How to Live a Courageous Life

“When defeat comes, accept it as a signal that your plans are not sound, rebuild those plans and set sail once more toward your coveted goal.” -Napoleon Hill ~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #31 Alison Gopnik shared in a recent article, the power of exposure to fear: depending upon when during our lives we are exposed […] Listen now or continue reading below.

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“When defeat comes, accept it as a signal that your plans are not sound, rebuild those plans and set sail once more toward your coveted goal.” -Napoleon Hill

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #31

Alison Gopnik shared in a recent article, the power of exposure to fear: depending upon when during our lives we are exposed to fearful situations will determine the effect such exposure has. Placing an exclamation point on the importance of raising a child in a safe home environment in their developmental years, the article also shed light on the power of our brains and what we perceive to be something to fear.

“Early experiences help shape the fear system. If caregivers protect us from danger early in life, this helps us to develop a more flexible and functional fear system later.” 

The good news is whether we had protection from dangers early in life, we can unlearn an irrational fear response. In other words, all of us have the capacity to be courageous. But how exactly can each one of us be courageous? With a guidance from a handful of quotes from Arianna Huffington’s book What It Means to Be Fearless: In Love, Life, & Work, let me show you.

1. Choose Courage Over Security

I can only speak for myself, but I have a feeling I’m not in the minority. Part of the reason change, taking a leap we’ve never done, facing down a fear and taking a risk is daunting is because we suppose that our security – whether it be our job, our relationship, our safety, the comforts we’ve grown accustomed to, will evaporate upon making the courageous decision we are contemplating.

While we must respect this valid feeling, we must not choose comfort in a bad job, a miserable marriage or an unhealthy situation, over the opportunity to improve our life circumstances. Because while we may have to stretch and ride out the transition which can be uncertain and bumpy, it is only temporary and will subside. And once it subsides, the horizon we step into will reward us for stepping into our fears rather than being ruled by them.

“We can’t be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don’t have something better.” ― C. JoyBell C.

2. Rewrite the Story in Your Mind

“The first step toward changing the world is to change our vision of the world and of our place in it.” -Arianna Huffington

Again, speaking from experience, I’m a fantastic story teller, and by story teller, I mean the doom and gloom of what will happen to my life if my risk-taking doesn’t work out. Funny thing I have to admit however, those stories I fear will unfold, never have. I’m not saying we shouldn’t consider everything that could happen, and be reasonable in our approach, but we must also refuse to underestimate ourselves.

Brain science has revealed that we are still hard-wired neurologically to seek out security, survival. And when we do something that may threaten our survival (financial earnings, roof over our heads, etc), our minds go into alert-mode and, well, panic. It is our job to understand this about ourselves, and then do the necessary homework to prepare for the change we are about to make to the best our of abilities. Will the timing ever be perfect to leap? I hate to say it, but at the same time, hopefully this will ease your mind, no, there will never be a perfect time. So do your due diligence, have patience, and then do what you dare.

3. Look at Your Fears Objectively

As I mentioned in #2, often our fears are a result of old survival innate responses. Our job is to determine which fears are rational and which are not. Rational fear would be to reach for your phone while driving – not a good idea. But an irrational fear such as being trepidatious about doing something new because you don’t know how it will turn out, is irrational. Again, it comes back to doing your homework, realizing everything has to have a beginning, we all have to try something for the first time, and to chalk up all experience to growth and lessons learned regardless of the outcome.

4. Exercise the Muscle

“Fearlessness is like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the more natural it becomes to not let your fears run you.” -Arianna Huffington

Stepping into our fears becomes easier with practice. And often each attempt becomes easier as we gradually build up to more significant new experiences. One example is traveling by ourselves. For many of us, it’s second-nature, but for others, this may be a terrifying thing to do, What if I miss my flight? What if I don’t hear the announcement? Whichever camp you place yourself, part of our fear is rooted in the unknown. Anyone can travel by themselves, but it is experience that teaches us how. Practice. So if you’ve never traveled alone, make a short trip first to build up to traveling internationally or across the country. Practice, really does fine tune our skills and calm our fears.

