The truth about courage

Courage charms us,
because it indicates that a man loves an idea better than all things
in the world,
that he is thinking neither of his bed, nor his dinner, nor his money,
but will
venture all to put in act the invisible thought of his mind.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I first started making money in my career, I was determined to put my freedom and integrity above my salary. I refused to compromise. I decided that if I really disagreed with my employer or was asked to do something unethical, I would quit my job.

Working at my first law firm, I had multiple bosses. I didn’t get along with one boss in particular, and I found the situation intolerable. She constantly tried to undermine what I was determined to accomplish. I decided I didn’t need the money if it meant I would be treated poorly. Finally, I went to the partner of the law firm who ran the office and explained that I could no longer work in an environment where I felt I had to fight every day.

He assured me he understood and didn’t want me to quit. He rearranged the reporting structure so I no longer reported to her.  I didn’t ask him to change it. In fact, I didn’t expect that he would change it. But, he did and I continued to work for the firm for 6 years.

It took courage to ask for what I wanted out of that job. I eventually asked for more money and more responsibility. And I earned both.

However, over my 6 years there, the courage that committed me to my freedom slowly faded. When I began to make more money than I imagined, I became afraid to lose it.

After I became a mother, my courage hibernated even deeper. The freedom to quit anytime I felt like it vanished, and walking to the beat of my own drum seemed like a fantasy.

Eventually, the words freedom and courage sounded foolhardy in my ears.

Instead, I began to use the word “responsible” to describe my decisions to live a less-than-satisfied life.

About a year ago, I rediscovered my courage. It was like seeing an old friend and reminiscing on the adventures of our youth.

Eventually, I embraced the journey to recover my courage.

Two years ago, I was brave; I was ready to face the fear to uncover the freedom I valued so much in the past.

What I’ve learned is that being courageous is actually doing something that frightens you. Quitting my job was brave; building a business that allows me to enjoy my life takes courage.

When courage called me back to my journey, I realized it isn’t rooted in fearlessness; rather, it is built on a bedrock of inner wisdom, self-worth and value.

Being courageous doesn’t mean you aren’t afraid to do what scares you; it simply means you trust the foundation within to hold you steady as you move through the shaky parts.

What do you want to have the courage to do?

What is in your mind? Whatever your dream is, I believe it isn’t in your mind by accident.

I witness my clients wade into their courage every day.

I see them grow to understand their strengths and to appreciate their value. Their ability to be decisive is sharp; they aren’t blown about by the winds of others’ opinions.

I wish I could give you three simple steps to be more courageous. I can’t.

The truth is that courage resides within you; you must simply decide to embrace it.

I can, however, give you a reason to be courageous: Having the freedom to live up to your potential and your purpose is the most fulfilling thing you will experience.

It is like volunteering for a cause about which you are most passionate, seeing your impact on the world around you, and then getting paid for it.

What do you have the courage to do?

This post first appeared at FoodOnOurTable.com

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Jennifer McClanahan-Flint

Jennifer McClanahan-Flint is an Executive Career Strategist. Through her Leverage to Lead Programs she works with ambitious women and people of color to help them navigate compensation, bias, and their career progression so they can continue to rise. Jennifer works across industries to help women and people of color obtain the autonomy and financial security they need to thrive in their careers. To learn more about Jennifer visit her at www.leverage2lead.com and feel free connect with her on Twitter at @jennifermcflint.

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