Man showing his courage

I recently found myself standing seven metres above the ground on a trapeze platform—in a safety harness, attached to safety ropes, with a safety net below me and a muscle bound man standing close behind—after signing up for a fun morning out at a trapeze school. As I peered down at the net, I was suddenly overcome with fear. While I intellectually knew that I couldn’t hurt myself, I was still gripped with fear and terrified of leaning out to take the bar.

It was a potent reminder that unless we manage our fears, they will manage us. It’s also why I believe that one of the most powerful questions you can ever ask yourself is: What would I do if I was being courageous?

How many times have you thought to yourself “If I just had the courage!” The courage to make that change, take that chance, speak my mind, say no to something that doesn’t inspire me, or yes to something that does.

Arrghh, if only…” we tell ourselves as we weigh up the risks, and focus on all that might go wrong. Desperate to avoid nagging feelings of regret, we do our best to rationalise why sticking with the status quo isn’t so bad. While we clutch onto whatever evidence we can find to ease regret and keep doubts at bay. All the while somewhere, deep inside, we wish we’d been braver.

Talk to anyone in the twilight years of their life and they are likely to tell you that when they look back on key decisions in their life, they wish they’d acted with less timidity and greater boldness. Many people—old and not so old alike—have shared with me how looking back on even just the last 10 years they can see how they underestimated themselves too much, played safe too often and, if given the chance to do it over, would have leant more toward risk and less toward caution.

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A version of this article was first published in the May 2014 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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