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How to Be Courageous

How to Be Courageous

    What do you think of when you think of courage? Perhaps you think of a firefighter running into a burning building to save someone. Maybe you think of a person facing a battle with cancer or a parent fighting for their disabled child’s rights. While those are great examples, I don’t think that strength and courage are always as as noble or rare as that.

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    For someone struggling with depression, getting out of bed in the morning is courage. For someone successful in their career, striking out on their own is strong and courageous. For those of us who like to put our best foot forward — don’t we all? — it’s simply this:

    True courage is risking being uncomfortable.

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    I am a volunteer firefighter, and do you know what the hardest thing is about fire fighting? Showing up. Just getting out of bed when the pager goes off at 1 a.m. to face an unknown situation. We never have very many details of the call we are responding to. We rarely have an indication of whether we will be gone an hour or eight. I don’t know if I am going to be asked to do something I’ve never done on a real scene before, something I’ve only done in practice. Even just going to practices takes strength and courage. I never know what new skills we will be taught, or if we will do a scenario which tests our ability to act as well as problem-solve. And I never know if I might end up looking foolish.

    That’s really what it boils down to, doesn’t it? None of us likes to look foolish. Sometimes, if we are in a comfortable rut in our lives, we can end up too concerned with appearances. We end up paralyzed or we maintain the status quo, thinking that we’re doing really well holding our own. We’re not losing ground, so we must be growing, right? Wrong. True personal growth only happens when we move forward, and that only happens when we have strength and courage and face our fears. Usually, it is nothing more than being willing to risk being uncomfortable or looking foolish. Going to practices at the fire hall, I have to be willing to get way outside my comfort zone, do my best to learn a new skill, and risk looking foolish the first time I do it.

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    Here are four tactics you can try to become more courageous:

    • Be willing to go. Start out by just being willing to do that difficult thing, even if you aren’t actually doing anything yet. In cases where the difficult task to face has been thrust on you, like being diagnosed with cancer, being willing can be a tough thing; think of it more as being willing to accept that you are where you are, and stepping forward into each moment with the most serenity you can maintain.
    • Watch how you talk to yourself. Focus on how others have done it, how maybe it won’t be as hard as you think, or how it really is just about being uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable never killed anyone, and although the thing you need strength and courage to do may be tough, it won’t kill you either. If you are facing a serious illness, talk about why you want to be well, and talk as little as possible about your actual condition.
    • Practice on small things. If you have a really big situation you’re facing, practice on smaller uncomfortable things and then apply that success to boost your confidence to take on the big thing. I didn’t start out at the fire hall driving fire trucks. I started out putting my gear on, washing trucks, and laying down hoses.
    • Take a deep breath and do it. I hate to tell you this, but firefighters aren’t all that courageous. Our courage comes when we sign up for the job, and after that, it’s all just taking a deep breath and doing what we’re trained to do.

    (Photo credit: Singe Firefighter via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on December 2, 2018

    How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

    How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

    Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

    The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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    The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

    Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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    Review Your Past Flow

    Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

    Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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    Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

    Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

    Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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    Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

    Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

    We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

    Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

      Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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