This week I was racing to finish my novel, a thriller that takes place in Cuba, and it struck me that completing this manuscript, which has held my devotion for two years, was an act of courage.
I have no idea why I made that observation, but I do know it felt like climbing Kilimanjaro, or finishing a marathon, or giving birth.
Courage is about challenging yourself, reaching beyond what is normal and changing in ways that increase your potential for growth and transformation.
There are no ground rules to accept a courage challenge. The only requirement to be courageous is to understand that you are going above and beyond what is the normal range of activity in your life.
During my six and a half years of working, studying, then changing work priorities in the midst of being a single parent of two boys, rearranging my living arrangements after being an empty nester, coping with the death of my significant other and professional partner, I lost count of the challenges and the rollercoaster of emotions.
I do remember, clearly, that I had no insurance for 15 years during my 40s and early 50s. I was challenged to figure out how to pay for mammograms, pap smears, and several fibrous breast tumors. That took a fair amount of courage. But I couldn’t give up.
I learned to do the two-step in the lean and hungry years as well as in the more normal years. I intuitively understood that I would need all the courage I could muster to do what I needed to do, and in doing so that I would grow in mind, body, and spirit as I acquired the resilience to endure.
Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows you to be knocked down by life and the courage to come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome you and drain your resolve, you gather your courage, face your fears, and find a way to rise from the ashes.
The following are four main characteristics of resilience:
Your ability to stay resilient and relevant as a sentient being is the key to implementing and maintaining a courageous and vibrant life.
In theory, you know that fear is an irrational state of being. If it is irrational, then why are you fearful? Perhaps fear is a recognition that you have not fully and willingly accepted yourself. So, you resist and create artificial boundaries to stay in that familiar place of resisting. This is the opposite of courage.
Being courageous, taking responsibility for what you can control even in the face of fear and exceeding yourself, is by no means an easy journey. Sometimes being courageous is inconvenient and interrupts your cozy life, and sometimes being courageous upsets others in your environment.
The key to breaking the fear barrier is to seek balance in your life – balance derived from values based on beliefs and heart-centered thinking and behavior. When you are balanced, you can take risks, make glorious mistakes, and plenty of leaps of faith.
In other words, you have the courage to do what comes from your heart, and you can take responsibility for what you can control, even in the face of fear.
To be courageous, feel the fear and don’t run away from it. Then go and do what you fear.
Ask Yourself “What’s the Worst That Can Happen?”
Try to image what would be the worst possible outcome of your fears and write it down. Not only does admitting your fear lessen its impact, but also writing down your fears is a courageous act in and of itself. You might possibly see how you’ve made your story up to fit a fantasy conclusion.
If everything is perfect in your life, leave it alone if you are comfortable. But if you want to take a risk, if you feel a passion to embrace another way of thinking and living, create that story by journaling.
Tracking a different narrative gives you an opportunity to forge another course in life or experience the unexperienced.
“Make small intentions throughout the day to simply be yourself,” as Joseph Campbell writes in his book, Pathways to Bliss.
One of the most effective ways to think about living courageously is to create intentions within your immediate and natural environment. Then, through your own process of discovery, courage will follow.
One of the most effective ways to move into a new reality is to control your imagination. Don’t let your imagination run amok, because an uncontrolled imagination can be your adversary.
Distorting reality will not allow for opportunities, possibilities and explorations. Focus and face life in the present. Believe in yourself, and then move forward with courage.
How good are you at making changes to your life when you need to? Most of us find change to be challenging and difficult. Yet, you intuitively understand that the easier you adapt, the more interesting and challenging your life will be.
Thinking about being courageous, experimenting with the idea that you can expand the parameters of your living experience, is one of the most exciting, rewarding and fulfilling aspects of aging 60 and beyond.
Your mind stretches, your worldview changes, and new ideas and possibilities encourage you to add value to your life.
How are you being courageous and resilient in your life today? What have you done to change your world view and embrace new opportunities in your 60s? Please share a challenge you have conquered through courage. Let’s start the conversation!