I Intend to be Courageous

 In Inspiration, Weekly Forum Discussion

For me, there is the intention of all 2017 intentions.  I plan on keeping this one for the rest of my life.  I will only manage to accomplish anything I’ve set out to do if I have courage and walk right through the fear that has often held me back.  Courage isn’t the absence of fear – it’s taking action in spite of the fear.

For me, there are two key personal goals that will bring about change and hopefully move me closer to the life I want: health and career change.

I know so many capable people with brilliant ideas.  They work hard at what they hate.  Essentially, they break their backs doing something they truly dislike or even despise. I used to find this rather fascinating but now I completely get it.  Over the last decade, if I look back, there was a good share of time I did the same thing.

Doing what is familiar and predictable feels safe.  So, it may not be exciting or fulfilling to stay right where we are and by doing so, it certainly won’t bring us ecstasy or encourage personal growth, but it also means that we don’t have to put ourselves out there.  The thing is that even if we can lie to our unhappy selves because status quo feels comfortable, at some point things will change and we can wait for something else to invite change or we can be the ones to drive it.

The only time in life we should be stagnant for a good stretch is when it feels utterly incredible.  This usually involves being with people we cherish deeply or sometimes being delightfully by ourselves, but it always means feeling this profound sense of happiness.  I said “profound”, not this constant state of bliss, and I said “happiness”, not “perfection” … a good life may mean absolute exhaustion before laying thy head on thy pillow.

If we don’t feel truly satisfied with where we are, it usually means our lives could stand to embrace a little change.  We don’t have to wait to be miserable and there are all kinds of degrees of change but maybe something could get us even closer to the life we want for ourselves. Yet, so many people really hate change and fear the unknown.  Putting one’s self out there is pretty brave stuff.

After all, somewhere ‘out there’ is this dark forest, where strange sounds and the unusual sensation of movement are only omens of what sinister things lurk in the shadows to drag us into a cave lined with human bones of those that treaded before us.  Why on earth would we want to go somewhere we may never return from… a place where there have been tales of terror.  Haven’t there been many that have had the guts to explore before us, only to never be seen again?  Haven’t we all heard of the one that managed to make it out alive, marred by the evil that awaits any of us that cuts through the forest, only to fill those willing to listen that the others will never be seen again?

If this sounds rather dramatic it’s because it is!  Well, it is and it isn’t.  This ‘dark forest’ exists but only in our minds.  The power of our thoughts are far too often underestimated.  The truth is that there is no dark forest except for the one we build up in our heads, and it feeds on fear and the destruction of courage, determination, ambition, motivation and dreams.  It feeds on convincing you that if you make a mistake there is no way out, nowhere to run … you’ll just get pulled into the bone-lined cave.

Those that make it to the other side of the forest or even stroll out from the same place they entered in from seem fairly satisfied.  They tried to get to the other side or they succeed and it wasn’t all that gruelling … it was maybe a little fun.  Those curious souls are few and far between and if many didn’t return it’s because many didn’t actually try.  There was no serious journey through uncharted territory.  They stuck their toe over the property line and pulled it back pronto just to say or convince themselves that they really gave it a solid shot!  The few that actually really immersed themselves in the forest and came back looking like warriors enjoy the reputation of doing the impossible.  They aren’t going to tell you they padded on a little dirt before coming out because nothing crazy happened; the wind rustled a few leaves, it was a little cold but they made a fire and instead of wolves, they came face to face with bunnies.  I’m not downplaying the accomplishments of some – there have been wild and gritty spirits that have truly taken on burden after burden to do things that leave me astonished.  Still, in many cases, simply trying gets us somewhere.

I’ve been asked why I want to risk giving up a good pension, a stable job and a decent salary?  Well, I’m quite dissatisfied with where I spent a minimum of eight hours at least five days a week (usually much more) for a good decade, thank you very much.  We fear we’re going to starve if we make a lousy decision, invest in higher stakes, take on a new challenge, but the truth of it is, even with some financial burden, we’ll crawl out of that hole.  Yes, it may take some time, but we can crawl out of that vacuum.

Fear hinders us and it falsely tells us one strike and we’re out … but what is painfully false is this sense of security.  It doesn’t matter if you’re at the top of the food chain or one of the hardest working people deserving of so much more at the bottom of it … staying solely because of some false sense of security is a mistake.  I have seen people be terminated after thirty years in senior management positions and lose their jobs after decades of working in an assembly line after the factory is bought out just to flatten the competition.  It is devastating to watch how much it tears a person apart and how our sense of self can be extremely linked to the position we hold in the workforce. It is terrible to see people in pain, but the saddest thing to me is that more often than not, people label themselves failures even if they are successful in every other aspect of their lives.  They also label themselves failures if they try for something greater and it backfires.

