What Scares You?

Living courageously doesn’t mean that you’re never scared. It means that you learn to embrace your fear and move past it — to allow it to strengthen you rather than weaken or paralyze you.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

I love this quote, because it helps me remember the importance of stretching myself, of pushing myself out of my comfort zone and taking a stand for the things I want in life but am afraid to pursue.

Stay True to Who You Are
The key is to align your choices, behaviors and actions with who you are or who you want to be and what is most important to you — to try new things that feed into your larger life goals and commitments.

For example, I am committed to always being courageous, generous and passionate in all aspects of my life. That’s who I am and who I want to be. When I’m living in that space, I’m always energized and happy. I always feel like my life is working. And, I also achieve great things and am able to make the biggest difference with others.

When I become petty, stingy, cowardly and/or cautious, I immediately start suffering. My energy deflates, the magic dries up and my ability to make things happen and support others reduces significantly.

So, just like I go to the gym a few times a week to keep my body in shape, I practice doing one thing every day that scares me, in order to keep my being in shape. This could mean being generous with someone beyond my comfort zone, saying yes to opportunities that require me to work with new people, designing and leading programs that require new thinking, speaking in front of audiences I’ve never addressed, initiating relationships with people I find intimidating, or even simply saying “thank you” or “I’m sorry” to someone when it feels awkward or embarrassing.

Regret Hurts Worse Than Failure
Why is it so important to step outside our comfort zones? Because we are far more likely to regret the things we never dared to try than to regret our failures. After all, failure is merely an opportunity to learn what doesn’t work — which puts us one step closer to learning what does.

Many people are miserable because they feel they left something on the table. When you know that you gave it your all (even if it didn’t work out), you have a sense of peace. You might not always be happy, but your self-esteem is intact. You have no regrets. You know that if it didn’t work out like you wanted this time, you can always try again. Better yet, you know that you are capable of doing things you didn’t think you could do. You strengthen your belief in yourself, and that’s a powerful, courageous way to live. But, if you didn’t live up to your vision of who you are, you will most likely have a sense of defeat, failure and diminished self-worth.

Join the Conversation
I would love to hear from you. Please share examples of “scary” things you’ve done and how that affected your overall happiness. Also, in what areas of your life could you start doing things that scare you? 

What’s Killing Your Courage?

Courageous living is powerful, rewarding and, in my humble opinion, the only way to really live life. But while the concept is simple, applying it is not always easy. Living courageously means learning to ignore the naysayers — including the one in the mirror.

The Enemies of Courage
The biggest enemies of living courageously are negative emotions and attitudes, such as cynicism, resignation and jealousy. People often become convinced — by things others have said or by their own unenlightened thoughts — that they can’t have what they want, that they are not capable or worthy of achieving their dreams. I have seen many people stop believing in their goals and dreaming about their desires and resign themselves to the idea that what they want to do, be or have is impossible. And so they stop trying to go for it.

Often the cynical conversations that lead to resignation stem from jealousy. We compare ourselves to others and come to the conclusion that they are better, smarter or more successful than us. We make undermining comments about others who we feel are more successful — businesswise, financially, family-wise, etc. We look for what’s wrong, broken or imperfect in these people’s lives as a way to feel better about ourselves. Having convinced ourselves we can’t have what we want in life, we attempt to convince others they can’t have it either.

Any conversation that makes us doubt our dreams, our self-worth and our ability to have the life we want is an enemy to courageous living.

Change the Dialogue
I once heard someone describe courageous living as “ordinary people living with an extraordinary commitment.” I resonate with both parts. With the “ordinary people” part — they have doubts, fears and undermining thoughts like everyone else — and with the “extraordinary commitment” part. When these internal undermining thoughts and conversations come up, instead of saying, “No, you’re right; I can’t do that,” courageous people ask, “Why not? Why can’t I fulfill my dreams and have what I want or do that?” These people refuse to accept defeat or to take no for an answer. They insist there’s a better way. And so they find one.

Join the Conversation
Please share what you think. What have you been telling yourself that you can’t do? What have you let others tell you is impossible? And how do you intend to prove them wrong?

Are You Living a Courageous Life?

While most of us would agree that courage and bravery are positive qualities, many people would not use these words to describe themselves. Most people are still too afraid to live the life they truly want — afraid of taking risks, of failing, of being disappointed or of what others might think.

However, everyone has the ability to live courageously. As the Wizard of Oz tells the Cowardly Lion in L. Frank Baum’s classic children’s story, “You know, of course, that courage is always inside one.”

So what is courageous living? How do you know if you are living courageously?

Courage Starts Inside
Courageous living is our innate ability to take a stand for the future we want to have and then allow that vision to begin to shape our priorities, choices, behavior and actions.

Courageous living starts with who we’re being. We must be willing to think for ourselves, to make decisions that are true to us regardless of social norms and what other people think, to dream our dreams, to believe in ourselves, and to take a stand for what we want.

It’s believing: Yes, I can achieve my goals and dreams. Yes, I can be as rich or successful as I want. Yes, I can have the family and the love that I want. Yes, I can live where I want.

