I’m sitting in seat 1D on Southwest Airlines flight 3114 destined for Albuquerque, New Mexico. It is just me, traveling alone with a plane full of strangers. It took a whole lot of courage to board this flight.
Courage is the commitment to begin without any guarantee of success. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
This quote shook me at my core yesterday; literally gave me the chills. It was almost as if all the steps taken forward and backward in my life totally made sense all within that one tiny word. Courage. I write a lot about my struggles with MS. To narrow it down, the number one and only present struggle is that my legs don’t work, and also that maybe I am at risk of having a flare-up at any given time since my autoimmune system decided to go wonky 10+ years ago. You might say that in and of itself is a pretty big deal. I acknowledge that yes, it is definitely a big risk that could surprise me at any time despite how well I try to take care of myself. The flare ups rarely come these days but when they do it seems stronger and more debilitating each time. Anything can happen to any one of us at any time that changes the trajectory of our life path, well beyond our control. I show up every day, just as you show up every day. And there is one common reason why that trumps any sort of struggle: COURAGE. I have the courage to hop out of bed in the morning and face my day. And until I roll over and pick up my legs one by one to get out of my bed, I have no idea where the day is headed. And guess what? It doesn’t matter. The what happens next does not matter. Think about how powerful that is. It is all about the act of starting. Taking that first step to begin something. Courage drives me, just as it drives you, although I couldn’t define it until this quote slapped me on the cheek yesterday.
I’m 42 years old and I have been reading, listening to and writing about motivational topics for years. Probably more than half my life. And just yesterday, just yesterday, one single word grabbed me. So I know that if this word, courage, is just now grabbing me, that there are many others out there still looking for that ah-ha moment too. And it does not matter your age. Do not ever feel ashamed or defeated because you’ve thought of something too late. What is too late? There is no such thing. You always have now. The defining moment is taking action. Different words, phrases, books, podcasts, etc. that resonate with you will change throughout your life and carry you through different chapters of your life. What matters is that you take notice and start. Start anything. Starting something is better than doing nothing. I felt so propelled as the words sank in. Maybe because it is what I needed mentally to push and pursue my own dreams.
Just simply feel the courage to step forward. To cross off your to-do’s, take ownership of your day, feel less angst maybe, and yes, definitely even give you the boost to begin making your dreams come true. Regardless of big or little, or seemingly crazy. It is not about success or failure. It is about trying. You never know unless you try and for most of us, it takes a whole lot of courage to try.
When I was younger I used to tell my dad that my three favorite letters were “CEO”. I envisioned myself leading a company, rallying the troops, enjoying immense satisfaction at my team’s success. I have not let go of that dream and it looks a little different now, but the funny thing is that until recently there has been a gap between my vision and my confidence. Gabby Bernstein recently said on Instagram, “No amount of working my butt off or making vision boards was going to manifest this dream as long as I was taking action from a place of fear.” I like to call this silent fear the dark safe place. As if my actions have been generated from the rational side. What is that? Fear. Naked and dark and standing there with puppet strings and a crooked smile that laughs without a sound. No more. I have stood my ground and stared that fear back in it’s face with joy and intention. All with one simple word. Courage.
Fear for me also took residency as perfectionism. When I was younger I felt perfectionism meant attention to detail, careful planning and execution. It spiraled into a very pretty smile that said the project needs a few finishing touches while the devil inside cackled you’re not good enough for what comes next. I used perfectionism as a bandaid to mask my fear of the unknown, mask my fear of asking for help and mask my fear of exposing myself. I wanted to do it all. I did not know I was sabotaging myself. I did not know I was sacrificing my spirit to please others who honestly had zero investment in me. I put my energy everywhere except into myself. Was I successful in my career? Yes, I was and still am. The difference is that I am a million times happier now because I approach my life from my heart first and use my head to take action.
I recently watched the HBO documentary, Make It Last about the band The Avett Brothers. They share their deepest feelings on stage and they’re totally OK with that. And, they are deeply passionate about their music and every song is equally, deeply personal. It is raw and unapologetic. The band leaves it all out on stage, all out in their albums and what I see as the most fearless and courageous is that yes, while they have amassed a huge fanship and sell out shows, most importantly they do it for themselves. They’ve pursued their gift fearlessly and fulfilled their dreams.
With regard to following dreams, I heard an interesting interview with Elizabeth Gilbert who knew her passion was writing since a young age. I thought a lot about this and it is very easy for some people to push the idea of following your passion. Passion is a high pressure word, especially when you may feel like you haven’t found yours yet. She introduced me to differentiating the concepts of passion vs. curiosity. For some of us, like me, following your curiosity is a much gentler approach in navigating your life’s path. There is no wrong answer. And there doesn’t have to be a perfectly square box. Some people like to order the same dish every single time they visit their favorite restaurant. Others like the sampler platter. You don’t have to have passion by it’s intense definition to follow your dreams. And you don’t have to be afraid to be curious about many different things. You just need the courage to take action. And once you’ve ignited the courage, in passion or curiosity, you can be fluid in where that courage takes you. Satisfaction, resting in contentment, peace. Find your soul reason. The one that gives you butterflies and is not a representative of something or someone else. In other words, not an ego reason. Prove it to yourself, not someone else.
The quote about courage was found in the 5-Second Rule by Mel Robbins. She says throughout her book that taking courage is not easy. You are damn right it is not easy. That is how she developed her rule 5-4-3-2-1-GO. It is 5 seconds to follow your heart before your brain talks you out of it. Before fear talks you out of it. Take action. The result does not matter. Action equals courage equals confidence. Struggle is struggle. We all have to start. And what better place than to start where you are. No effort is wasted and your efforts are limitless. This was adapted from A Course in Miracles. When you use that courage and you act, the result does not matter because you have motion. And when in motion, the question of “if” disappears.
So, here I sit. On flight 3114 and about to join my best friend on a week long girls trip celebrating 20 years of friendship. It took a lot of courage to board this flight and leave my two children and husband behind. My safe place, and with whom I rest my heart. I questioned my own strength, resolve and ability to make it all work. Yet, here again I sit and I say I did it and the sky’s the limit.