A Process You Can Apply TodayOver the last years, I’ve studied courage and tested it with trial and error. This year, I’ve finally found a simple process that WORKS for me time and time again.
Imagine every day of your life would feel like an adventure. Everyday you’d be exploring, venturing into new territory, trying new things and making new friends and allies. You’d feel a bit nervous, because you’re not exactly sure if what you’re doing is going to work and if people will like it. But you’d also feel like a kid just before Christmas, because you’re expecting something really good to come from your adventure. Your thoughts go from “Why the heck did I get myself into this? What was I even thinking?” to “This is sooo exciting. I want to do this forever.” and back again. This tension is what it feels like to be truly alive. And it all lies readily available at the other side of the decision to live a courageous life.
Courage is the #1 skill that determines how far you can go in life. When we apply courage, our life expands, our capabilities and confidence grows and we get a sense of being fully alive. When we don’t, our life stays small, our general confidence is low and we feel empty inside. Here’s the great news: Courage is a skill that can be 100% taught, learned, and integrated as a natural part of your life. I’ve done it myself, and you can too. We all have different things we need courage for, but the process is the same.
My journey to courage
I’ve always sensed the importance of courage. As a boy, I grew up in a small village, stuttered and was terrified of raising my hand in the classroom, because I couldn’t get a single word out. Over time I became someone who is able to comfortably communicate in 7 languages including Russian and Mandarin Chinese. Today I enjoy performing on stage and leading workshops as much as any one-on-one conversation. But the real breakthrough came this year. After a long search to make my growth more consistent, – and many years/books/ courses/coaches/mastermind groups/journals & experiments – I finally discovered the secret of how to be courageous every single day. As a result I’m growing at a much faster rate, while feeling genuinely happy and alive. And yes, this happened in 2020. To name just a few things that happened this year, I (1) started a dream that I’d had for over 25 years, (2) let go of a fear that I had since primary school, and (3) did a bike journey of over 1000km. I’ve made a huge jump in capabilities and confidence and started to help the people around me to get onto the same path. And today it would be my absolute joy and honour to take you with me on that tranformative journey. So let’s get going!
Is my fear keeping me from being courageous?
One of the first questions that comes up, is if our fears are keeping us from being courageous. The simple answer is: No. Fear is a normal human experience. It is a very valuable emotion that is designed to keep you safe and out of trouble. It has probably saved your life many more times than you’re aware of. People who are really courageous experience at least a little bit of fear every single day. The goal is not to be fearless, that would be highly dangerous. The goal is to become intimate with our fears. Once we understand how courage works, we can make the conscious choice to lean into challenging emotions, stay present with them and make unprecedented progress.
The one question that will instantly get you started on courage
Here is one thing that I recommend to do, that will instantly get you started on a path of courage. Write down this question and put it on you door or the background of your phone: “Why am I so courageous?” Here’s how that works and you’ve seen it work before. Maybe you’ve done it yourself, or you’ve seen other people asking themselves the question, “Why am I so stupid/fat/…?” And the brain comes up with answers. So why not change that question, to something that is helpful. I’ve done it myself and I’ve seen how my brain slowly started to remind me of times where have I been courageous before and presented me with options where I can be courageous now. Try it for yourself and you’ll be surprised.
The Surprisingly Simple Key To Courage
First let’s get clear on what courage is and is not: Courage IS NOT being fearless. Courage does NOT mean to pump yourself up, push or force yourself to do things. Courage does NOT mean to cut off our emotions. Quite the contrary, it requires you to fully engage with them. Courage is GENTLE. Courage means that something is more important to you than your comfort. Courage means that you’re willing to stay with difficult emotions for just a little bit, because there is something valuable behind them.
Now here is what we usually do when a difficult emotion comes up: We try to make it go away. We deny it, we try to numb it, eat and drink it away or distract ourselves with the internet, porn and social media. Why do we do that? Because we are afraid that we can’t handle it, that it will overwhelm us, that it will simply be too much and we might go crazy.
Now it all becomes very simple once we understand one fact. For the vast majority of situations, except for dealing with extreme trauma, challenging emotions come in waves and any single wave will last less than 90 seconds if you just stay present with it. If you can ride one wave, you can ride the next one and so on. I’ve heard Joan Rosenberg put it into a simple formula that is absolutely in line with my own experience: “1 decision, 8 emotions, 90 seconds.” You make the decision to fully stay in the present for just 90 seconds, when any one of 8 difficult emotions (sadness/shame/helplessness/anger/embarassment/disappointment/frustration/vulnerability) show up.
Let me give you a recent example from dealing with the fear of height. So there was this rooftop where I knew, I could enjoy the sun for a couple of hours. The challenge was that there was only a ladder to go up and I wasn’t sure how safe it was up there, if I could fall from the sides and how far that could go down there. It certainly looked enough to be careful about. So when getting on the ladder, I felt fear rise. At one point on the ladder it felt like too much. So I just stopped where I was. And allowed myself to feel. And looked at where I was, if I was safe right now. And while I was feeling, getting into the present moment and checking if I was safe right now, the fear diminished until I felt really comfortable at the current step.
