, and the courageous choice, and all you need to do is pick the courageous one!

However, I think it’s more ambiguous. Here’s what I find:

There’s the option that’s a huge risk and a ton of work, with the great emotional payout that will have made the risks and work worth it…

…or the option that’s about less work and more breathing space (and probably fewer of these nights where I can’t sleep) and the results aren’t nearly as interesting.

When people talk about how to be courageous, it’s usually with the exhortation that you need to choose the option with more risks and work, so that you can get the bigger rewards. I mean, duh, of course that’s how to be courageous. No taking the easy way out.

When I talk about how to be courageous, I talk about how to be real. That’s what courage always comes back to.

* * *

The reality is that the answers are nuanced and they aren’t as easy as picking the riskier, high-octane adventure.

The reality is that your life has seasons, and that even big dreams will have seasons where the sane choice is to not push for more (that would be my life, the first two years after having my daughter).

The reality is that there are other seasons of your life where maintaining the status quo is a total cop-out. Only discernment will tell you which is which.

The reality is that you are going to meander, pursue things with your whole heart behind it and find that it was a waste of time, be seduced by side projects that you later realize are distractions, work hard for something only to reach the end and hate it.

The reality is that creating something and looking back over the journey to get there is one of the most self-satisfying things that I know.

The reality is that few things are as high-stakes as we often make them out to be. Fork in the road moments appear most regularly in movies. But in real life? Chances are, you will have multiple opportunities.

Chances are that you might complete your coach certification one year and not really try to make a go of it as a coach until four years later, and it’ll all turn out okay (oh, hey, that’s exactly how my own story started).

Chances are that the relationship that could never be resurrected probably is, with time and growth and a newfound willingness to leave the past baggage behind.

Chances are that bad financial decisions can be corrected; dysfunctional patterns can be healed; with fits and starts, you will figure out your way.

* * *

When my husband and I finish these loops back and forth past our house, I never magically arrive home with different circumstances.

The decisions to be made in my life or business are still difficult ones, but they feel less-so and I can go to sleep because I’ve made the choice to be courageous by being real.

Being a human is a difficult thing. I realize that I’ve stated this in so many different incarnations on this site, but it really is true that the simple owning of fears and uncertainties is the start of what makes all the difference.

If you want to know how to be courageous, start by asking yourself how you can be most real.