Have you ever stopped to ponder what really lies at the bottom of courage? Why some people just seem to get on with it, whilst other dilly-dally, procrastinate, or always seem to have valid reasons why they cannot advance or it takes them so long? Do you know what makes a brave person brave? Action.
Courage is not the absence of fear. It is the ability to act in the presence of fear ~ Bruce Lee
Courageous people are not immune to fear or doubt. Their brain is not wired to ignore the chirpy, annoying inner voices that so effectively convince the rest of us to stop or pause (or flee!). No. Everyone feels fear. It is a universally common emotion and it comes installed as standard in every person's software. In fact, it's part of the firewall - one of those programmes you simply cannot uninstall. There are very valid reasons for this - fear is an emotion designed for our survival and, at its most basic, gut-instinct, core it works extremely effectively.
But in our modern life, in our wealthy world (for us lucky ones living wealthily and peacefully in this world), fear no longer deals with the perils of hunting but rather with the life-deadening bore of shopping at the supermarket. Fear has moved from the gut to the head. And that's bad news. An emotion that is supposed to be raised, acted on, and released within seconds has now put on its slippers and sat down to have a cup of tea with us (our minds, that is) on the sofa. Bad news indeed! It pesters us and distracts us, wastes our energy and time... a bit like a family guest who was meant to quickly drop off something and instead invites themselves in and won't leave.
Last week I completed an online challenge (organised by a fellow coach and friend) called "Jump over your fears" (SaltaMiedos in its original Spanish version). It brought together many, many strands of this mental nuisance that we call fear, discussed strategies and there was much sharing and vulnerability. Since then, I've been pondering the why of fear and the way to overcome it. I've tried to make friends with some of my best known fears and also tried to shine a light on the positive intention lurking behind them (as it's clearly not survival of my person). Here's my shopping list of fears neatly packaged into a table - some of it may resonate with you (most fears are pretty universal).
What all of these fears have in common is this: the mind. Fear doesn't exist anywhere except in the mind. Which is to be expected as the mind is designed to deal with problems so it's always creating or recreating them! The only obstacle on your path really is the mind. To become aware of this is a great liberation - some would say it's the greatest liberation of all.
Sometimes what you're most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free ~ Robert Tew
My week of pondering about fears is being distilled as I write here into 3 mental post-it notes (from the mind to the mind, with love):
1. Inhabit your heart (with its own intelligence) and your body more and get GOING or DOING. Remember, brave people have fears too, but they act. It's in the acting that events unfold, things happen, lessons are learned, opportunities arise, your luck changes... action sets in motion a whole world of possibilities. Believe it or not - but act on it!
2. Why? WHY?WHY?WHY? My favourite question ever... If the positive intention behind our fears is to prevent and/or protect ourselves, what would happen if you took yourself out of the equation? If there is a passion in you, a drive to do or go somewhere, get out of your own way and go for it! A part of you is blocking you, so override that part. It's hard, of course, because that part is your mind, your ego, your subconscious mental trash - you might think "there's a lot of stuff I need to heal before I...." (see it? it's a fear) Or you can stop thinking altogether, and just take a leap of action. And see where it takes you. With awareness. For it's in the interaction of doing and being that we get feedback, that change happens (within and without).
3. Gain awareness of the cost of your fears on your life, your expression, your fulfilment, your contribution. Know yourself (including your fears and their positive intention) but keep your focus on a healthy dialogue between outwards and inwards. When challenges arise (outside), keep your power (inside) to decide what this means to you (a lesson? a reminder? an opportunity for change and/or growth?). When fears arise (inside), keep your power to act (outside).
My fears have distracted me long enough from what I'm trying to do - to be of service to others in awareness. What are your fears costing you? Can you see their original positive intention? Can you meet that need in a more ecological way? Have you tried taking action in spite of and through your fears? Share if you dare! :-)
PS. I did take action in spite of (or because of) my fears! I've just launched my first online mini course on mindfulness... and it's totally FREE! To find out more and to register visit my courses page.