How many times in our lives have we put something off because we’re not ready, we need more time, we don’t feel comfortable, etc. I’ve completed 10 Ironman Triathlons and over 40 10-day, non-stop Eco-Challenge Adventure Races through the most remote places on earth, and here’s a secret: I didn’t feel “ready” for any of them.
There was always more I could have done to train, something I needed more time to prepare, or I wished I could delay the start until a day when I felt stronger. Truth be told, I would most likely never have approached a start line or undertaken those “risks” to journey into the unknown physically, emotionally, interpersonally if there wasn’t a specific date on the calendar and someone with a megaphone saying “go!”
But I am ever so glad I did. I wouldn’t give back those moments, memories, and lessons for anything on earth. Because it is in those moments of risk, where we are forced to rise to a challenge, that we add another brick to the foundation of our character, confidence and strength. So how do we stop “wishing” we had more guts and inspire ourselves to ditch the vanilla life for a big, satisfying scoop of Rocky Road less traveled?
Here are three strategies that will give you the courage you need to take risks.
1. Step Into Character. Nobody knows what’s going on inside your head but you. Remember that to the outside world you appear 100 percent to be the businesswoman, triathlete, writer, (enter your dream here). Try to see yourself the way your colleagues see you — confident, smart, beautiful, and talented — and BE that person.
For example, I’m the biggest introvert on earth, and I’m a speaker for a living. How? Right before I go on stage, I think about the person that everyone in the audience is expecting to meet (vs. little scared me!), and the moment they invite me onto the stage, I become her.
2. Do It Anyway. How you feel is far less important than what you DO. Feeling scared, nervous and uncomfortable when you’re rappelling off that symbolic cliff is just a GIVEN. It’s the price of admission for an exceptional life! The only difference between you and the woman who is living her dream is that she felt the fear and “did it anyway.”
Whenever I told my judo coach I was scared before a big tournament, his response was always the same “yeah… and… so what?” Fear will always be there when we face risks. In fact, I’ve come to embrace fear as the vigilant guardian and trusted friend that gives me a “heads up” to be at my best. But we just can’t let our emotions affect our locomotion.
3. Focus on How It Will Feel to Succeed. When you’re driving your car or riding your bike, where is your focus? On where you WANT to go, right? Where we get into the most trouble is when we start focusing on where we DON’T want to go (the ditch, the puddle, the loose gravel, etc.) — because that’s inevitably where we will end up! So why, when we’re analyzing our risks, do we get so obsessed with what we don’t want to have happen instead of envisioning what success will look like?
Top athletes are masters of visualization. They envision themselves performing the perfect routine, victoriously crossing the finish line, etc., and suffuse the feeling of that success into their mind and heart with the hope of achieving peak performance. We can do that, too! What will it look like, feel like, smell like, and who will be there cheering when you achieve that goal? Use that image to guide you on your mission as well as inspire you through the rough patches along the way.
I see you at that finish line, victorious! Don’t you? The beautiful, talented, smart, driven woman who let fear whisper in her ear but let courage rule her heart? Yep. That’s you!