What is your self-talk when you plan on “doing”? How is that different when you plan on “trying”?
Many dreams never leave the drawing board. Some never even get that far. But if you have been bold enough to dream, and to put forth your dream–and if you have taken an honest inventory of your current reality, practiced compassionate confrontation and non-defensive listening, made room for learning and loss–the time to act on your vision will invariably come. Clearly, manifesting dreams requires action. When that action is informed and guided by the first six acts of courage [link: https://theactsofcourage.com/], dreams have real traction.
Whether the dream is a personal one or in service to a group vision, you will be well served when you have taken stock of all your resources, taken an inventory of and addressed obstacles, opened to fresh ideas alongside tried and true methods, and searched for and acquired what is missing. Now comes the fun part: taking action. If your dream doesn’t manifest exactly as you imagined it on the first pass, you can quote Thomas A Edison: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” And then, take fresh action.
Consider the actions you have been avoiding. What is the cost to you emotionally and spiritually when you don’t take action on things that you know need doing? In particular, how does it make you feel when your dreams keep getting put on the back burner? Are there ways in which you could take the smallest action step in the direction you want to go? Is it feasible to wake up 30 minutes earlier every day and take action to accomplish your goal? Could you block off a longer chunk of time on your calendar, in service to acting on your dream, something as immutable as any “important” appointment? And most delightfully, who will help you celebrate your every achievement on the way?
If you have been a spectator or simply a character in your life, I invite you to become the scriptwriter. Set the scene, then courage, lights, action!
by Robert E. Staub
Would you rather have loved and lost or never loved at all?
VULNERABILITY: OPENING TO LOVE, LOSS, AND JOY
Are you open to living your life as completely, deeply and fully as possible? Do you value being loved by, and loving, others? If your answer to these questions is “yes”, then you will need the courage to be vulnerable. As you open your awareness to life, you realize that death and loss go hand in hand with birth and gain. The courage to be vulnerable is willingness to stay open, to love and let in what you most desire, even though a future loss may bring heartache. I find too many people holding themselves back, trying to not be hurt by disappointment, and locking away key parts of themselves. Poet Elizabeth Sewell describes this as “drawing the tombstone up to the chin (in life)”. This is no way to live. To be fully alive means loving and living openly and seizing each one and only moment for all it is worth.
The courage to be vulnerable is a prerequisite to being able to enjoy love, to being authentic, to living with joy. Yes, loss and pain will be there and come along with the joy and love. Yet, even when you try to protect yourself from being hurt, you have probably found that you simply hurt yourself more. You deprive yourself, as well as those around you, of the power of your full presence, openness and engagement. It is a bargain with the devil when you cut yourself of from feeling love; it simply guarantees that you will feel greatly deprived now, AND in the end.
If you are willing to be open to the wholeness of your life experience, instead of settling for being “safe” and closed-in, then I invite you to make a list of the things that matter most to you and the people you love the most. Outline ways in which you may have been holding back; perhaps there are words you have left unexpressed for fear of rejection or loss. Who would you reach out to if you were on your deathbed? What would you say to them? Why wait? Be bold: practice vulnerability and open to love, starting in this precious moment now.
By Robert E. Staub
BE SMART: GIVE UP BEING RIGHT
How can it be smart to give up being right? The willingness to give up proving what you know, and to instead step into the confusion and ambiguity of the unknown, is an act of courage. When you choose to discover what you do not yet know, you open yourself to learning and growing. This act of courage is closely aligned with the courage to be confronted, which I have described in other writings. Letting go of having all the answers is another way to understand, appreciate and connect more deeply with others.
As people get older, they become wiser and more open to life only if they cultivate the courage to learn and grow instead of insisting on old ways of thinking and acting. Unfortunately, many individuals grow more rigid and close-minded as they age. I say they have been afflicted with the dread disease, “Hardening of the Categories”, a mental prison that limits understanding, inhibits growth and degrades joy in life.
What can you do to develop the courage to learn and grow? Take note of the times you catch yourself insisting (even in the privacy of your own mind) that you are right. Then choose to focus on how you can be more influential and positive in relating to others. Invite novel information and viewpoints, as described by Warren Berger in his book A More Beautiful Question. You can also pay attention to the actions you avoid taking because you are uncertain or unclear about them. What new information would help you? Do you care to acquire a new skill, or instead to find someone reliable to outsource difficult tasks to? Who can be your ally in learning? Who will remind you that a mistake or early failure is a lesson, not a sin?
Ultimately, it is the courage to learn and grow that shapes our capacity as a civilization and brings big and juicy dreams into fruition. As in all things, this happens one courageous individual at a time. So, what new thing will you learn today?
by Robert E. Staub
The courage to be confronted is the courage to hear the things you don’t want to hear. This can include information that is new to you or something that challenges your sense of reality. It might be about the negative impact of your words and behaviors, or it might point to the consequences of failing to take action. Courage is required because hearing such things from others is usually painful. Yet, when you stay open to difficult feedback–without shutting down, defending, denying or counter-attacking–you stay open to learning, growing, and building stronger relationships. If you model listening, and respond non-defensively, you invite others to do the same. By actively seeking to understand other viewpoints–you are not required to agree with these–you help to cure intolerance and cultivated ignorance.