5. Widen Your Perspective

“Children brought up to feel that their lives have a larger purpose are more likely to keep their own troubles in perspective.” -Arianna Huffington

Listening to the news last week, the turmoil in Syria was brought up, and it was juxtaposed with Americans and our angst when it comes to taxes as the tax deadline is looming. The radio host chose to include a clip from a teenager who was complaining that she would be filing her taxes for the first time since she had just recently begun working, and she was perturbed because she didn’t know how, blaming her school for not teaching her.

Needless to say, whining about not knowing how to do something and living in a state of civil war would seem to put everything in perspective. So ask yourself, what’s the worse case scenario? What happens if you don’t get exactly what you want upon pursuing your desired change? Allow perspective, taking yourself out of the spotlight, to help motivate you to at least try. I think you will be very glad you did when it is all said and done.

6. Choose Your True Potential

“Squashing our true selves is a major cause of fear, anxiety, and depression.” -Arianna Huffington

Settling is always an option. When we know that things could be much worse than we are, we sometimes may choose to settle rather than striving forward toward something that has been aching inside of us. But as Arianna Huffintgon reminds, “A fear-driven life is a life not fully lived,” and I would have to whole-heartedly agree.

7. Understand Your Capabilities

“Making the choice to move forward despite fear is an evolved decision that transcends our animal nature.” -Arianna Huffington

While we live in a modern society with highly technological advancements, we still have hard-wiring in our mind that can be described as animalistic. Our instinctive responses for sex, food, security, are all natural responses, often responses that we shouldn’t heed each time they arise in our minds if we are going to successfully live and flourish in our civilized society.

So when we choose to look our fears in the face and step forward toward them anyway, it is natural to be trepidatious. Face them anyway, and go forward knowing why you feel the way you do. That alone gives you more power to accept and successfully maneuver beyond the challenge.

8. Manage Stress

Often our fears increase our stress which then turns into an ugly cycle, because we are less able to be rational, and our fears increase tenfold. In this case, it is best to be preventative. Schedule regular exercise and meditation into your daily or weekly routine. Will this eliminate all stress from our lives? No, but it will mitigate it, lessen it and help us to think clearer during those times of stress that is out of our hands. The key is to know when our anxiety is ratcheting up. When we can recognize this, we need to not make rash decisions or succumb to our fears and run.

9. Face the Unknowns

Speaking of facing our fears, as I mentioned in a post three years ago, often we are fearful because we don’t know enough about what we are considering or what has been presented to us. So what can we do? You got it – educate ourselves. Do the homework. When we know we don’t have to rely on ignorant, baseless platitudes, we can sit confidently on facts, truths and the knowledge of what we are capable of, and that allows us to take back the power.

10. Talk It Out

I laughed out loud when I came across this cartoon (below) in last week’s New Yorker because it holds so much truth. Our closest confidantes most likely don’t hold a degree in psychology, but we (and I do include myself in this “we” wholeheartedly) share our woes and worries often hoping against hope that they will know why and what we should do. And while they can give their best advice based on their experience, really what we are in need of is the opportunity to share, vent and work through what’s running through our minds.

I can profess that upon having such a conversation, it often proves to be the elixir to many of my fears. While our friends and family may not have an official degree, they certainly have a cure of helping us eradicate irrational worry and allowing us to hear our absurd worries. Once we hear ourselves say some of our fears out loud, we can then laugh at ourselves and move forward with reassurance that we may not know how it will all work out, but we are capable of making it work out one way or the other.

newyorkerfriends“What is friendship if not constant amateurish psychoanalysis?” (c/o The New Yorker, March 23, 2015 issue)

11. Pat Yourself on the Back

No matter how small of an act you have attempted, allow yourself a mini celebration, and absolutely don’t feel guilty about upping the ante if you took on a huge feat. Treat yourself to a massage, a beautiful new pair of shoes or a nice bottle of champagne. Sometimes we have to be our own cheerleaders, and if we have friends that want to join us, celebrate with them as well.

