Last year, just after the holidays, I got serious about crafting my mantra for 2017. While some people choose specific goals or focus on a single word, I’m a firm believer in choosing a personal catchphrase to use all year long.
I thought long and hard before I settled on my mantra. Be courageous.
This was my gentle reminder to take risks. To get outside my comfort zone. I wanted to remind myself in moments of fear to take a breath, lean in, and be brave.
You might be surprised to know that I’m not much of a natural risk taker. My default mode is fairly anxious, and I hate getting outside of my comfort zone. However, I know how important these things are, so I use my coping skills on the regular to challenge this natural tendency of staying safe and secure.
Be courageous. I wrote it on the first page of my planner, put it on a sticky note, and whispered it to myself over and over on January 1. I was determined to spend an entire year living courageously. As December comes to a close, I thought I would share a few examples of how this mantra impacted my 2017.
For years, I’ve dreamed of opening my own practice. Early in the year, after becoming increasingly unhappy at my previous job, I made a decision to start my own practice. But I was terrified. What if I failed? What if no clients came to see me? With little money saved up, the idea seemed ridiculous. But I couldn’t shake the desire to create my dream. I repeated my mantra over and over. I chose to be courageous. I left my old job. I started my own practice. I haven’t regretted the decision for a single second, and it’s been my proudest achievement of 2017.
In January, three days before the Women’s March on Washington, I realized how badly I wanted to be there. But it was last minute, and the logistics seemed overwhelming. A small part of me worried about safety. “Be courageous,” I told myself. 48 hours later, my best friend and I loaded up my car and road tripped to DC. I debated whether or not I’d post about it on my social media page, not wanting to be “polarizing” to new readers. But it felt important to be authentic about my values. “Be courageous,” I whispered. I posted, and 48 hours later, I marched with thousands of women, feeling deeply moved and committed to fighting for equality.
This summer in Italy, our friends rented Vespas. They claimed it would be fun. But I was not having it, imagining all the ways we could crash or tip over. But I didn’t want my fear to stand in the way of the once in a lifetime opportunity. “Be courageous,” I whispered. I hopped on and hung on for dear life. It was a memory I’ll never forget. I’m grateful I chose to be brave.
In an effort to widen my site’s reach, I knew I needed to start guest posting and submitting to larger sites and magazines. But I was afraid. Afraid of rejection, afraid of not saying the right thing. But I decided to be courageous. I submitted to several different sites. I got a handful of rejections and a few unanswered pitches. But I also got a few yesses. The rejections weren’t nearly as painful as I’d expected, and the yesses led to some incredible growth for my site.
When I was asked to a present on a topic that wasn’t really my specialty, I doubted my skills. I told my husband I didn’t feel qualified enough. He gently reminded me of my wide skill set and knowledge. He encouraged me to go for it. I chose to be courageous and stretch myself a bit. I spent hours preparing, and the presentation was one of my best yet. I was reminded that I’m more capable than I give myself credit for.
I released more videos this year, and I was uncertain how authentic to be. I wasn’t sure the best balance of personal and professional. I reminded myself to be courageous and just go for it. Try it, and know that you can make adjustments as you go. I’m glad I did. I’ve gotten some great feedback, and to be honest, a handful of less than kind feedback. But I took a risk, got outside my comfort zone, and I’m learning along the way.
I had several smaller moments of courage this year. Every day moments where my mantra rang in my ears. I had uncomfortable conversations, asked for help, and spoke up. I tried new things, created new connections, and had a small but scary to me medical procedure. Each time, I reminded myself to be courageous, sometimes whispering this when I needed extra encouragement.
After a year of choosing to be courageous, here’s what I’ve learned. It’s hard to be brave. It’s scary to get outside your comfort zone. But it’s important as hell. I learned I’m stronger than I think, more capable than I give myself credit for. I learned that rejection is more tolerable than I think, and that even when things don’t go as planned, they’re rarely as awful as my brain anticipates.
I also learned that courage is a muscle. The more you work it out, the stronger it gets. The more often you get outside your comfort zone, the less scary it becomes.
It started as a mantra, an intentional choice for 2017. But it’s become a way of life. And I don’t plan on stopping any time soon.