Finding the Courage to Make a Change

finding courageToday’s post is from one of my favorite people, Barbara Waxman. Below, she recounts a story and interaction she had with a client who knew in her heart she needed to make a big change — but was having a hard time admitting this to herself. That is often the scariest part of change…admitting that something in your life needs to be different. Enjoy this very relatable story.

If all went according to plan, Karen and Steve were going to be married. At least that’s what they had always talked about. They had been dating for a long time; long enough that friends started to wonder if they were ever going to ‘go through with it’. Karen and I met, as I do with lots of people, to discuss her career. She came into my office, sat down and started to talk to me about her career goals and aspirations. Then all of the sudden she just stopped. She stopped talking, took a deep breath and quietly started to cry. Was it time to make a change at work? Maybe. Was it time to face the truth about her feelings about committing to Steve? Absolutely. That’s where the courage comes in.

The Latin root of the word courage means heart; courage is speaking one’s mind by telling one’s heart. We women are comfortable with the heart part. We do compassion. What’s more difficult is the second half of the word—not the ‘cour’ but the ‘rage’. Not the heart part, but the energy it takes to stand up for something and make ourselves and others uncomfortable in some way.

Creating change and change itself is hard and it’s scary and it’s often unpopular with at least some of the people our decision will affect. There are lots of reasons we have heart but not courage. And this was the case with Karen. She loved Steve and didn’t want to hurt him. She was very much in her comfort zone with him but she always felt as though something was missing. Even with the knowledge that no relationship is perfect, Karen had a nagging feeling that she was settling rather than compromising. Truth be told, that is why she had never taken that final step with Steve.

There is good reason we have a comfort zone. It keeps us from making choices that are too risky by giving us internal warning messages to keep us in line. The messages Karen were hearing included: What if I make the wrong choice? What if this is as happy as I can be in a relationship? Will I lose my friends? What if I end up alone? Karen realized that she would never know until she broke through and left the confines of her comfort zone, which meant staying sort-of-but-not-really-happy with Steve. Karen realized she needed to find the courage to be able to speak her truth by sharing what was in her heart.

Once she did, she told me she felt liberated from the pressure of trying to be happy in a relationship that wasn’t quite right. It was a sad realization and a painful decision, but as we know hitting those lows are almost always the precursors to the highest high experiences that follow. For Karen, those next steps were equally scary as it required that she put herself out there again.

Do you need to find the courage to make a change? If you feel as though you are not being true to yourself, and you are not living as authentically as you would like, ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I really care about? What is my heart telling me?
  • What messages am I hearing that keep me in my comfort zone?
  • Are they keeping me safely in line for good reason or are they holding me back from a better future?
  • Who can I trust to discuss this with? Who will listen and give me feedback based on what is best for me?
  • What is the first step I need to take towards happiness?

Have you been in a similar situation where you knew on a gut level that something needed to change?

About the Author:

Barbara Waxman, President and founder of the Odyssey Group, works with business owners, executives and individuals to increase their personal and professional capacity and their ability to deliver concrete results. Barbara founded the Odyssey Group in 2005 in order to combine her skills as a coach, a gerontologist and a seasoned professional. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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