In many ways, the fears that pop up in our lives are a road map. A virtual city guide of where we should take our lives or at least a reminder of what we value highly. Repeatedly, those who have taken risks return to those who are still waiting timidly being arrested by their fears to assure us that our fears are simply telling us what we care most passionately about. Heed these signs, do the homework and then strive bolding in the direction that continually pops up in your mind.

While none of us will ever eradicate fear from our lives, what we can do is learn to master it, use it to our advantage and allow it to propel us on our road toward reaching our full potential.

~Podcast Note: The Simple Sophisticate is looking to add a second episode each week beginning this summer. While I have many ideas bouncing around in my mind, I would love to hear from you, the reader/listener. What would you enjoy most each Friday for 10-15 minutes before the weekend begins? Please do share in the comments section as I want to continue to bring TSLL audience ideas, inspiration and information that will continue to assist you as you live intelligent while perpetually exuding your signature style. 

 

~POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~8 Ways to Be More Courageous

~How to Be Brave

~Your Fear is Speaking

Petit Plaisir

~Pear, Goat Cheese, Prosciutto & Honey Bites

~inspired by this post

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Ingredients:

  • 2-3 Forelle pears (mini, and perfectly sweet for snacking)
  • 3 oz of thinly sliced prosciutto (any deli ham will do in a pinch)
  • 4 ounces of goat cheese (brie would work well also)
  • honey
  • water crackers (thinly sliced baguette works too)

Directions:

  1. Find a cheese or cutting board for display.
  2. Thinly slice pears.
  3. Arrange all five ingredients on the platter.
  4. Place honey in a small dish (seen in the picture).
  5. Place spoon for drizzling honey and cheese knife on the platter.
  6. Voilà!

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Images: (1)



25 thoughts on “How to Live a Courageous Life

  1. I was so excited this morning to hear that you will be having another podcast on friday. My drive to work is always so much better listening to ideas from you. I would love to have more recipes, fashion tips and book ideas. I have been recently looking for the perfect light weight linen blazer for spring evenings.

    I would also love to attend a book signing. I was wondering if you had a list of places and dates. Thank you so much.

  2. Hey Shannon ,

    Perfect post to read on a Monday 🙂 I would like podcasts on The importance of books in our lives , on following our dreams and doing things with love , you could also talk about writing, you could talk about art , you could talk about people who inspire you the most 🙂 Maybe every week you could share your knowledge with us about some important and inspiring people .

  3. Hey Shannon, loved your podcast. I just wanted to say amen, I saw the notice about your book signing at the bookloft. So I totally checked out your blog, I love it. I am so glad to hear of your success as a fellow WCite and just wanted to say well done.

  4. Great post! Lol, and I can totally relate to the anxiety of having to pay taxes for the first time! But all joking aside, sometimes you have to face your fears and take that next big step to be truly happy, and you may never realize your true potential until you do.

  5. HI Shannon- long time reader of your blog and love the direction you’ve taken recently. I adore the Shop TSLL section of your blog and would appreciate even more frequent updates (or at least a few more spring items for inspiration as the season is changing). Your style is fantastic, and it would also be great to hear more beauty product recommendations for makeup/skincare/hairstyling.

  6. I try not to have regrets but I have to say I wish I had been able to read a post like this years ago. So I hope there are young readers who can make use of it to add to the number of years they may delight in not living in fear. The fear is always so much worse and magnified than the actual and part of reinventing myself is pushing through fear and taking risks. I appreciate the stress management advice, that is something I need to be much better at incorporating. When you stop fearing you start getting very busy!

