Last year at around this time of the year, I decided to take a career break – something I had never done or even thought I would ever do before. I wanted to use the time to really pause, to travel, to do the things that I love and to hopefully glean some lessons from the school of life, outside of the boardroom. I have reflected a lot on some of the things that I have learnt during this time and although there are many, the one that stands out the most for me are the lessons I learnt on courage – and on leading a courageous life – a lesson I continue to learn and try and lean into every day.

The word courage is derived from the Latin word for heart. I find this incredibly beautiful, as to me being courageous means living with heart, with fullness, it means opening yourself up and in doing so embracing the uncertainty of what the outcome will be. As I continue to learn about leading a courageous life – these are some of my takeaways on the journey so far:

Adopting a different mindset to challenges 

We have been conditioned to see hardships as something we should have an aversion to and something that we should avoid. The reality is challenges are inevitable. 

They can be immensely painful and frustrating. Challenges can also be the catalyst for immeasurable growth if we take the time to reflect on the lessons that they are there to teach us. Leaning into courage comes with the risk of facing many challenges along the journey and learning to embrace the growth that comes from challenges allows us to see them as an opportunity rather than a deterrent. Learning to lean into these lessons with curiosity leads to increased fortitude and a personal moat that is strengthened against the battleships that are bound to still attack. Challenges are an opportunity to grow – if we CHOOSE to see them as such. 

Embracing uncertainty 

Opening the heart up to a new pursuit often comes with risks, there may even be others that have been on the journey and have failed.  Being courageous means going ahead despite the assurance of what the outcome will be. It means having complete optimism on success whilst simultaneously embracing the possibility of failure. Courage is embodied with the outlook that trying and failing is a better outcome than not trying at all. There will either be some bruises to learn from (refer to point 1 above) or at the very best the desired outcome will be achieved. Both outcomes, even the undesirable outcome that results in battle scars are propellants moving us forward, both are signs of a life well lived, a life lived with fullness and openness.

A step at a time 

Setting audacious goals can be daunting. The end -goal seems to be too far ahead – somewhere in the distance and completely out of sight. Taking the courageous leap to journey ahead doesn’t mean the goal will be achieved overnight and it’s probably unlikely that it will. Being courageous means taking that first step. It means taking that first step today, this hour, this minute and then the next step again today, this hour, this minute. The steps aren’t always linear, there may be steps backwards and there may be missteps. There may even be steps in a circular motion – you know those times when you don’t know if you’re coming or going. I’ve learnt that it’s important to enjoy the journey, to celebrate the steps forward, to learn from the missteps and to dance when the steps are circular. I’ve also learnt that it’s important to be patient. The scenic route is often filled with many beautiful treasures, if we choose to stop and look for them. Start where you are. Take the first step.

Tapping into our inner voice 

Venturing on a road that is unknown requires some form of a GPS, a navigation system to help chart the way forward. Sharpening and listening to my intuition has been an important aspect of learning to lean into courage. There’s a lot of noise that surrounds us. Noise in the cities we live in, noise from the media that we consume, noise from the people we interact with. Listening to the inner voice, our intuition can be incredibly hard because it is dialed down so much by all this noise. It’s important to obtain guidance from those that may have journeyed ahead, this information helps us in making an informed decision on how to navigate but ultimately the most important GPS lies within us. Taking the time to increase the volume of my inner voice has been and continues to be crucial in my daily life. I personally do this through yoga and meditation but there are many different forms in which it can be achieved. I believe living with heart means tuning into the voice of the heart and listening to its whispers, as it is these whispers that will lead us in the right direction. It is these whispers that will not lead us astray.  

Humility to ask for help

It’s okay to ask for help along the way. It’s impossible to have all the answers or to have all the resources needed. A support system is critical. The humility to ask for help doesn’t lessen the amount of courage, it is not a signal of weakness. It means remembering the fact that being human is an experience which is enriched through connections and that “I am because you are”. It is a catalyst in getting further a lot quicker. I am always overwhelmed by how many people are willing to help, known and unknown and often for nothing in return. Being courageous means recognising and acknowledging our weaknesses, it means taking someone’s hand when they offer to hold yours and it means knowing when support is needed. There is no need to go it alone. 

Life cannot be lived fully without being courageous. If we are to suck every morsel out of this life with its ebbs and flows and if we are to reach our fullest potential – being courageous is the start. The fullness of life lies beyond our comfort zones. The fullness of life lies in living a life with heart, a life of courage.

“Remember the emphasis on the heart. The mind lives in doubt and the heart lives in trust” Osho