What If One Question Could Change Your Life?
The simplest definition of courage is ‘the ability to do something that frightens one.’ As children, we are naturally fearless. We see the world as it is, we ask for exactly what we want (whether with words or not), and we are unapologetic as we ask questions to learn. Yet as we grow older, society begins to slow down this fearlessness. We worry about what people think, we learn that not all questions have fair or just answers, and we perceive more consequences for failures. All of this leads to making it more and more difficult to be courageous.
As a leadership facilitator and coach, I talk about failure a lot. One of my favorite sessions to lead is on the topic, and requires people to consider and share their failures—without speaking about the solution. It is deeply uncomfortable and requires immense vulnerability, yet it breeds courage in a deeply intense way. Most people are great at dreaming about what their life could look like—we create vision boards, set New Year resolutions, and make three-year goals. Yet, when it comes down to it, we become afraid and frozen. What if I fail? What if my goals are too lofty? What if I’m not good enough? The definition of fear includes an incredibly important—and limiting—word in it: belief. Fear is an “unpleasant emotion caused by the belief” that something is dangerous, a threat, will cause pain, etc. So when you get stuck in fear, or feel like there is no way you can create the life you want, ask yourself one question.
What’s Stopping You?
It is a simple question, right? Yet so often we read self-help books or articles on personal growth, but we never actually do what they say to do. So if there is ONE question that can significantly help you push past your comfort zone and find courage to achieve your goals and dreams, ask yourself this one. What is stopping you? Write down your answer, say it out loud in the mirror, or ask a friend (or better yet—a coach) to ask you. Asking it once will not be enough—you might need to ask it over and over again, at every step of the process. Yet when you do, you will find that what you think is stopping you is most often a belief, perception, or fear. And by calling it out, you just might find that it is much easier to find the courage to push past it.
For me, I had a lot of fear when it came writing. I work in philanthropy, I coach and train great business leaders, and I have a deep desire to support others as they find their purpose and the unique impact they can make—but am I a writer? So a few years ago, I asked myself—what’s stopping me? For me, it was the fear that I wasn’t good enough, that people would criticize what I had to say, and that I wouldn’t have enough good ideas. Those limiting beliefs were stopping me, so I didn’t write. When I finally found the courage to apply to become a Forbes contributor—and got it—I was equal parts thrilled and terrified. And when I wrote my first article, the very first comment on a tweet I got was “crap article”. I actually laughed out loud—someone had criticized my work—and it didn’t feel so bad! I had been so preoccupied with getting negative comments, that I realized that actually getting them was not so bad. I then focused on the thousands of other people who enjoyed what I wrote, and hopefully found it useful. I continue to cultivate the courage by embracing the times that I don’t get an article published, or receive a critique—because at least I’m doing it, and I’ll continue to get better.
Get Started Now
It’s time to get started. Making a change in your life, finding courage, going after that goal—is a choice. Decide what you want, ask what is stopping for you, and consider whether it is a real or perceived barrier. Most likely, you’ll find that it’s a fear—so muster up the courage, because you will truly never know if you don’t try. The worst thing that will happen is you fail, learn, and either pivot or try again. Courage can be cultivated with practice, so the more you do things that frighten you, the more your life will open up and present limitless opportunities.
Kate Hayes is the director of Direct Impact at Echoing Green and is an independent leadership coach through Impact & Bliss. At Echoing Green, she oversees programming for business leaders who are dedicated to realizing their full potential as agents of social change. She leads retreats, workshops, and immersive site visits focused on leadership development, purpose, strategic governance, philanthropy, and social entrepreneurship. In her coaching work, she focuses on helping professionals accelerate their career and their life, while understanding how to make a meaningful impact on the world. Kate is a contributor at Forbes, where she writes millennials and their careers. For more, check out www.impactandbliss.com.