Integrity is like a two-sided coin. It requires that you speak your truth and also that you model the courage to hear the truth of others, especially when you disagree or when they are being critical of you. Integrity is very demanding and does not wait on comfort or peace of mind; it challenges you to speak up and to also then listen carefully to others. Learning to listen openly, actively and non-defensively is nearly a lost art form in our society. Yet, without it, we all risk being blind-sided in our relationships, at work and in our society (witness the 2016 election results in the United States). Developing the courage to be confronted generates powerful outcomes: when you get insight into how others think, feel and perceive, you also acquire a greater capacity to positively influence others.
Are you ready to generate greater personal integrity? Would you like to minimize the chance of being blindsided? Would you like to be more influential with others? You can develop the courage to be confronted by frequently asking others the following question: “What is the one thing I could change that would make the biggest positive difference in our way of relating or working together?” Look for any patterns or themes in the feedback you get; these are the most important to work with.
If you care to make this world a kinder, better place, then I invite you to model the courage to be confronted as a crucial behavior toward that goal. Now, let me go ask my wife what she has to say to me…
By Robert E. Staub
When have you been afraid but acted anyway?
The Quakers have a beautiful saying, “Speaking truth to power.” This quote captures the essence of what I call the Courage to Confront. If you lack this capacity, you cannot move with integrity in the world. You are holding something vital back. If you wish to move from your current reality toward your dreams, you must be able speak your truth into the world–to yourself and to others–with compassion and grace. Shouting at others or speaking up only when you are angry, is not what I mean by confronting. That is dumping on others. People do not listen when we dump on them; they shut down, withdraw or dump back on us. I repeat, this is NOT the courage to confront. It might get media coverage or boost social media followership, but it will not serve anyone in the long run. It is far more likely to start a war – whether at home, at work, or between nations.
The courage to confront is to speak with both grace and clarity as to what you believe to be true, what you see and what you feel. However, if your way of “confronting” is to make the other side completely wrong, to blame or to shame, then you are off the path and lack the courage to really speak from your heart. The heart does not blame; it discerns what is and speaks simply and directly. Finding the courage to speak up, to share what you are seeing, feeling or thinking in a positive and compassionate way is liberating. You feel both more powerful and also more engaged with yourself and the world. This means finding your true voice and expressing yourself – knowing you have a right, just as all do, to be heard.
Are you willing to find your way back to your authentic voice, the part of you that not only dreams for a better tomorrow, and clearly sees the current reality, but is also willing to speak up, owning insights and truths without making others wrong? Make a list of the things you have not been saying but that you know need to be said. Then feel into what keeps you from speaking up in your true, authentic voice. Remember to tap into the resources–internal and external–that you have available to support taking a stand. Remember the honest, direct statements that are made by the very young, and how these most often do not carry the personal judgment and condemnation that adults use. Practice truth telling in a journal or by speaking to your mirror. Then graduate to sharing with those others who are prepared to listen non-defensively and who will help you clarify your position through thoughtful questions or comments. By taking different perspectives into account, your own message will become more powerful.
Finally, with your message clearly in mind, dare to speak your truth. The world needs you to do it!
By Robert E. Staub
Without a clear-eyed view of what you have working for you, and against you, you have no ground upon which to stand from which to move towards your dreams. The courage to dream is just a pipe dream unless you develop the courage to see your current reality. Unfortunately, there are powerful psychological defenses–such as rationalization, denial, blame, and projection–which can keep you from clearly seeing your strengths, challenges and growth opportunities.
The courage to see current reality means taking 100% responsibility for your life, no matter what. If you wish to know your greatest resource, then look into a mirror. If you wish to meet the opponent who most often stands in your way, then keep looking into that mirror. You are both: your greatest ally and your strongest enemy. In addition, of course, you do need to recognize the people who will support you, and also those who may hinder you. Fate may stack the deck for or against you as well. In the end, however, it is harnessing your heart and facing “what is” with courage that will help you chart the course to your desired destination. This is not a just a feel-good, all-too-easy truth. There are those who will go so far as to risk the possibility of death, because a life with honor, justice, and dignity is what they hold closest to their hearts.
To more clearly see your current reality, there are four powerful questions you can begin to ask of yourself and those around you. The first is, “What are the top two things to celebrate about my life right now?” The second key question is, “What are the top one or two things that are wrong, that need to be addressed or fixed?” The third question is, “What is the one thing that is missing that, if added, would make things work better?” And, finally, the fourth important question is, “What is most confusing for me that, if clarified, would help provide meaningful focus?”
Feel free to expand on the list of strengths, talents, allies and resources you already have available to you. Draw on these as you take on some of the other acts of courage I have written about, such as the courage to confront, to be confronted, and to be vulnerable. Be here now…so you can get to where you want to go tomorrow!