A lot of guts.
You have to stand against the norm in so many respects. And that requires a whole lot of courage.
Which at times can be tough. It helps to have a bold endeavour – something you’re really passionate about. Your “why” as Simon Sinek would put it.
But you still need all kinds of courage to carve out your own life.
Here’s my list of the different types of courage I see the need to exercise. And how to begin to do just that.
The courage to take your dreams seriously
We grow up socialised in what’s acceptable if we want to do well and fit in with life. Get the grades, get the job, the promotions, the partner, the children, the apartment, the car…
One day we wake up to the gnawing doubt that our perfect lives don’t feel so perfect lived from the inside. That we want something else; something different. We begin to imagine what different might look like.
People creating life and work on their terms dare to take their dreams seriously. They don’t just see them as something they allow on a drunken night on vacation, only to pack away again with the sun cream. They talk them out. They say them to the world. Speaking them gives them voice and form and legitimacy and shape.
Want to take your dreams seriously? Start to talk them out with people who will listen. See how it feels just to allow them space.
The courage to try
Next, there’s the courage to try to give life to your dreams.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” goes the saying. What would that single first step be for you?
Want to free yourself from a dependent relationship with a client or employer? Open yourself to all the possible alternatives for you and allow yourself to explore them.
Want a job that better suits your strengths? Describe the job for yourself, update your CV making sure that it builds your case, then go find recruiters who handle such positions.
Your dream is of writing a book? Maybe the first step is creating a blog to rally some interest around your subject and then writing a short eBook that you sell via Amazon to road-test the idea.
Trying, as we’ll come to in a moment, doesn’t mean setting yourself up to either succeed or fail. Have the courage to see trying as an experiment. Something you can learn from.
The courage to say what’s true for you
Living and working on your terms means having the courage to speak your truth. What does that mean?
It means being honest in giving an opinion on things, or in saying where things are at for you.
Remember the story of the Emperor’s new clothes? The one where an important figure is tricked into believing he’s wearing a new suit when he’s utterly naked, and everyone goes along with the deception for fear of being found to be unfit? Speaking the truth is saying, as the child did: “the Emperor is naked”.
In business, it’s about having the courage to put a value on your work and sticking with it.
In relationships, it’s about saying honestly what you feel, what you fear, what is and isn’t working.
Is that going to upset people? It may do. But sometimes living on your terms challenges you to face that upset down. Stop fitting in or playing the game.
The courage to look like a fool
Often living life on your terms means doing things that, today, even to yourself seem stupid.
Ritchie Norton tells the story of how Jeff Bezos was sitting in a secure, well-paying job, when he had the idea to start Amazon. From the perspective of today, Amazon was not such a foolish idea. But, in the mid 1990s, when Jeff took his decision to quit and set up an internet company that he was going to run out of his garage, the idea looked like insanity.
The courage I imagine Jeff used at that point was the courage to look like a fool. To hear the doubters and the folks thinking he’d lost it, but not take on their judgement.
We were upping the ante on ourselves around how we ran our practices. We wanted to step out from some of the restricting norms around what it meant to be a coach. Be ourselves in how we work. Channel that into how we create clients. How we offer bespoke approaches. How and what we charge.
One of our persistent questions was how you notice the doubters and move beyond them. The people who think you’re crazy. The folks who challenge:
“And who do you think you are?”
We set up a mastermind group with that name to support one another in finding the courage to grow beyond where we were, and move in different directions.
Our experience: you have to recognise the doubters and dare to stare them down.
The courage to change
We can hold the belief that, once we’ve got through school and university and committed ourselves to a particular lifestyle, it should be like that forever.
That if our friends, families, significant others see us as a particular kind of person, we shouldn’t become something different.
But does that need to be true?
Sure, we may have commitments around finances, family and relationships that we will of course want to honour. But does that have to restrict us to a life of massive compromise?
So, another form of courage is that of daring to get creative about separating out what your committed to, from how you’ll honour your commitments. Also of helping people really get, that if you change, you want and value their support and you want to take them with you.
The courage to fail
Oh, yes. You won’t always get things right. Don’t even expect it.
If you’re anything like me, there will be times when you will screw up big time. Or outcomes won’t be as you imagined.
Here’s a thing: it’s not failing that’s a problem. It’s how you deal with it.
So, the work you thought plays better to your strengths doesn’t live up to your expectations. Don’t castigate yourself for it.
The first book doesn’t sell.
That piece of work you thought you’d contracted vanishes.
The courage here is about looking failure in the eye and seeing what you got from it. What things are you proud of doing, no matter the outcome here? What did it teach you? What are you grateful for in the experience?
“I handled myself with dignity. I was me throughout. I kept my word. I gave it my best.”
Then it’s about picking yourself back up and keeping going.
The courage to succeed
You might think it’s odd that I list this at all, never mind that I list it last. But being successful in living life on your terms takes a different kind of courage again.
It’s about allowing yourself to acknowledge when you’ve broken through things that have been personal barriers for you, and starting to really feel the benefits.
The book gets its own small audience on Amazon or your blog, and it’s helping bring you into contact with people who share the same sense of what matters as you do.
You said you wanted to shift your client base and you’re starting to see signs of new business opportunities open up.
That idea you thought no-one would buy is gaining traction and you’re being invited to consult with clients on how they might integrate it into their business.
Whatever, you’re loving the greater sense of freedom and well-being it’s giving you. Have the courage to allow yourself to really feel that.
Living your own life means being yourself, and that requires a lot of determination and daring.
Courage takes many forms. These are the key ones for me.
But, what have I missed? What kind of courage have you had to engage to support yourself? What else might you try?