One Reframe // Three Resources: Part 2
Courage is the Core Catalyst
In last week’s post, I shared a meaningful distinction between stress and pressure, and a practical strategy for rewiring stress and its harmful impacts into a propulsive dose of pressure. I also shared three resources I lean on heavily these days. I’m testing out this format again here. (1 part practical op-ed; 1 part link roundup)
A pioneering diarist, a sensual and psychoanalytic visionary, Anaïs Nin was one of the more provocative and experimental writers of the 20th century. You could say that courage was her bread and butter. In fact, she wrote:
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage.”
Let that one sink in. It’s crystal clear, hopelessly obvious, and a bit mind-blowing.
In most of our hopes and endeavors, the difference between the potential and the actual lies on a vector of courage. It is the core catalyst of our achievement writ large, and also the main driver of our sense of that achievement. The more courage that a certain accomplishment has required, the greater, deeper, more-encompassing the resulting sense of… exaltation and release.
Put another way:
“The magic you’re looking for is in the work you’re avoiding.” (Source unknown)
Here’s a two-fold practice related to courage and the comfort zone.
First, get intimate with your comfort zone. No judgment allowed.
Think of your daily life, and pinpoint something that you don’t enjoy doing, that you hate doing, that you avoid doing even if there’s a clear invitation, expectation, or compelling reason to do it. It could be going to a networking event, a conference, traveling anywhere for any reason, meeting new people or spending quality time with your family. Or it could be publishing that newsletter post that’s has you caught up, or going to sing karaoke. Again, no judgment.
Whatever it is: how do you organize your life so that you can avoid doing the thing? The routine of choreography with which you hide from that activity is a pattern; that pattern is your comfort zone.
What does it feel like to orient to that comfort zone in that way?
Second, get intimate with the thing you’ve been comfortably avoiding.
Think of an area of your life and consider what would be different about how you show up in that area of your life if you were fearless. Be bold, be clear, be surprisingly earnest here. Maybe the fear is speaking in public, singing in public, or publishing your writing, or making a particular sales pitch. Or something from the above exercise.
Then, take that fearful thing and, in the spirit of Anaïs Nin, get more intimate with it. You don’t need to rip the bandaid or leap from the cliff’s edge. Just get close to it. Approach it in a low stakes way. If it’s public speaking, give a short toast at a dinner party. If it’s putting your thoughts in writing, write something a bit courageous and send it out to a small group. If you have an offering but hesitate to share it, practice it or pitch it on your friends. Start even smaller, and just imagine a scenario where you’re doing the thing and envisioning the good feeling.
What does it feel like to take a chip out of the pattern of avoiding?
"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." (Anaïs Nin)
Here’s three reading links that have been a meaningful source of insight and electricity.
Read Something Wonderful — the awesome reading app Matter has pulled together some of the most brilliant, timeless pieces of writing out there in one invaluable repository. Every time you go to the site, it randomly selects a different piece of bold, evergreen prose.
Tapping Into Creative Potential — this post by Elise Loehnen (interviewing Daniela Londoño) covers a wide range of topics. Most eloquently, it discusses five bands of creative expression and posits that each of us has a unique combination of these five elements that best distills our particular brand of creativity. Knowing our unique creativity signature and working within that signature allows our essential capability to thrive.
Life is Short — Paul Graham wrote this zinger of a short essay at the end of 2022, and it stands as one of the more salient treatises about valuing our time and taking on all the activities necessary to “relentlessly prune bullshit” out of our short lives. Worth the short read.
Blessings and gratitude,