The Pursuit of Excellence Practical steps toward happiness

11Jun/120

Wield Courage like an Axe

Who would you be if you were fearless? A Fortune 500 CEO; a famous athlete; a bear-wrestler? Ok let’s be less ambitious for a second. If you were fearless would you go talk to that hot barrista; take a Spanish class; get off the computer and go outside?

Dwight Schrute
Fact: he’s 80% faster than all bears

Fear is the thief in the night that robs us of our dreams. We’re afraid of poverty, so we settle for a soul-crushing cubicle job. We’re afraid of how others will judge us so we keep our music inside us. We’re afraid our ambition exceeds our ability so we abandon our goals. These are the everyday tragedies.

Like a bully fear can sucker punch our motivation and take its lunch money.  But like most bullies fear recoils when we stand up to it.

Courage is the antidote, a way to say “Hell no I’m not going to let this useless feeling run my life.” Sometimes that means welcoming your fears.

As we’re liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
- Nelson Mandela

What are your most important values? Love, compassion, and integrity are mine, and all of them need courage to manifest. I can’t love if I fear opening my heart. I can’t work to end suffering if I don’t have the courage to face injustice.  I can’t have integrity if I am afraid of reprisal for standing up for my beliefs.

Courage lets you wield your values like an axe to cut down the barriers between you and your dreams. But where do we find courage when fear smothers us? Here’s some humble advice:

Put the challenge in perspective:

Ask yourself what is the worst that could happen? Then, if it’s not too painful, think of the worst thing that’s ever happened to you (e.g. being dumped, death of a loved one), then realize that you are still alive and functioning, that you got through that challenge and maybe have even healed from it.  Trust that you can overcome this next challenge, too.

Jack Nicholson axe door
Now where did I put those carrots?

Give yourself a carrot:

Vividly imagine the benefits of overcoming your fear: finding a job you love, being able to afford the trip to India, losing the weight. Picture every detail–how will you feel; who will be with you; what will you be doing?

Take the first step, then another:

Some fears can be paralyzing and trying to face them directly is futile. Start small if you have to. Maybe you are facing depression and your challenge today is getting out of bed. That’s enough. You wouldn’t try to run a marathon without first doing some conditioning. The key is to begin. If you don’t try,  you can’t succeed. Showing up, as they say, is half the battle.

Chill out:

Laugh. See the world for what it is: a wacky, wonderful place that doesn’t make a lot of sense sometimes. Worrying is fixating on your fears, and that’s not a good motivator. Love and passion are great motivators, and it’s a lot easier to act with those things in your heart when you’re relaxed.

“The world is full of horrible things that will eventually get you and everything you care about. Laughter is a universal way to lift your head up and say: ‘Not today, you bastards!’ “
- Anthony Jeselnik

And if none of that works,

Fake it until you make it:

If you can’t find courage, act anyway. It will be scary, terrifying even. But after it’s all over you will realize everything went better than expect; that the fear was uncalled for. Repeat, and it will become a habit, then a natural response.

Sometimes you can even use fear as a strength. Nobody is fearless, but life is much more fulfilling when those fears are faced with courage.

Try it and see.


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