"Life expands or shrinks in proportion to one's courage" Anais Nin
My life journey has been defined by courage -- from the first time my parents sent me on a 36-hour transatlantic flight on my own at the age of four, moving to a new country at 18, to facing the fear of speaking in front of 800 hundred people.
I was always taught I could achieve anything I set my mind to -- no limitations as a woman (Thank god!). However, courage -- the ability to do something that frightens one -- is a trait most commonly exuded by men. Think of all the images of war heroes, the successful executive and the world's best-known leaders.
So it requires some creativity to cultivate courage and express it as a woman. We all have it -- man and women -- we just need to find it and activate the power within. Here are the ways I have found to cultivate courage to lead my personal and professional endeavors:
WORK HARD: From great effort typically comes great reward. What I have found however, is that the dedication and relentless pursuit of a task more than the output, gives us the confidence needed to excel. The endless hours on a project or the commitment to running a marathon are great examples of building the confidence and courage within that allow us to accomplish more. I train to be a stronger "life" athlete.
OPEN YOUR HEART: Leading with the mind sets plans hopefully on the right strategy, but your heart is what sets the right intention. Put the heart muscle to work- how you care for others, the intensity in which you love someone or your work. Living and loving fully with an open heart has its own risks- we all know of heart breaks, unfulfilled dreams and setbacks. As a woman you might feel vulnerable, as a man you might feel uncomfortable. But that same intense energy is what carries us through when times get tough. A constrained heart is a scared heart, lead with an open heart instead.
FACE FEARS: We all carry our own personal list of fears as a result of our upbringing and our experiences. If we don't recognize them they might stick with us till death. I don't want these companions on my deathbed. I practice courage by confronting my fears straight ahead -- from traveling the world on my own, taking on jobs bigger than I ever imagined and the hardest of all, letting go. I always come out feeling a bit stronger. Pick one fear per quarter that you want to confront. Here are some phenomenal ideas by one of my students, Michelle Poler, who decided to live 100 days without fear.
SHARE THE LIGHT: Imagine the responsibility it takes to lead others either by role modeling the way in your family or community, or because it fits in your job description. Pointing in a direction requires conviction, but taking others along for the journey takes courage. If you project your best intentions, have done the hard work and have been cultivating your own inner light, you will be able to lead. You can't lead yourself or others in the dark. Share your intent, express your vision and why you care. Being real and authentic will translate as light to others.
FUEL YOUR POWER: We need physical and mental health to tackle new challenges. That requires doing more of what we like and recharging our superhero spirit -- do you remember the moments when you felt most powerful? A big win, a moment with a loved one, your personal best, helping others. I try to play back those moments in my head or get into activities that I excel at to re-connect with my own power. Ask your best friend (yourself) to do this as often as needed!
I am thankful for the benefits I reap from practicing courage- it's my mental and physical workout. It's the strength that helps me face my spiritual growth journey and a trifecta of professional interest -- as a brand builder, educator and author.
May you find courage in your everyday life. It's all within you. This beautiful prayer can also help you find it :
"Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers but to be fearless in facing them
Let me not beg for stilling of my pain but for the heart to conquer it
Let me not look for allies in my life's battlefield but to my own strength."
Rabindranath Tagore, Fruit- Gathering