    Accidental Icon
    http://www.accidentalicon.com

  7. Hi Shannon,
    Thank you for another wonderful and timely podcast! I am so excited about the Friday podcasts too! Would it be possible to include recommendations for the weekend? I know you already give us so many of these, but it would be wonderful to hear more about some of them – perhaps “A Lovely way to spend an hour this weekend” kind of thing. I know, whatever you choose, that it will be relevant and apt for all of us.
    Again, thank you so much!
    Best wishes,
    Anne

  8. I’m so excited and really anticipating a second podcast for the week. Like others have mentioned, I also listen to your podcasts for a more enjoyable commute to work. I would love to see you do a segment on wine, pairings, and benefits of wine, etc…

    Also, maybe some dog-related posts for those of us with fur babies? The possibilities are endless there! I know you love your dogs so much, and I would love to hear your personal ideas and advice on how to increase quality time with mine!

  9. I love that you want to do more episodes!
    Here are some ideas:
    -How to not procrastinate.
    -How to live in the moment.
    -Things to do in spring/summer.
    -How to enjoy being by yourself.
    -How to throw a gathering/party/get together.
    -How to raise your self esteem.
    -How to prepare for a trip/travel.
    -How to enjoy a trip/travel.

  10. Very happy to hear there will be two episodes a week! Love the podcast and listen during my Saturday afternoon walk in the park.

    I’d love more features on work/life balance and living the simple sophisticate lifestyle in your business life as well. Decorating your office, maintaining business relationships, etc.

    A book review discussion would be great as well – you feature snippets of so many great ones that a more in-depth discussion would be very interesting.

  11. I am always looking forward to your podcast. They are so helpful and informative, I usually have to listen 2x or more so that I will absorb everything. Love the quotes as well. More power and congratulations on the new book!

  12. Hi Shannon,

    You’re an inspiration, and I love all your words of wisdom! Excited for your new Friday podcast! Here’s a suggestion: As someone who also needs their “me” time, can you give your tips on how to say no to invites you really don’t want to accept? Maybe that’s a story for a longer Monday podcast. Just wondering how to kindly say no to friends, family, coworkers invites when you really just want some alone time!
    Thanks!

  13. Hi Shannon

    I love your blog, podcasts, and book. They really are a pleasure to read it, and I find, it’s one of those treats I give myself when I have time alone. On that note, what about including something along the lines of ‘a moment of pleasure’. A way to inspire people to enjoy alone time, or even how to find and enjoy a moment’s peace, even if life is chaotic any other time? If it’s something that leads on to the weekend, it makes sense to incorporate it into how to enjoy it and get the most pleasure out of it. Maybe something that follows the seasons too? Things to enjoy in spring etc? When you spoke of enjoying the farmer’s market, I could practically smell the fruit and vegetables!

    I guess there’s something about listening to your podcasts weekly, that makes your thoughts and ideas feel so much more real, rather than a abstract ideas, of something I’ll do one day, in the future some time.

    Or possibly something that people could follow along with, like mini joy finding assignments? Like if you have 30 minutes/an hour this weekend, why not create a simply luxurious life by trying/doing/seeing/reading (could go on forever, and am getting carried away with myself).

    I also love your grammar guide by the way, I’ve recently decided to improve my grammar, and have found a few good books, so am thrilled that you’re also doing something… feels everything’s falling into place, and I’m heading in the right direction!

    There’s so many ways you could go with your Friday podcast, but I know it’ll be great whatever it is you decide to do.

    Wishing you all the best, and will continue to look forward to your posts/podcasts in the future.

  14. So glad to hear there will be Friday podcasts! Looking forward to it. I’d like you to consider making those short vodcasts and showing us simple, yet sophisticated, hair styles (a nice chignon, for example)) and makeup tips (how a nude eye liner along the tear ducts helps brighten the appearance of your eyes, etc.).

    Of course, if video is not possible it would be great to hear ideas of DIY gifts that can be given for most occasions – especially gifts for men! They are so tough sometimes. My final request is for “Life Hacks”/tips for daily living like: if you place scented candles at the entry to every room your guests can smell it, even if unlit, and will be left with the feeling of being in an upscale residence.

    Thanks for expanding Shannon!

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