Have you ever felt like something in your life was off-kilter? Or maybe you’ve felt like almost every decision you’ve made was wrong? It wasn’t that long ago that I was in this exact place. In 2011 I experienced a kairos moment that made me realize that the life I was living was not aligned with my values, dreams, and passions. From that day forward, my husband and I began building the foundation to create a life we love. As we began to see progress, we realized that if we wanted to continue to level up we would need to find more courage, clarity, and confidence. This post highlights what we learned thus far and three simple ways you can start living with more courage, clarity, and confidence today.
I believe that feeling discontent is a blessing in disguise. It’s a warning sign that the path we’re on is not in alignment with who we are and why we’re here. When that warning gets too loud to ignore, we naturally begin seeking clarity.
Since the inception of this website, I’ve created a lot of content on the topic of clarity. Understanding who we are, why we’re here, and what drives us is essential to living a life of purpose, fulfillment, and joy. For most of us, finding clarity is a lifelong journey. As we grow and change, so do our values, dreams, and passions. We are ever-changing and evolving.
I learned that inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic, striving, but it comes to us slowly and quietly and all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a little chance to start flowing, prime it with a little solitude and idleness. – Brenda Ueland
For the sake of simplicity, I challenge you to consider just one question during the next week or two.
What makes you come alive?
When I began my personal journey to find clarity I was working for an organization that wasn’t aligned with what I most value. As bad as it was (and most days were pretty bad), there were still some tasks that I really dug into. Think about the things in your life that you can’t stop working on. The things you would continue to do even if no one was paying you.
One of those things for me was creating content. I was fortunate to be part of the team that created and presented courses at an annual conference for the company’s business partners. This was an area where I truly shined. I loved the process and it didn’t feel like work. Even though I was extremely unhappy with my job and the chain of command, I put a lot of pride and love into these projects.
What are these things for you? What makes you jump out of bed in the morning? Think about both your work and personal life. Then begin creating a list of the things that make you come alive. When you’ve compiled a satisfactory list, start to look for connections and themes. Then pick one thing and find small ways to make it a part of your daily life.
Can I let you in on a secret? I’m not a naturally courageous person. I spent most of my life feeling stuck because I was deathly afraid of failure, criticism, and rejection. I’d rather be good at being average than risk being great and fail.
Here’s one example. On my journey to find clarity, I wrote down that I wanted to create a community to help people who were struggling with the same things I was. I knew exactly what I wanted to do, but it took me three and a half years to find the courage to launch this website.
The easiest way to start living with more courage is to start small. By taking tiny steps toward my big dreams, I’ve been able to find the courage to step out a little further each time. When I started this website I would have quit if I knew that I was going to tell my email subscribers about my feelings of shame and my struggle with imposter syndrome. I started where I felt comfortable, shared a little more each time, and became noticeably more courageous each month.
Baby steps are important but it really helps to make it fun! A couple of years ago I realized that if I was going to move forward in my business and life, I needed to become even more courageous. One of the ways I did this was by making a commitment to visit every state park in Minnesota. With so many parks to visit on a tight schedule, I knew I’d have to do much of it alone. I had spent most of my adult life traveling solo but had never camped alone. The idea was terrifying. But my big goal and love of the outdoors were enough to get me going and stick it out until the very end. It was easy to be brave when it was something I loved.
What area of your life would like to be more courageous? What activities do you enjoy that will make stepping out of your comfort zone fun? Brainstorm a list over the next week and then pick one and start.
As a part of my annual goal-setting process, I select a focus word for the year. The word I selected this year is confidence. Like many people, I’ve always been a bit insecure and shy. As I struggled to move forward in my business, I quickly recognized that these two qualities were holding me back from achieving my potential. So I made it my focus to become more confident.
Earlier this year a reader gave me some feedback and described me as confident. I immediately thought she was mistaken. But as I reflected on her statement, I realized that I was already confident. I just wanted to become more confident.
Part of my struggle with confidence was the image I had in my head of what it means. If I asked you to describe someone who is confident, how would you describe them? My first thought would be someone who is bold, brazen, and carries themselves with a large presence. They stand up tall and project their voice over everyone, the classic know-it-all. They’re quick to point out their accomplishments and are the typical self-promoter.
While a confident person might have some of these traits, I think that confidence can be displayed in many other ways. I’m beginning to notice more leaders with quiet confidence rise to the top. It was clear that if I wanted to be more confident, I had to define what confidence meant to me. I reviewed a number of definitions and came up with this:
: faith and firm trust that one can rely on oneself
: a feeling of self-assurance arising from the appreciation of one’s own abilities
According to this definition, I am confident. I hope you can see the confidence you currently have in you too.