I mean, I get putting up with misery if we’re going through the Great Depression or living in a part of the world that feels like it or even worse.  I get it if we are truly limited by what we can offer but most people are limited because they want to be or believe they are.  I get not wanting to take on too much risk if we, for example, like something enough and it doesn’t have that great of an impact on our overall happiness.  The job may not be a priority and the rest of someone’s life may be pretty awesome so forcing change may be completely stupid if there is really no desire there.  The reality is that the more people depend on us, the braver we have to be to take a risk.  Anyone that says otherwise is a liar.   It is easy to say “risk it all” if we aren’t in the worst situations and some people are.  No one is suggesting that we need to be daft but we shouldn’t allow fear to have such an iron grip on us if we want something different with all our hearts.

Some questions need to be asked while I’m taking action this year and for the rest of my life:  Why am I doing this?  What do I really want?  How much am I willing to risk?  Am I feeling brave enough?  Is it fear of change, financial loss, or failure stopping me? That is really what it boils down to and only each of us can answer for ourselves.

The good news is that if crap happens or if we make a really stupid mistake that has a massive impact on our lives and that of our families, we can crawl out.  We may need a bit of time to dust ourselves off, clean ourselves up and pick up the pace, at times running a bit frantic, but we can get back to where we were at the very least.

So, all those people that pushed on before us into the dark forest of all things unknown?  Actually, the majority of people don’t.  The truth is that the majority of people really aren’t comfortable with change or risk and it all goes back to fear …. it isn’t just the fear of loss … sometimes it’s fear of failure.  Oh, that one is perhaps the ugliest of beasts rearing its head.  The fear of failure is the most painful to bear, but here’s the thing, sometimes failure leads to better decisions, new ideas and fresh opportunities. At the very least, failure will mean we had guts to try and it may actually get us to where we want to be or somewhere better!

Fear is the haunting of all hauntings and the paralyzer of all paralyzers.  Fear stunts us more than anything … more than the cobra’s venom.  It stunts us more than guilt, a sense of duty, a ‘content’ life, accountability, the work, the sweat, the blood, the tears … this dread provokes the worst out in us.  It is the unexpected that scares us … if we knew what was going to come, it wouldn’t be as hard to stomach.  What is the biggest fear we hold close to us that we don’t want anyone knowing?  What are the trepidations of all fear?  It comes in the form of some convoluted lie that we’ve heard since we were young: we should keep a firm grip on what we have because it would be completely unreasonable to let go of something we’re lucky to have for something that will make us happy; people just don’t risk comfort for greatness because it is childish; failure is overwhelmingly likely and we need to protect our reputations, our status as successful even if we’re miserable; and we need to stay where we are so we don’t starve.  That last part of the convoluted fear lie narration is possibly my favourite.  We’re still in Canada, right?

I can honestly say I have no idea where the hell I’ll be at the end of the year but I know this: as much as I feel scared sometimes, it won’t be fear that will actually guide my actions and decisions. My greatest intention for this year is to be guided by that innate passion I was born with and if I end up losing this round I’ll eventually get there.  If the stars aren’t aligned I can at least say I did my best and there is no shame in ending up in a similar tangible place where I started.  After all, my mind would have expanded and it is the intangible things that have happened to my thought process that would be most interesting … moulding me with every failure and every success. There is no reward if we act in fear.

As an offside, I’m trying to remember that determination thing by finding people that had every reason to quit but didnt!  I can’t help but have immense admiration for Abraham Lincoln.  This man was cast in the image of every one of his successes and yes, failures!  He is known as one of three, and often named as the first, of the greatest presidents of the United States.  If he hadn’t persevered and pushed through a lot of tragedy and disappointment, he would never have accomplished some of the things he did.  I’m more impressed with Lincoln’s journey to become President than I am with his work as President … and that is saying something.  Lincoln failed in business, endured losing the woman he loved to death (before eventually marrying someone else), was estranged from his father, had numerous political defeats (I’m counting eight) before becoming President.  The man suffered from depression for most of his life and had what was referred to in his time as a “nervous breakdown”.  On any given day, perseverance and courage outdo fear in respect to getting us further along in life. He must have had his share of doubts and fear, attempting to gain the life he wanted, but also once he was President.  Lincoln was assassinated but I’m sure he lived with the burden of that possibility every day.

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