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Acting with Courage

Lately I have been having a persistent thought: Am I doing enough? Is the work of coaching, of leading individuals and groups towards their own self-awareness and change, enough? In a world where there seems to be a million causes and calls to action outside ourselves, how can we justify turning inward and doing the courageous work of coaching, when what might be needed now is direct action in the world?

In Brene Brown's excellent new book, Dare to Lead, she answers the question like this: "The greatest challenge in developing brave leaders is helping them acknowledge and answer their own personal call to courage. Courage can be learned if we're willing to put down our armor and pick up the shared language, tools, and skills we need for rumbling with vulnerability, living into our values, braving trust, and learning to rise."

What I love about Brene's work is that she points us to the source of our primary intervention in order to make great change in our worlds: ourselves. Our first radical act to shifting the world around us must be getting rid of our own limiting beliefs and fear-based patters that keep us from stepping forward in courage to answer the call. Then we can lead from a place of confident, grounded, open-hearted clarity, a place that is anchored in power, peace, resourcefulness and creativity.

Starting with the self does not mean, however, that we must forgo action until we have somehow "fixed" or healed ourselves enough to be ready to engage with our worlds. In fact, accepting the personal call to courage means you're willing to get off the bench and proceed despite and because of your fear, perceived imperfection, perceived unpreparedness, even perceived unworthiness. Today. It means putting skin in the game and being willing to take a step in a direction even if you're not sure how it will turn out. It means being more curious about what you can learn and what change you will effect than you are invested in being comfortable, or being perfect, or being right.


In my own world, getting off the bench means I need to use my voice to lead people even if I'm not exactly sure of where we're headed. It means that I may make mistakes and they may be exposed to public scrutiny and pointed out to me (this has happened). It means that people may get triggered by what is coming forward and may walk out of my workshops (this has happened). It means that my inner critics may come forward with data to support my worst fears, making me confront my ugliest patterns while wishing I could turn back and get off the ride and hide (this has happened).

But the time to walk the courageous walk is now. The thing that keeps me tethered to this path is the irrefutable knowledge that the change I want to see in this world is only as possible as the change I can effect inside myself now. It is the work that I started many years ago, and the work that will continue for my lifetime. Of overcoming my fears, of dusting myself off and getting back in the ring. Of being a tiny bit braver, each day.

And so I ask you: What do you care about more than your own fear? What is the larger purpose you can connect to that will keep you walking when you want to give up? And are you courageous enough to start by looking at and shifting yourself so that you can be the change you want to see in your world?

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