If you want to be more courageous, you have to make brave choices. Sounds simple enough—but how do you know which of those choices to make next?
It might be helpful to think about this question:
What is the bravest choice you can make right now?
I’ve borrowed the question from a post by Jeff Harry, who wrote about his experience reflecting on it:
“If I honestly answered, I’d choose to be in a relationship where I could get seriously hurt. I’d have the audacity to reach out to people that I am intimidated by. I‘d apply to speak everywhere. I’d claim myself a play expert and speak as one. I’d choose to see life as a playground where I cannot fail but simply learn from each experience.”
When I first thought about the question for myself—what’s the bravest choice I can make right now?—I didn’t have an obvious answer. And that felt a little discouraging! It was like being in a room with inspiring people, all talking about the big important projects they’re working on, and when my turn comes I say something like “Oh, I don’t know … I’m pretty much doing the same stuff as always.”
Side note part two: I’ve had that experience more than once in the past year, and each time I went away wondering what I should change.
Present Tense Bravery
I like the question so much because it confronts you with present tense reality. Normally, you hear questions like “What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?”—which isn’t bad at all, but that’s a backwards-facing question. It leads to memories, not possibilities.
You should feel proud of the brave choices you’ve made. But it’s far more interesting to ask, “What’s the bravest choice you can make right now?”
This, of course, forces you out of the nostalgia trap and into the present moment.
Perhaps facing the question feels scary, because it creates a burden of bravery waiting for you to choose it. But would you want the alternative? To never think about brave choices you could make? (Lives of quiet desperation, etc.)
As for me, I know how I would have answered the question in years of old: I’d go to every country, I’d start a blog and begin writing about my ideas, I’d learn to speak to groups and go on a big roadshow.
Or, more personally a few years later, when I went through an especially dark time of loss and sadness. Navigating that process was much harder than going to every country.
But for a long time now I haven’t had a more current answer. It’s not as though I haven’t done anything brave at all—and generally speaking, I like the fairly consistent routine I’ve built. It’s just that I want to keep making brave choices as well.
Even if you can’t think of any “Quit my job and go skydiving” answers for yourself, think of the question in a relative sense. Among all the choices I’m facing right now, which is the bravest one?
In other words, there’s always room in our lives for more courage, big or small.
I Know My Answer Now. Do You?
Over the past few weeks I’ve started working on something that feels a little overwhelming. It’s a big project and different from anything I’ve done in a long time.
This, of course, is a very good sign. As I wrote long ago, when you can’t stop thinking about something, and the idea of doing it is both exciting and intimidating, that’s often a sign that you’re on the right track.
And so, all of a sudden, I have an answer to the question. I’m not ready to share it yet, but I’m excited! And also a little nervous, which again seems like exactly the way it should be.
So now back to you … what’s the bravest choice you can make right now?