The Courage to Trust – a How-To Guide

lbb courage jpgThe other day I was reviewing some affirmations and noticed a clenched feeling in my chest while reading one. Something felt out of whack and was sending me signals. The affirmation read “I have a steady, predictable income.” Now there’s nothing negative about those words but somehow it felt like looking through the wrong end of the binoculars. It made me think of lack instead of abundance. Something surprising happened as I realized this. The idea of rejecting predictability and embracing the unknown gave me an enormous burst of energy and excitement. I felt certain that this was right for me and that feeling continues.

It’s as though my orientation has changed from security to possibility, from the bird in the hand to the two in the bush. Fortune favors the brave. I will get more of what I want– more joy, more energy, more blessings– by increasing my trust than by protecting against fear. The opposite is also true– the more I fear, the more limited my world, the more I settle for less.

What moves you further along the continuum from fear to trust? Courage develops incrementally. I’m not recommending that you go from agoraphobic to professional public speaker in one fell swoop. You’re not supposed to feel terrified. Start with small steps and build on your success. Little by little you can let go of what you can control and embrace the unknown. Here are some examples of ways that make it easier:

Katrina had some anxiety about starting grad school so she planned a practice run to the campus to get the lay of the land and find her way around. Now that the logistics are handled she feels better able to manage all the other new elements of what’s to come.

Lorraine was asked to attend a community organization to represent her group’s issue. She was intrigued but scared. A friend who was part of the organization gave her a blow by blow of the meeting– what would happen, who would be there, how they’d be dressed. That description made the event substantially less frightening.

High Value
It’s a whole lot easier to be courageous when you truly want something. Jane loves her local museum and always wanted to become a docent. Though shy in groups, she was determined to volunteer, and enjoyed the first meeting without dread or social anxiety.

Low Risk
One thing that helped Jane was to figure out the worst possible outcome and determine its likelihood. They probably weren’t going to laugh and point, and if she tripped when she walked in she could get up and say “Tah Dah!”

You’re in Charge
Your hand controls the reins of how much discomfort you can handle. You get to choose whether to go or stay. When Tom Smith was training Seabiscuit he didn’t try to force the horse to do what he refused. Smith let Seabiscuit discover that he had choice. You don’t need to be defensive or resistant when you’re the one in charge.

There’s safety in numbers. Things always seem less frightening when you do it with a friend. Maybe it’s just misery loves company. Whatever the motivation, friends offer support, and help bring out your biggest self. I’m often my boldest and most outrageous with my friend Gina. She’s got me doing stuff on stage that I never imagined possible, but I feel safe in her company.

Higher Power
No courage How-To list would be complete without trust in God. I’m a novice in spiritual matters and only just learning how faith operates in my life. Suffice it to say that being part of something infinite and all-powerful can definitely give you a leg up.

So maybe courage is simply portable safety– finding it within yourself rather than seeking it from the world; generating it as needed and always having the right amount– no more, no less. That’s certainly a productive use of resources.