My dad has a saying for everything. Sometimes it’s comical, sometimes it’s serious, but most time it’s both. Like this one: “Go do something you hate. It builds character.”
While I resist the negative undercurrent of this message, I do admire the underlying principle: CHOOSE COURAGE.
Choose courage over fear to make a positive change
Often that’s just what I’m helping my coaching clients do: I hold the space and offer the support for them to choose courage over fear, boldness over shrinking, and self-empowerment over the way they’ve always done things.
Sometimes this manifests in something as overhauling as changing jobs or even careers. Sometimes it’s as bold as speaking up for the first time to someone with more (perceived) power, such as a leader who has blind spots or a direct report with more tenure.
And sometimes it’s in service to speaking in front of a room full of people for the first time.
And, to be credible in supporting others with this skill, I must practice it myself. (Funny how that works).
How to kick the nay-sayer out of your head and make your dreams reality
When I find myself leaning toward “playing small,” here are the six steps that help me expand…and build character (my dad would be so proud):
Step One: Kick the nay-sayer out of your head. It’s just head trash, and it doesn’t serve anyone.
A dear friend of mine, Janine, has a knack for giving that voice a label: Janine calls that voice “she” instead of “I.” That gives separation and perspective—and if you wouldn’t let another “she” talk to you that way, then certainly don’t let the “me” in your head do it, either. Be your own #1 fan
Step Two: Picture your best possible future. Notice every detail: the people, the outcomes, the results that you want to see in your life. Watch it as if it were a video (and hit the “play” button more than once).
Janine did just that—dissatisfied with her job at a non-profit, she began exploring the idea of becoming self-employed. She pictured her future: clients, free time, even her logo—once those became images in her mind, they paved the way for more images of her ideal life.
Step Three: Get out of your head. Now. Tune into your body and feel it. Notice the excitement/ energy/ happiness/ thrill/ buoyancy/ insert-your-own-feeling-here that emerges as you picture it. Notice where you feel it in your body. And let that feeling expand.
Janine didn’t just picture her future, she experienced it. She savored the freedom of working her own schedule. The excitement of investing in herself in service to her clients. The thrill of trying something new.
Step Four: Name the first step. What’s the smallest step you could take in service to that dream or feeling? Write it down. Befriend it. It may be as simple as calling someone who already works in your dream job or asking a friend to give you feedback on a practice round of your next presentation—that’s fine. Just name it, and give yourself a date to complete it.
Janine’s first step was a simple as calling a coach—she wanted to get “unstuck,” and boy did she!
Step Five: Give yourself permission. Both to take the first step and, ultimately, to pursue the dream. Then do it.
Janine gave herself permission to take one step at a time. She didn’t have to see the whole path at first – she trusted it would unfold as she stepped into courage.
Step Six: Build on that momentum. Newton’s first law is that an object in motion stays in motion until acted on by another force. (Didn’t know you’d get a physics lesson today, did you?). Go back to Step Three and determine the next step you can take – and continue the cycle until you are living your dream. And if you hear the “she” in your head kick in along the way, remind her of the steps you’ve already taken—and the successes you’ve had so far. Oh, and that you’re kicking her out, because you’ve only got space for supporters of your dream.
Just ask Janine—she has transitioned into a creative, empowering, and, quite frankly, dreamy career as an entrepreneur. Over lunch recently she said, “It’s taken a lot of work, but it’s been the best decision of my life.”
You’ll get there—one (small) act of courage at a time. And if you’re like me, you’ll find that this builds competence, confidence, and, just as my dad predicted, character.