Following the previous post where I wrote about how New Year’s Resolutions don’t work for me because they are not properly embedded in the Stage of Change Model, I have now resolved to do something this year. Yes, I only wrote that post yesterday. Yes, I may be totally contradicting myself.
I’ve resolved to attempt to live 2016 from one key word. I’m not quite sure where I initially came across this concept many moons ago. But the gist of it is really quite simple. Choose a word that can be used as an overarching theme for the entire year. One word that can bring meaning, purpose and focus to your life. The one word represents the essence of what you want to accomplish during the year, but instead of burdening you with a list of tasks to do, it keeps you focused on an overarching concept of how to be. Keep that word close to you and try and live it. Each day. For 365 days.
The thing I really like about this concept is that it reminds us that there are so many things we want to do or so many things we want to be, but these things only work when they are exercised and practiced. And that they are indeed, work. Often we will refer to other people as “generous” or “kind” or “forgiving”, but this is not something they just got landed with. This is a trait or an attribute or a virtue that they continue to practice and master. Each day.
So what’s my word for 2016? Courage.
“Anything is possible if you’ve got enough nerve”. Harry Potter.
Courage comes from the root word ‘cor’ which is the Latin word for ‘heart’. In it’s original form courage meant “to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart”. Dr Brene Brown (one of my idols) notes that the original definition of courage is speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we’re feeling and about our experiences (good and bad). Somewhere along the line, I think the definition of courage got confused with the personality of superman and tangled up with heroic behaviours like rescuing puppies from burning buildings or putting one’s life in danger for the sake of others. Or sucking on an entire lemon. Because you're brave.
That’s not the sort of courage I’ll be aiming for, however much I enjoy wearing capes and citrus. No, I’ll be seeking out the ordinary courage. Putting my own, everyday vulnerability on the line. Because in today’s world I think that’s pretty heroic in itself.
At my core, I am not a very courageous person. I like to shy away from sharing anything that might not ‘please’ other people. And I’ve experienced enough significant and substantial bouts of anxiety and depression to figure out how to rapidly avoid any possible scenario that might leave me feeling vulnerable. But I’m also clever enough to know, that the way out of isolation and avoidance is exposure. And that requires some bravery.
“Courage is like – it’s a habitus, a habit, a virtue: You get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by courageing”. Mary Daly
I also really like my comfort zone. It’s nice and it’s safe. It’s warm and I am confident that in this bubble I won’t get scared or nervous. But it’s also a little boring. I think it’s time for me to get a little more uncomfortable and say a very unconfident “yes” to the possible experiences and opportunites I would naturally cower from. I think David Bowie’s Space Oddity is going to be my 2016 theme song.
In addition, I chose this word because I feel it is a behaviour and attribute that might have some wonderful ripple effects. My hypothesis is that if I can be open and honest about my experiences with others’ around me, then it will enhance my capacity for developing deeper connections with people. If I can take a step toward being vulnerable, then maybe someone else might too. So by choosing courage maybe I could help someone else feel a little better and the world might become a little braver. It’s just an idea. It might not work at all.
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” Winston Churchill.
So this year my word is courage and I’m going to attempt to approach situations and experiences from a courageous standing point and ask myself to respond honestly and openly in that situation. It might also require reflecting on certain experiences and analysing whether I responded to my vulnerability at that time in the most courageous way.
I’m going to do my very best to notice my courageous acts, enjoy moments of being brave with my loved ones and I will attempt to continually practice courageing. And luckily for me, it can be a gradual process of looking at life and experiences in a more courageous way. So no jumping headfirst into the action stage of change without the required preparation. And hopefully come February I'll still be able to remember this one word.