Radical Courage

I don’t know. I need help. This is too much. I don’t understand. I need a break.

Imagine yourself saying these phrases out loud to your friends, family, co-workers and to your boss. What feelings does this bring up?

If you are like most of the population (including me), many of these statements elicit shame and fear. We are conditioned to believe that we should be strong enough to stand alone all the time. We are taught that we should never quit or give in, and definitely not show our feelings: rub some dirt on it, crying is for losers, just push past this…on and on. We are told that we should always know, have a plan and be in control.

Then a pandemic hits and we find out what courage really is.

It’s holding our boundaries, saying no and taking breaks to rest and play. It’s staying in the discomfort, in the gap between what was and what will be, wading into the unknown with open minds and open hearts. It’s asking for help and inviting other people in. It is challenging what we’ve always done and letting go of what was, plans and all we’ve invested, to make room for what could be.

When I recently polled a group about courage they said it’s:

  • Leaning into discomfort
  • Moving forward through fear
  • Staying open when you’ve been hurt
  • Riding the waves rather than swimming away, while learning to ride even bigger waves in the process
  • Choosing to believe the truth rather than the lies that keep us from being our truest self
  • Recognizing our internal thoughts and responses and how they affect our story
  • Trusting in our higher power and higher wisdom

Typical courage would have us shove down, avoid and push through whereas radical courage causes us to become aware, accept and act. In the pandemic, we have witnessed so many leaders displaying radical courage. Moms and dads who have decided that when the schools shut down, they would change their budgets and spending habits to quit their jobs and stay home with their kids. Others who didn’t have that choice but needed more time and space, approached their bosses with the truth of what was happening, how they were feeling and what they needed. Leaders who were struggling to keep up and show up as their best self were honest with their team members about what was happening. Countless people reached out to ask for what they needed: errands run, unpaid time off, more flexibility, therapy, coaching, family support, etc.

We also had the honor of seeing organizations display collective radical courage. Executive teams who admitted they don’t know what’s happening, willing to step back and re-evaluate. Many who have slowed down and come back to the basics, realizing that because of the crisis situation trust, safety and communication need to be rebuilt. Others who decided they will use this opportunity to reinvest in their foundation and future instead of pushing for growth in the same ways they always have. Several organizations and teams who have faced the difficult conversations they have been avoiding: What’s really possible in this season? How can we work differently in a way that honors our humanity? What’s most important right now? What do we need to do to encourage and equip our people to not just survive, but thrive?

Now it’s your turn to lean in with curiosity and compassion. You only get one life and the top regret of the dying is “I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” We need your truth. We need your authenticity. We need your courage. You can coast and blame or live and own your life. You can avoid and excuse what happens to you, or you can acknowledge, accept and act. You can carry and bury your feelings or you can learn and grow from them.

Here are some questions to get you moving toward radical courage: How am I feeling right now? What is in my control? What do I need to let go of? To accept? What more do I need? Use these questions situation by situation, or at the beginning and end of each day. Be honest about them. That takes radical courage. Collective transformation requires each of us to transform individually. It starts with you.

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