10 Life Lessons That Build Courage
The Aha! Life is anything but a timid life. In every situation, you’re choosing authenticity, your values and dreams, and you are choosing courage over fear.
Courage: “the choice and willingness to confront agony, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation.” – Wikipedia
For many of us, this is a departure from how society socialized us. My personal story is one of transformation from timidity to courage.
While growing up, I never thought of myself as courageous. I was the middle child, an introvert, and somewhat awkward. As typical of teenagers, girls, especially, I didn’t have a lot of self-belief. What other people thought of me mattered to me more than what I thought of myself. Actually, what other people thought of me shaped how I thought of myself. Luckily, influential people, my parents, teachers, and the community that raised me believed in me. But I was raised to play it safe. That’s what got rewarded. I’m sure if my mother was here, she’d disagree. She’d swear she taught me to speak out, stand up, and willingly confront setbacks, uncertainty, or intimidation. Perhaps she planted the seed, but it took many years to germinate.
For most of my childhood and young adult life, I colored within the lines, blindly followed the rules, and did as I was told. I was a people pleaser, so I conformed. And I was rewarded for it. I made my parents proud; I earned my teachers’ respect; I was popular among peers; I was successful. But the life I was trained to live, or the life I was choosing to live, was one of acquiescence, comfort, timidity, and fear. I realize my story might not be too different from other women. Young girls are often socialized to be seen, but not heard, to be self-effacing, polite, compliant, and accepting of what is given to them. But that socialization doesn’t teach us courage. I was not courageous for most of my young life.
Ironically, I would not see the seed of courage take root and grow in me until my mother’s death. I was 20 years old, a junior in college, and I was afraid. Nothing I had done previously could protect me from the weight of losing my mother. In her absence, I would sit and reflect on all the lessons she tried to teach me. I didn’t want to forget anything. And I didn’t want to let her down. I repeated her words and phrases because I felt there was power in them. I thought that by hanging on to her words, I would find the courage to move forward. But I had an Aha! moment. I learned that it wasn’t so much my mother’s words, but it was her actions that spoke loudly. My mother was never the type to color within the lines. She stood up for herself and the injustice of others. She challenged the status quo and non-sensical rules, and she faced heartbreak more than I wish she had. She never let any of it make her callous or timid. She was passionate and compassionate, and she lived a purpose-driven life. She served her family, her church, and her community. And, she poured her love and talents into the hundreds, if not thousands, of students she taught over her career.
In many ways, my mother’s life and death are my inspiration for my Aha! Life. I learned that if I were going to have the life I dreamed of living – a life of joy, purpose, and fulfillment – then I needed the courage to confront my fears, reject safety and comfort for growth, and embrace change and uncertainty willingly. I learned to embody, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Each ending ushers in a new beginning, and reaching a new level requires something different. And everything worth having requires courage.
I know this is my personal story, but I hope that you can connect it to an experience of your own by reading it. The Aha! Life is not a life of comfort and ease. It is the reward coming out of hard-fought battles, of weathering pain and disappointment, and still turning your face toward the sun to greet another day. To live Your Aha! Life is an act of courage.
Here are 10 lessons to remember about living your life with courage:
#1 – Believe in yourself. Never let someone else’s assessment of you govern your own self-belief.
#2 – Be daring. Whether or not it gets you accolades, live boldly.
#3 – Speak up. Use your voice to speak up for yourself and others who need your help.
#4 – Color outside the lines. The artist who wanders beyond boundaries creates the priceless masterpiece.
#5 – Break some rules. Question rules that don’t make sense, even the ones you’ve created for yourself – especially the ones you’ve created for yourself.
#6 – Don’t live for external applause. Reward and recognition are nice, but don’t base your self-worth on external validation, for if it’s withdrawn you need to know that you’re still awesome.
#7 – Be counted. In the moments that matter, let it be known that you were present, and you took a stand.
#8 – Be humble. Great leaders don’t need to tout their power. Humility is a superpower.
#9 – Lean into your fears. A funny thing happens when you acknowledge your fear and continue on anyway. It dissipates.
#10 – Your actions speak louder than words. It was my mother’s daily display of courage that taught me everything I needed to become courageous.
My passion is helping people, like you, live Aha! Lives. It’s a life of more joy, more purpose, and more fulfillment. To get there, you will have to let go of old thoughts and behaviors that don’t serve you. And you’ll need to nurture the seed of courage within you because living Your Aha! Life is an act of courage. In the words of my mentor and friend, Peter Block:
“What courage is required of you now?”
If you enjoyed reading this article and want to gain access to more insight and inspiration, I invite you to visit my website at Your Aha! Life. You’ll find other articles, my podcast, resources, and information on my private Facebook group, The Aha! Community. Please sign up to receive my monthly newsletter. It comes out at the beginning of every month and includes just what you need to kick-off a new month with joie de vivre.