Then I moved on up, again the fear showed up. I don’t remember if I went fully up the first time, but I certainly went up the second time. When the fear came, I always gave myself room to take a break, feel the emotion, check whether I am actually safe and just rest for a little while. Finally I could just enjoy the warmth of the sun on the rooftop.
After a while, I knew that it was time to go down again. I felt like a cat who chased a bird up a tree and suddenly had to confront the fact, that she has to go down again. I avoided that for a little and enjoyed some more of the sun and then, I slowly got closer to the ladder. Always giving myself as much time as I needed to feel and make sure my steps are safe. And I got down, eventually. After a couple times of going up and down the ladder, it felt like the most natural thing to me. I could hardly remember the fear I felt in the beginning.
This is how the process works. It doesn’t mean that I overcame the fear of heights. I had done ropeparks before this, I even piloted a plane and I still felt fear with this rooftop. This time I just gained the capability and confidence for this specific ladder and rooftop. And I also practiced the universal process of staying present with a challenging emotion.
And because I know the process of staying intimate with my emotions, I can go through any situation. I’ve used it when leading a new group of people, performing on stage, in difficult conversations where I was faced with opposition and hostility and so much more.
By engaging in this process frequently, you get the confidence that you can handle the emotional outcome of any situation that life throws at you or that you get yourself into while pursuing your dreams.
So the next time you feel either (name 8 situations), don’t rush away or try to get through it quickly. Just gently allow yourself to stay with the emotion for 90 seconds, get curious about it, what do you feel, where in your body do you feel it? What is the emotion trying to help you with? You’ll see the emotion diminish quickly and then simply make the next move. Remember, difficult emotions come in waves. Each wave lasts 90 seconds or less. If you can ride one wave, you ride the next and so on, until you achieve your dream. It’s as simple as this. And then you can take the next dream and do it all over. Life feels VERY alive this way. Calm & exciting at the same time. You’ll be surprised by how far you can go.
Where Courage Matters Most
Applying courage in any random situation will give you a lot of benefits, but to create the life of your dreams, you’ll have to apply it strategically. Now, I’m not talking about making a huge detailed plan, this can be a huge waste of time – don’t ask me how I know it!!! Instead, I have the feeling that we all have an intuitive sense of what’s the right next step for us. We often just avoid it.
So here are three questions that you can ask yourself every day, that will get you in touch with what’s most important to create the future you truly want:
- What is a danger that you’ve ignored for too long? (e.g. a specific health/ relationship/ money problem)
- What is an opportunity that you’ve thought about a lot, but didn’t act on?
- What is a strength that you really enjoy using, but didn’t maximize?
Then write down: What is one action I could start and complete today that would move that forward?
After that, simply apply the process of courage. Another question to ask when you’re in the courage stage and everything just looks difficult is this: “What’s the best that could happen?”
Make It Your Journey And Find Your AlliesCourage is a personal journey. We all have our unique challenges. So respect your fears and respect other people’s fears. They are real for us, even if the same thing might seem like a piece of cake to somebody else. Always validate the emotion. From this point we can work to change. Stop to push yourself, stop to suck it up. Instead be curious & playful, exploring your limits in a gentle and loving way.
Also look for allies. You need at least two people who will do two things for you: (1) encourage you and (2) get you back on track. Choose people who themselves are pursuing a life that they really want. Those people should love you and care for you, and also point out to you, when you’re trying to weasel yourself out of a commitment. If they are this kind of people, you can be sure that you’ll have a relationship that will help the both of you to grow. And you can also be this person for somebody.
Over the years, I’ve built my own personal network of close relationships with such people. I get on regular calls with them, where we support each other in the pursuit of our dreams. And it’s making a significant difference. I wouldn’t be half as courageous without that.
Pick Your Dream Up Again Today
A great way to get reconnected to a courageous dream is to pick up a dream that you’d buried a long time ago, because you thought that now is not the right time and you don’t have what it takes. Follow the steps outlined above and you’ll surprise yourself and the people around you.
I hope this insight into the process that is WORKING for me day after day, will also be helpful to you. If you have any comments or questions, please write in the comment section below.
And if you feel like you finally want to start your dream and make real progress, listen closely, because I have opened the opportunity to work with me one-on-one in my Dreamstarter programm. To find out how you can apply for one of the limited spots, click here.
I wish you lot’s of progress and the feeling of truly being alive on your very own personal journey of courage and I hope to hear from you soon.
In gratitude and service,
Further ReadingThese have been the most helpful resources on my own journey of courage:
- “100-Days-Without-Fear” by Michelle Poler (Ted-Talk & Project)
- “Hello Fears” by Michelle Poler (Book)
- “The 4-Cs-Formula” by Dan Sullivan (E-Book)
- “90 Seconds To A Life You Love” by Joan Rosenberg (Ted-Talk & Book)
- “Dare To Lead” by Brené Brown (Book)
- “Read All About It” by Emeli Sandé (Song)
- “Mut” by Alexa Feser (Song)
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