Confidence is something unique we carry within us. It’s not a series of specific behaviors. There’s no code you need to follow. As we begin to feel more secure in ourselves and our abilities, our confidence will become visible on the outside in its own special way. As we learn and grow, so will our confidence. Then there will be nothing that can stand in our way.
Nurturing Your Own Courage, Clarity, and Confidence
Courage, clarity, and confidence are like muscles—the more you use them, the stronger they get. Contrary to popular belief, these are not things we’re born with. They’re skills we are all capable of developing. We can’t read, wish, or meditate ourselves into more courage, clarity, and confidence. They require action and practice.
Here Are Three Ways to Live with More Courage, Clarity, and Confidence
1 – Be Decisive
First, we must decide what we really want. This step can be challenging. The norms of our society and our family culture can lead us down a path where we’re just doing what we think is expected of us. It common for my generation to continue down this path, even when it’s not a good fit.
Embracing our true selves can be scary because it means that some of us must go against these expectations. This can be challenging because when we start living life on our own terms, those who feel stuck often rise up and defend their position. Others might project their fears of failure and rejection onto you. But I promise that finding the courage to keep going, even if you feel like no one supports you, will be worth it in the end.
Deciding what you want means learning to trust your intuition. In my experience, my instincts are usually spot on. Unfortunately, I don’t always listen. Like that time I booked a really expensive vacation rental that ended up being a dump. My instincts said, “Walk away.” But my brain said, “You’ll love the view.” Lesson learned!
To connect with our instincts, we need moments of quiet. You know how you always have your best ideas in the shower, or right after you get up in the morning? We tend to see things more clearly when we turn off distractions. This is becoming increasingly more difficult in our modern world. In our race to learn, interact, and consume more, we often miss the opportunities to simply stop and listen.
Stopping to listen doesn’t mean you need to spend three months in a monastery or even lock yourself in a quiet room for hours each day. Simply set aside time here and there to disconnect. I get up early to start each day with yoga and journaling. You might choose to power down your phone for a couple of hours before bed each evening. Or simply turn off the radio for the last ten to twenty minutes of your commute. Find little ways to give yourself the gift of silence each day. When you find something that feels right, write it down and make a commitment to give it a try for thirty to ninety days.
2 – Take Action
Courage, clarity, and confidence all come from action. You could spend your whole life seeking. You could spend your life savings on books, courses, and spiritual guides. But without action, nothing will materialize.
Don’t get me wrong, I spend a lot of time thinking and reflecting. Reading, learning, meditating, and journaling are all important parts of figuring out who we are and why we’re here. But it’s in taking action that we really come to understand who we are and what we have to offer.
[bctt tweet=”As you start to walk on the way, the way appears. ― Rumi” username=”hollyascherer”]
There may be times when taking action seems overwhelming. In these moments, I find that I’ve focused too much of my attention on the big picture. If I pull back to focus on the task at hand, I’m more likely to make progress. That’s the power of baby steps.
If you’re looking to find clarity about your passion, try one new thing today and slowly build on that over the coming weeks. If you’ve longed for the courage to become a better speaker, commit to doing a daily Facebook Live for the next thirty days. You don’t even need to make them public at first. If you want to feel more confident selling, talk to one more person than you did the day before.
As hard as it may seem, try to let go of worrying about what others think. For everything you put out there, someone will think it stinks. But for each person who doesn’t love it, ten more will think it’s phenomenal. Truly great work could never please everyone. Focus on those who love it.
3 – Love Yourself and Enjoy the Journey
On our journey, we must learn to show ourselves lots of kindness and compassion. When you go after what you really want in life you’re going to be scared. You’re going to fall down and you’re going to make mistakes. Not only is that okay, it’s wonderful. That’s how we learn and grow. The most accomplished among us are usually the ones who have made the most mistakes.
Celebrate how far you’ve come, not how far you have left to go. Learn to love yourself just the way you are because you’re already enough. Having supportive people by our side is important, but we also need to find that support within. This is something that has taken me years to learn and I imagine I have many more to go. But I guarantee you wouldn’t be reading this today had I not learned some self-acceptance along the way.
Finally, remember to smile and enjoy the journey. When you reach your destination, this is the part you’ll remember most fondly.
There you have it. Three simple ways to live with more courage, clarity, and confidence. Now it’s up to you to take action. Don’t try to do it all at once. Pick one area and the rest will follow.