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”).