Decades ago, after my wife and I had our second child, Eden, we decided to emigrate from Israel. Professionally I was doing OK there, but it was a small pond, and the prospects for success were limited. Wanting to build a better life for our family, we moved to North America. Our original plan was to live in the United States, where we had friends, but we ended up in Canada because of visa requirements.

That was a very scary period for my wife and I. We didn’t know anybody. We had two young kids, and I was away from home 80 percent of the time during that first year developing my career and building the prospects for our future success. Then, after a few years of working in a company where I wasn’t fully satisfied and didn’t feel that I could fulfill my dreams, I decided to start my own business.

That really required courage. I was terrified that I would not be able to provide for my family. I had many sleepless nights questioning my decision of giving up my safety net. There was no guarantee. But I had a vision of my life that required us to take some risks and make a stand for what we believed was possible. And we never looked back!

Courage Takes Many Forms
Courageous living doesn’t just apply to the big, life-changing decisions — such as whether to leave a safe job and start your own company or whether to leave an unhappy marriage. It’s also important to take a courageous stand for the little things we want out of life.

For example, my wife has a very busy schedule. She runs some of our businesses, raises our kids and manages our household. She is an amazing wife, mother and professional. She patiently and generously takes care of everyone around her, including me. She is also a very talented artist — but her busy life has previously kept her from doing what she enjoys for her self-expression. So, several months ago, she made a decision to dedicate one day each week to her art, regardless of everything else that is on her plate.

Courageous living could mean making time for your hobbies or for exercise and not neglecting “you.” It could mean quitting smoking, learning a new skill, applying for a job you’re not exactly “qualified” for, or simply deciding that you will find a way to attend your child’s soccer games.

Living courageously simply means that you take a stand for what you want in life — however big or small — and you stick with it, no matter what.

Join the Conversation
Please share your views about what courageous living means for you. What have you achieved or overcome in your life — big, small or medium — that took independent thinking and courageous living?

Develop Your Warrior Muscle (Part 1)

Every day we are faced with numerous circumstances and situations over which we have no control. However, we can always control who we’re going to be in those moments and how we’ll react to each situation.

The choice is yours: You can deal with problems like a Worrier (i.e., by being a victim, blaming others, and making excuses for yourself). Or you can deal with problems like a Warrior, meaning you accept and own the reality and approach problems head on.

Worriers tend to complain. Warriors avoid complaining, because they understand that even when their complaints are valid, focusing on them is a waste of time. Doing so only weakens them and makes them smaller than their problems.

Worriers often feel their problems are larger than them, and they let challenging or overwhelming circumstances conquer them. Warriors know they have a choice about their attitude and the way they’re going to respond to the tough situations with which they’re faced. And they never stop moving forward.

Worriers say things like “it’s not fair” and “why me?” On the other hand, Warriors ask: “What do I do now? What can I control here? What difference can I make? And how can I make the best of this?” They always take the stand that they are larger than their circumstances.

Warriors live by a “no victim, no suffering” code. They typically gravitate towards doing work they enjoy, or they bring love to their work. In other words, they “do what they love or love what they do.” They bring a positive, productive energy to whatever they tackle, and even if they don’t love every aspect of their work, they do everything in their power to at least own it. This means genuinely accepting and making the best of things. And if they can’t own it, they leave it.

Warriors know they make a difference. They have faith in themselves and their intentions. If they don’t feel they can make a positive difference in their current environment, they always stay true to their values, act with courage, and make the tough decisions. They leave and go to a different team, role, or environment where they can express themselves and make a difference. They don’t allow themselves to recede into a victim mentality or to become resentful, which is what typically happens when people sell out on living up to their values, principles, and vision.

Worriers can spend their entire careers being cynical and resigned. They often view the world as “unkind,” their luck as “unfortunate,” and their options and possibilities as “scarce.” A client once described his job to me as his “eight-hour inconvenience.” Yet, he had been working in that same company for many years. You can imagine which camp he belongs to.

The global workforce is filled with people who spend their entire careers and lives in the Worrier space. In fact, the Worrier space is still the norm in most companies. The problem is that it takes a tremendous level of numbness and unconsciousness to sustain this existence.

Warriors are not perfect by any means. They have the same fears, anxieties, hang-ups, concerns, and doubts that Worriers have. What makes them Warriors is that they act with courage. They understand and accept that courage is not the absence of fear, but rather being afraid and living up to your vision and commitment anyway.

Worriers are often very circumstantial. They typically have a good reason for why they can’t have what they want, or a good story about why it’s not the right time. They keep waiting for the fear to subside or the obstacles to evaporate, or they play it small and safe enough to not provoke fear in the first place.

Building your Warrior muscle is ultimately about developing courage: The courage to be vulnerable and authentic, to be open and honest, and to try new things. Everyone – men and women, young people and those nearing retirement – can be Warrior, but only if they are willing to take ownership of their careers and lives.

More to come on this in my next blog. Stay tuned.