In How Do You Manage Imposter Syndrome? one of the commenters asked how I take that first step. It depends. And, it depends—for me—on these things:
- I can think, not just react.
- The state of my emotional resilience so I can access my courage.
- The risk of taking that first step.
- How vulnerable I can be.
To be honest, when I react and don’t consider my options, I rarely have any courage. I like to think of thinking as the Zeroth step.
Can I Think?
When I’m in high emotional arousal—especially fear—I tend not to think very well. (Dan Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational has a whole chapter on emotional arousal.)
I need to cool off to make an informed decision about that first step. Here’s an example. Mark and I did not go to the Keys for our annual summer vacation. I didn’t want to go, and that was early in July. In retrospect, that seems like a reasonable decision, given the COVID cases even in Monroe County.
We thought we might take a few days on Cape Cod later this summer. Now, there’s a surge of the virus on the Cape. My immediate reaction? No vacation, no where, no how, no time this year.
I made that decision in a state of hot emotional arousal. That might—or might not—be the correct decision. However, I made the decision out of fear. I didn’t make that decision as a thinking human.
I often need to cool off—to bring my arousal down so I can think. Once I can think, I can consider my emotional resilience.
What’s the State of My Emotional Resilience?
Al Siebert in The Resiliency Advantage says we have 5 levels of resilience:
- Strengthen our inner selves (self-confidence, self-esteem, self-concept)
- Curiosity, serendipity, and synergy
- Managing challenges and breakthroughs
I can’t find my courage to do much if I’m not sufficiently physically healthy. I’ve worked to walk and build strength all over so when I fall (not if!) I can get up first. Once I’m up, I can catch my breath, start to problem-solve, and see what I might do next.
Much of the courage I need arises from the three inner selves.
I build all three inner selves with deliberate practice. I continue to learn what I do well—and what I don’t do well. Instead of focusing on what I don’t do well, I consider ways to manage those problems—and reinforce what I do well.
Let’s face it. I’m not going to be anything other than blunt and direct. However, I can learn to choose words that help people hear what I have to say. That’s a way of managing the things I don’t do well. I’m not trying to change what doesn’t work. Instead, I work to modify enough of my actions so I can accomplish what I want to.
If I can think and I’m physically okay, I can generate options to create that first step. I use the Rule of Three and other questions to create options.
What’s the Risk of the First Step?
Because I have physical deficits, I separate the physical options from the intellectual/emotional options. I assess the physical risks (as in the vacation example above) carefully. I ask, “What’s the Worst Thing That Could Happen?”
For intellectual/emotional options, I ask When Do You Suffer From Fear? I want to make sure fear isn’t part of the equation.
Now, it’s all about my vulnerability.
How Vulnerable Can I Be?
I practice a lot in public, as when I write blog posts and articles. I also practice with new ideas when I speak in public. Sometimes, I’m great. Other times, what I say or write is just so-so. And, sometimes, I bomb. Big, big bomb.
I have become accustomed to realizing I am only as good as I can be right now. (See Until Now.) I might need to practice more or differently. I might need to learn something.
I don’t expect I will be perfect. Because I practice, I can expect to be pretty good, most of the time. I build my inner selves by doing something and succeeding consistently. (That’s why I said I ship in the Imposter Syndrome post.)
Because I build my self-esteem, I can create more options to consider. Maybe not right away. And, it’s almost never easy. But I can.
Summarize My Approach
In What Does Courage Mean to You? I suggested that we need at least one possibility. We don’t need to be fearless. We need to engage ourselves to take that first step.
So, here’s how I find the courage for that first step.
- I see my current reality. Am I thinking or reacting in arousal?
- How vulnerable am I? Can I reduce my vulnerability to something I can manage? What risks do I have? Can I manage them?
- Create and assess my options.
- Find the smallest thing that could possibly safely work. Now, can I choose that? As an experiment.
- Do something. If I can’t do something yet, pick a near date/time where I can. Do it. (I often dare myself to do it.)
- Loopback to #1.
This works for me. I think it works because I’ve spent a lot of time working on my three internal selves. I practice a lot, in public.
That, my dear readers, is the question this week: How do you find the courage to take the first step?
- What Does Courage Mean to You?
- Three Possibilities to Imagine Our Future