At an event yesterday, I got chatting with someone who was in a bit of a dilemma. He was a young graduate who had landed a good job after university but he had quickly realised (he had only been in the job for 4 months) that his heart wasn’t in it. He had made a beeline to chat with me after I had introduced myself as someone who left my corporate role 9 months ago and is currently starting up my own business. His first confession to me was that he was thinking of resigning from his job, either that same day, or the next. He went on to ask me how it felt when I left my job. My reply included a profanity that I’ll omit from this article but the answer was along these lines, ‘it was really blooming scary.’
His next question was one that I don’t recall ever being asked before. He said ‘…and what has happened since you left, did the fear go away?’ The timing of this question blew me away given that this past week has been one of the scariest weeks of my life. I had to be honest with him. ‘Well actually,’ I said ‘what I’ve experienced recently is that it doesn’t go away. But what has happened is that I’ve learned to live with it so it consumes me less.’
He thought about that for a short while and we continued to chat about his situation. The large majority of what he was describing was extremely familiar to me. The compulsion to act on what your heart is telling you to do combined with the reluctance to take a decision that is unfamiliar and scary, not only for you but for those around you. When talking through a decision like leaving your job with friends and family, you are often faced with the question ‘so what are you going to next?’ It’s a sensible question; the difficulty comes when the honest answer is ‘I don’t know’.
He, like me was responding to a heartfelt certainty that he had to make a change in his life. That he was in the wrong place and needed to explore what else was out there for him. The challenge is that in a world where we really enjoy certainty and decisions, to be someone who is uncertain and undecided takes extraordinary courage.
Including the words ‘Be courageous’ in The Human Leaders manifesto was an absolute no-brainer. It is a quality that is needed on an enormous scale in the world today. What is surprising is the level at which I have been feeling the true meaning of the words so far this year. Fear is well documented and you are probably very familiar with the saying ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. My problem with this phrase is that it goes no way to addressing the crippling consequences of fear, nor even begin to support you in tackling overcoming those consequences and embracing the true meaning of the word courage.
In the darkest moments when you are consumed by fear it is very difficult to achieve clarity of mind. My mind has a functionality where it plays out over and over again with increasingly severe consequences, the worst-case scenarios of the situation. This can result in heart palpitations, an inability to sleep no matter how shattered I might be and a crushing effect on my general demeanour turning me from a bright and bubbly 35 year old woman into a quiet and scared 5-year-old-girl version of myself.
But here’s the good news; there is an antidote for even the most dramatic consequences of fear.
Courage is to follow your heart even if it is telling you to do something that might not appear to be logical on paper. Courage is to acknowledge the uncertainty of the situation you are in and do it anyway. Courage is trusting that emotions pass and that any fear you feel will disseminate in time. Courage is seeking the wisdom that you hold in your heart and being true to what it is telling you.
To the young guy I met yesterday, who I’m sure will recognise that he has been the inspiration for my writing today; please trust your inner wisdom and go ahead and make your dreams come true (even though you might not know what that dream is yet!). After all, it the most important dream of all to follow your heart and be courageous.