What is one thing you wish you could do in your life or your business? Why can’t you do it today? For most of us, the answer is fear. It could be the fear of failure, the fear of rejection, worrying about what others might think, or even the fear of success.
I chose to talk about courage today for a couple of reasons. First, when we think about the key qualities of great leaders, courage is the one that is most outwardly visible. Second, courage is one of my core values. As I reflect back on my life, it probably always has been, but I didn’t realize it (or label it that way) until a few years ago when I was asked by a women’s networking group to share my journey and the executive director kept talking up how I take big risks and make big bets ON ME.
So how do you define courage? Courage is often defined as being willing to take risks in order to achieve your goals with no assurance of success. For me courage is not about the lack of fear. It is about being afraid and doing the things that scare you anyway.
Being courageous and taking risks are important for us to achieve our goals in our life and our work. Here are some key benefits of taking risks:
- It sounds scarier than it is – We fear the unknown and are programmed to move away from pain and toward pleasure. This is what keeps us in our comfort zone.
- It makes you stronger – You learn and grow when you try new things.
- It moves you closer to your goals – If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never get it. Sitting back and waiting is not a great way to achieve your goals.
- No regrets – There is fulfillment in trying, even if you don’t succeed. You won’t look back later wondering what could have happened.
- It allows you to move forward with better information – You might fail! You are going to make mistakes. It’s okay. Failure is beginning, not the end, of success. Take the new information, learn from them the mistakes, pick up the pieces, and move on.
- It will boost your confidence – By doing things that scare you, it allows you to prove to yourself you can do hard things. It also boosts your confidence because when you take even small steps forward, you start to see momentum and progress which motivates you to do more.
I know taking risks is hard. So, when you take these big leaps how can you help ease the transition? First, know WHY you are taking the risk. When you are clear on your purpose and your vision for the future it makes taking the big leaps easier. You are taking the chance for a reason that you believe in and that moves you forward towards your big life goals. Knowing that the risk aligns with your purpose also helps motivate you when things get hard. Second, surround yourself with great support. You need cheerleaders when the going gets tough. You also need the people who are going to give you the tough feedback when you need to hear it. Next, go “all in”. Get involved in this new situation as quickly and as deeply as you can. Commit and become a part of it all right away. Ask questions, study, and learn as much as you possibly can. Finally, build a good team around you. It’s okay not to know how to do everything. Decide where your strengths lie and where you need help. Then bring in people around you who can supplement you where it’s needed.
The thing that has guided my decision making and allowed me to take these chances was the fact that I don’t ever want to look back on my life and say “I should have” or “I wished I had” while knowing that the reason I didn’t was because I was too scared to try. I refuse to live with regrets! So, when I have a tough decision to make, I ask myself “when you look back on this, which choice will you not regret having made” or “which of these things will you not regret having tried?”. The answer is ALWAYS clear when I look at it from that lens.
At every decision point in my career, I have had people tell me I was crazy. I had things so good where I was, why was I “giving it up” for something else? I never looked at those choices as giving something up. I think people get comfortable and moving beyond your comfort zone is terribly difficult for many to understand. I also think that most people let life happen to them instead of creating their opportunities or at least seizing them when they come around.
My challenge for you today is this: Take a chance, do what scares you, say ‘yes’ to the assignment or opportunity you aren’t sure you can do. These things that challenge us are also what gives us the most growth.