Discomfort is the price of admission for a meaningful life. I recently heard this from Susan David and thought it aligned perfectly with what our core value of Live with Courage stands for at The Restoration Project.
So many of us spend our life searching for comfort and actively putting protections in place to keep us from getting hurt. We acquire and hoard. We achieve and accomplish for our own accolades, even if at the expense of others or what’s best for our planet. We keep others at a distance, turn away from those in pain, and shut people down or out who don’t agree with us or cause us trouble. We blend in, stay quiet, and play it safe.
Our cultural definition of courage is broken. We are not meant to avoid danger, fear, or difficulty, but rather to withstand it. Living with courage means living a life true to yourself and in service of others. That is a difficult path.
We are told we can’t trust anyone and taught to fear just about everything, especially what we don’t know. So we shut people down and keep people out. We make our world small. We get locked into our perceptions. We close down our hearts.
Courage is unlearning these lies. Unwinding untruths. Taking off our armor. Examining and challenging our own beliefs and perceptions. Sitting with the big questions of life. Learning about and accepting our limits, and discovering and living out our passions and gifts. Courage is about being inclusive. Courage is about acceptance.
I love this from Eugene Holden, “Being inclusive means accepting life and everyone just as they are. Acceptance is a spiritual practice that sets us free from anger, resentment, and judgment.” How good are we at acceptance? Accepting ourselves. Accepting others. Accepting life as it happens.
Living with courage isn’t about playing it safe and it isn’t about being reckless. It’s not all about us and it’s not all about others. It’s somewhere in between. Settled comfortably in the complexity of life. In between the dualities that we live in everyday: black and white, wrong and right. If we are sure of everything, feeling safe, confident, and in control, then we aren’t living with courage. Courage breeds discomfort.
We stifle courage so often in our lives and in our work without even knowing it. We say we want innovation but we punish or look down upon those who fail. Failure is required for innovation. They go hand in hand. We say we want collaboration but we get upset and shut people down when there is conflict. We have to lean into the conflict to get to collaboration. If we want world changers but we tell our kids to quiet down when they get too passionate or to be realistic when their dreams get too big, they likely will not change the world…they will conform and put the energy into fitting in instead of standing out and speaking up.
I’m saddened by how few of us live with courage today. Too scared to give up a bit of our privilege for the rights and freedoms of others. Unwilling to give up a little of what we’ve earned for our starving neighbor. Reluctant to listen to the perspective of others or engage in working to understand each other. We are cowards. The divide between classes and cultures are a signal that the systems are broken. Even those of us who are sitting comfortably at the top of this broken system will eventually fall. As James Clear puts it in his book Atomic Habits, “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”
We need more courageous leaders. Leaders who are warriors for good. Those who do the right thing, even and especially when it’s the hard thing. Following the traumatic year we’ve experienced, we need to do things differently. There is a second pandemic looming around mental health and if we want to survive and thrive, it will require leaders who can consistently show love, mercy, and grace. No more pretending. No more pushing through. Authentic, real, genuine connection and care will be required. Most of us are not ready because we haven’t had the courage to do our own work. I hope you will set aside time for silence, reflection, and preparation because ready or not, here we go.