It has been the hugest of honors to lead the Courageous Living Coach Certification, supporting several years of trainees who are training to become life coaches. Watching them go after what they want with hustle + faith has been inspiring.

The honor of it all comes from being part of helping people to do what they want with their lives, on their terms, which is part of the path of using your life for not just one’s own purposes but to create something bigger (living on one’s own terms in a vacuum? Painfully empty).

The honor of it all comes from watching as people make sometimes difficult choices, in the name of creating better lives.

The honor of it all comes from watching people take tentative steps into saying, “In every facet of my life, even in the domain of money/career where I’ve been told over and over that I can’t expect much, I’m doing what I desire, on my own terms.” I know how it feels to have walked this path, and now there’s a giddy excitement in watching others as they start to step forward, as well.

There’s giddy excitement any time we go after what we want, and at the same time, there’s fear.

Why you’re so afraid (you’re not just crazy)

There’s the fear that if you go after what you want and tell people about it, they’ll downplay your desires, criticize it, laugh at it, or ask “Who do you think you are?” (which, aside from not feeling great, would bring up all of one’s own personal Stories and internal narratives that they are rejected or unloved or unsupported).

There’s the fear that, well–the person who critiqued you might be right (embarrassing at best, shame-inducing at worst).

There’s the fear that if failure happens, it will feel like there’s no way to pick oneself up and create something new (a hopeless and weak feeling).

There’s the fear that you’ll be called selfish for going after what you desire.

Then there’s the fear of success, which would bring with it a complete confrontation own Stories of limitations, which I call an inner Victim Story, and most of us have held onto stories that we are incapable, doomed to fail, unable, limited, unworthy or undeserving for so long, that we don’t even realize that we operate from that place. The inner Victim is just one of many possible identity systems to adopt. We confuse that identity system with who we actually “are.”

(P.S. That’s the truth behind why success feels so uncomfortable, why we have trouble receiving praise or recognition. The identity system of Victim is so practiced that people’s assertions that we did a seriously kick-ass job on something push up against our own, internalized conception who who we “are.”)

How to Go After What You Want (Even If You’re Afraid)

You step into the “shaky tenderness” that is part of the early stages of courage.

You take a deep breath.

You acknowledge the truth: that you might fail, that people might criticize or belittle, that there are people who are suffering in the world and that you are privileged by comparison, and that you won’t have that old identity to cling to if you’re successful, and that this would be temporarily disorienting.

You breathe. All true. All possible.

Then, you step forward, anyway. You declare it. You say it. When people ask you, “So, what do you do?” you say, “I’m a ____________ who is building ______________.”

You do that because it’s a bigger “failure” to not step into the truest expression of who you actually are, and because you know that not stepping into that would be the bigger regret.

You do that because people who criticize or belittle do it from their own limited, fearful worldview. Maybe seeing you create life on your own terms will inspire them to stop spreading negativity, and start looking to expand their own options, and by extension the options of others.

You do that because the world has never been changed solely on the backs of those who had less privilege. The world’s revolutions have always involved those who had access to privilege and who wanted to use that privilege to create something better in the world–more equality, more access, more for everyone. In other words: a great way to see the world change is to do your personal work, and use the expanded capacity for courage, compassion, and tolerance that comes from that, to create world change.

The world’s revolutions have always started, in fact, with the backbone of courage: what I call a “revolution from within.” The revolution from within is always one that has a ripple effect, outward.

You step forward and declare what you want, and then you create it on your own terms, because your success at being your fullest expression of yourself is actually a gift to the world. It becomes the vehicle for someone else’s life to change, too.

Courage is an evolutionary imperative. It’s risking the fear within yourself, and working with it and through it, that brings the benefit to you and to everyone else who has the honor of witnessing it. You never know when, just by being yourself, you’ll be someone else’s gift.

Bearing Witness

Waking up every day feeling like you’re settling is a crime, when you consider how many people truly don’t have any other option. Chances are very good that for anyone with access to an internet connection, you do have options.

The questions are: What are you doing with the options? Are you using them? Or telling yourself the lie that you don’t have them?

What do you truly want to do with your life? When you look back, what do you want to say your life stood for? Compromise and complacency, because taking advantage of the truth of your power was too scary? Or something bigger?

There’s something really special to me, a woman who thought for years that whatever she wanted to do with her life, she’d have to “be realistic” about her options and fit them into some pre-tread mold, to not only find ways to do what she desires, but to also help other people do the same.

A decade ago, I wasn’t serving anyone when I was mired in depression and anxiety, telling myself the same stories about what I “had to” do or what I “couldn’t” create for myself.

We do good when we live our lives on our own terms. It’s hard, and it requires courage, but this is how we create a more expansive world. It starts with one person, willing to take a courageous risk. It expands, from there.