One day after work, I was standing in a packed subway car. While I was waiting for my stop, I happened to notice a very talented young boy sketching on a notepad. He was drawing the likeness of a woman nearby, and needless to say, it was very impressive. I was tempted to lean over and say, “This is really good. You’re really talented!” But I didn’t.
I thought it would be weird—complimenting a stranger. I’ll also admit that I’m scared to do something like that in a public place like the subway.
It’s not the first time it’s happened, and I doubt it will be the last. We’ve all come across moments where we’ve held ourselves back from doing something, only to regret making that choice later on.
When I recently read Brave: 50 Everyday Acts of Courage to Thrive in Work, Love, and Life by Margie Warrell, these words struck a chord in me:
“None of us is immune to fear—of failing, criticism, rejection, or being ‘found out’ as unworthy in some way. Yes, left unchecked, our fears can confine our lives in countless ways. Which is why living fully is synonymous with living bravely: being willing to back yourself and take a risk, speak your truth and exit your comfort zone to go after what you truly want, change what you don’t and honour yourself fully.”
It’s a simple concept—pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and taking action despite feeling scared. But, putting this to action is a bit more complicated than you’d think. Luckily for us, Margie Warrell is on the case: in addition to writing a book that helps her readers understand how to “train the brave” within, she also created a 10-day program to get people started on building up their courage muscles for life.
Curious about the challenge, I eagerly signed up for it. It was one thing to read and reflect on the concepts in her book, but I couldn’t help but wonder: what would it be like to put them into action?
So, for ten days, I received an email that gave me the challenge for the day, a video that discussed key topics from the book, as well as a worksheet that prompted me to think about where I could be a bit braver.
What did I learn? That I already was pretty brave.
Many of the challenges Margie put forth were things I had no problem doing: signing up for something outside of my comfort zone, learning a new skill that scares me, saying no, asking for help, offering to help someone without expecting anything in return, trusting my intuition, handling rejection, etc.
It made me feel pretty good about myself—but it also made me realize where I was falling short. During the 10-day “Train the Brave” challenge, here were some of the things I did:
1. Ate my lunch in the kitchen area at work instead of my desk, while working over my fear of looking foolish for eating by myself. By doing this, I got a mental break from work and had great conversations with people passing by the kitchen area. I also got new lunch buddies!
2. Introduced myself to a writer of a column that I enjoyed reading. The last few times I saw her, I always hesitated to introduce myself. I would think, ‘What if she thinks I’m weird? What if this isn’t her and I’m making a mistake?’ However, I put my doubts aside and took the plunge. Turned out that it was her—needless to say, she was very flattered. Score!
3. Asked a coworker for something following a presentation, expecting my request to be rejected. To my surprise, she was amazed that I was even interested in something like that and enthusiastically provided me with the material I asked for.
4. Reached out to college friends I had lost touch with. I even planned to meet them sometime later in the year! I’m glad I took the first step.
5. Put on comfy blue slip-on shoes that didn’t match a pretty dress I wore to work. I was self conscious of my decision the entire day, but it was worth it. I didn’t give in to the pressure to wear heels, and my recovering ankle was all the more thankful for it.
Of course, not all days were brave ones. In fact, I had a couple of “cowardly” days. Whenever that happened, I tried to forgive myself and understand what I could do to have a different reaction next time.
Margie says it best:
“The truth is that neither this book—nor for that matter, any book—can make you brave. Only you can…And every time you fall and fail—which you will—you’ll forgive yourself for being human, get back up, brush yourself off and begin anew…To become truly brave, you must choose to think the brave thoughts that you want to dominate your life.”
So, are you ready to be brave?