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This article can serve as a follow up to the one about visioning. It is so easy to get overwhelmed and experience some level of anxiety on a normal day. So you can imagine then that during a crisis such as this pandemic, it is increasingly harder to remain calm and control anxiety and fear and to even think about your future when all you are trying to do is survive. But trust me when I tell you that there is no better time to reach inside for the measure of courage that has been given to you.
What is courage? It is strength in the face of pain or grief; the ability to control your fear in a dangerous or difficult situation, and to be brave and confident enough to do whatever you believe in. So you see? Courage cannot exist without danger, difficulty, or distress.
I have two go-to phrases that refer to courage: ‘Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying “I will try again tomorrow’ (Mary Anne Radmacher) and ‘Courage is moving forward even when you feel afraid (Joyce Meyer).
I heard the phrase ‘do it afraid’ many years ago and it has never left my thoughts. However, for many years I thought of myself as a ‘behind-the-scenes’ person. I was ‘comfortable’ working and supporting from the background at church, work, and school. I love the idea of imparting and sharing knowledge, but the fear of facing groups of people was very great. I have written songs, motivational speeches, empowerment and conflict resolution programmes for teen mothers and primary school children, respectively, poems, stories, high-quality research papers etc, but was not willing to do anything to put myself in the spotlight.
For instance, I used to do everything I could to get out of doing group oral presentations including offering to do all of the research and written part of the work instead. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. Opportunities have passed me because of that fear. Also, I absolutely love music and singing. I am asked to sing at church sometimes, and I don’t think they ask me because I sing well. It is because they know I will say yes, even though I am afraid. And I am almost sure that even people passing by the church gate can hear the nervousness in my voice when I sing.
But after doing some self-examination, I discovered something about myself. I am a willing, supportive, and helpful person. And because of that, even now, although I sometimes feel fear when there is something I need to do or asked to do, I am willing to do it afraid. This is because I realize that the end result of being courageous is usually far better than not doing something due to fear.
Is there something that you know you need to do but you are afraid to proceed; you hesitate out of fear that you will not get the desired result? I strongly suggest that you do it afraid. Do you know why? Because, as I did, you may wait forever to get rid of the anxiety, fear, or doubt and/or acquire increased faith, and the opportunity may pass, never to return. You can also do some research on persons who did it afraid and was successful.
In case you didn’t know or need to be reminded, every single person has strengths. What that means is, you have the ability to cope with difficulties; you can operate even in stressful situations; you can bounce back in the face of suffering, and you can experience growth because of your challenges. You just need to tap into your strengths.
To discover your strengths, you have to first accept that you have strengths. Then ask yourself a few questions: What are some of the things you like to do or feel that you do well? What might your friends say make you a good friend to them? How do you handle difficult situations? When you do what you know you need to do, what will be different about you and those around you?
Sometimes we fear failure because we are afraid of not meeting expectations. But if you think about it, what is the worst that can happen if you make an attempt to do something? If you fail to accomplish a goal this time, you can choose to learn from your mistakes and try again. Another question you could ask yourself is what is the worst that can happen if you don’t try? Well, if you don’t try, you give yourself no chance to achieve your goal, and that can only result in failure.
So you see, whatever you decide to do, failure is a risk. But if you express courage and move forward, you give yourself the opportunity to gain or offer something of value. In many instances, even in my own life, when you face your fears, you experience pleasant or favourable results. One such instance is surviving three (3) months of teaching practice to complete a Masters of Arts in Teaching degree. Two weeks in I was ready to quit. My heart pounded loudly in my ears hours before I entered the classroom and continued for several hours after each class. I cried in frustration, but the determination to realize my vision of being a teacher and/or adult facilitator (and all the other possibilities) is what kept me going. And the fact that I would not have to encounter the children or my university teaching practice supervisor again after I finished.
Bear these four things in mind when you are faced with an issue regarding achieving your goals and facing fear: (read slowly)
Do not highlight what you do not want to happen. Instead, focus on what you want to happen, and on what you need to do to make it happen. Ask any successful person and they will tell you that perseverance is the key to success; get up and try again if you don’t succeed at the first, second, third…attempt.
Don’t expect everything to be smooth in your pursuit of success. Everybody experiences highs and lows in life. Success and failure are both natural. In fact, you know one simply because you have experienced the other. For example, how do you know that you are happy? You know because you are not feeling sad. And this can be looked at in the reverse. Time and energy are never wasted when used in trying to achieve a goal.
Be conscious of the goal and the potential outcomes. It makes you prepared for failures and able to plan actions to try again. Being conscious also helps you to remain calm when faced with fear and assist in creating something that contributes to self-development.
Ensure that self-awareness and self-acceptance are at the foundation of every action you take. That means, know your potential; know what you are capable of because this determines your level of success. When you know your potential, you will ensure you don’t bite off more than you can chew, nor settle for less than you can achieve or accomplish.
Bear in mind that you do not have to become successful overnight. Take one step at a time, and meet each issue as it comes up, knowing that it is not as dreadful as it appears and that you have the strength to deal with it. Discover your strengths, pray for increased faith, and do it afraid!