How To Be Brave When You’re Off The Beaten Path

by Stacey Curnow on · 10 comments

Helen Keller once said, "We could never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world." I would amend that statement to include "and if we never got off the beaten path."

If we try, we can remember our own past bravery as a way to help us feel more courageous as we contemplate stepping onto the road less taken.

Sometimes, though, when we look back on our life, we can only remember the times things didn't work out. And those memories can get in the way of choosing to be brave today.

We say to ourselves: Things went wrong in the past, what if things go wrong again?

Things haven't always worked out great for me. When I returned from Mexico after working with Doctors Without Borders, I had no job waiting for me. My husband wasn't working and we had used up all of our savings.

As soon as I got back to the States I applied for every job in the nursing field I could find – even jobs that were way below my level of expertise (and former earnings). I went 2 months before I received a job offer.

The job was as a community health nurse. It would have required working 5 days a week, with very little time involved in actual patient care because it required a lot of travel and paperwork.

I knew I needed the income but when offered the position, I just couldn't accept it. Every fiber of my being knew that I would be miserable at that job. I thanked the nurse manager but declined the offer, hung up the phone, and BURST into tears.

I felt cursed by the warnings of my father and so many well-meaning others who had told me that I was foolish for quitting my good job to take a volunteer position in Mexico, and that I was crazy to think that I could find an even better job on my return.

All that is to say that I am familiar with the demons of grief, anxiety, self-doubt and despair that can haunt you when you get off the beaten path. Very familiar.

My leaps of faith and acts of bravery haven't always worked out exactly the way I had hoped. In fact they've often found me down on my knees in despair asking God how I could have been brought this far to fail.

Another month after that "down on my knees" dark place, I did get my dream job, working as a nurse-midwife for a busy hospital-based birthing center that cares for predominantly Latina patients – working 24 hours a week for more pay than I made working 50-60 hours a week in my former midwifery position.

I worked that job happily for 8 years before I decided that it was time to leave it for my next leap – where you find me today.

And, yes, one year after quitting that job, this particular leap hasn't worked out exactly the way I hoped either.

My experience of the road less taken has not always been filled with bright sunshine and frolicking unicorns. And yet, when I finally stopped fighting the questions and the doubts and the fears and allowed myself to simply be sad or confused, I realized that everything actually was okay.

Even when things are not at all the way I want and expect them to be, they are still okay.

"Things are still okay"? What does that mean?

What it means to me is that I can focus on what I am doing and-most importantly-how I am doing it, and then I can let go of needing to control, or even worry about, the outcome.

I have survived failures before, and I will survive them again.

And I practice remembering that things always get better, eventually.

As a character says in Kate DiCamillo's children's story, The Tale of Despereux, there are many wonderful things out there to be afraid of. But your regrets about the past or worries about the future probably don't make the grade.

In these instances, recognizing your fears for what they are-stories about the past that might not now apply, or stories about the future that might never come true-will help.

The Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho has said, "Everything will be all right in the end. If it's not, then it's not the end." I've contemplated that quote enough in good times that it helps me to keep putting one foot in front of the other when things get tough off the beaten path.

What about you? What helps you feel brave as you travel the road less taken? Please share your challenges and triumphs in the comments!


by Stacey Curnow

Stacey is a purpose and success coach who helps you give birth to your BIG dreams. To find your purpose and passion, check out her FREE eBook, The Purpose and Passion Guidebook.
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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Find Your Harmony April 10, 2012 at 9:14 am

Stacey,
This is beautifully written and oh so true! I love the quote at the end by Coelho. What a great way to sum it up.
I have also become entangled when I trekked off path in my own life, only to find even those failures or wanderings to be my most healing and teaching moments of my life. Then when I look to the road ahead I recognize that those challenges needed to happen to make my next opportunity more enriching for me and those whom I wish to serve.

May you find harmony in your next adventure, and enjoy the wanderings along the way!
Love,
Jen
Find Your Harmony´s Last Fabulous Post ..BILLY GOAT GRUFF?My Profile

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Stacey April 10, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Hi Jen!

Thanks so much for your kind comment and for sharing your experience.

It really does help to know that others have also found that the dips and bumps in the road help to inform and enrich the journey! It’s often hard to see this truth when we’re in “the rough”, but the more we talk about it, the easier it will be.

Thanks again!

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Evan April 10, 2012 at 8:12 pm

For me it usually comes down to something like: This is what I see (I’ve checked out as best I can that I am seeing reality); and I just have to do this.

So not much bravery involved I think. More a kind of moral cowardice perhaps. It feels more like going with what I need to than choosing freely.
Evan´s Last Fabulous Post ..A Personal Update and a Great MagazineMy Profile

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Stacey April 11, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Hi Evan!

Thanks so much for your kind comment! I don’t see cowardice AT ALL in your method.

To me, it sounds like you’re checking in with your inner guidance system and acting from the information you receive, which is very brave indeed.

Maybe it doesn’t fee like “free choice” because it’s not convenient, but I’ve learned (and re-learned!) that I’d rather do what feels necessary over what’s convenient. Security is overrated, don’t you think? 🙂

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Audra Krell April 11, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Wonderful inspiration here! Today in a moment of deep despair and fear, I said something similar to what you’ve written above. “God, we’ve come way too far to allow this to take me down, I refuse to fail now.” This helped me to feel very brave. And do you know, the phone rang 20 minutes later, and success was calling. Everything was okay. But even if it hadn’t been, I’m going to think this way more often, God and I have been through a lot and He didn’t bring me this far to fail. I tremendously enjoyed this post today, thank you.
Audra Krell´s Last Fabulous Post ..Breakfast Club on JazzMy Profile

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Stacey April 11, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Hi Audra!

Thanks so much for your kind AND inspiring post!! It’s so helpful to hear that others have been in deep despair, chosen faith AND found success on the other side!

Your experience reminds me of the old Chinese proverb, “If you get up one more time than you fall, you will make it through.”

No failure is final. It truly is the courage to keep going that counts. And if you are willing to get up one more time than you fall, you will make it through and you ARE successful.

Big love and massive success to you!

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Jean Burman April 11, 2012 at 4:50 pm

WOW what a big bold brave and gutsy blog post… Stacey… you are my hero. You put your fears along the way right out there on the line and I admire you so much for that. This is what the world needs now… truth and honesty… and the knowledge that it’s not always sunshine and lollypops along the way [as most of us already know or are about to find out]LOL but I love your courage in “maintaining the rage” [in this case momentum – grin] out there off the beaten track… and I wish you all the best with this… your latest venture. You’re a shoe in for success.
Jean Burman´s Last Fabulous Post ..Doctor Who Meets Vincent Van GoghMy Profile

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Stacey April 11, 2012 at 6:48 pm

Hi Jean!

Thanks so much for your kind comment! I just popped over to your blog because I was so intrigued by the title of your last blog post and I was so moved by your work — as an artist *and* as an ENCOURAGER of others, helping them face the inner *and* outer critics and get their Great Work out into the world.

YOU inspire me!!

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Noel April 13, 2012 at 4:30 am

Hi Stacey, a big thank you for sharing your experience. Your courage and determination really inspire me a lot, as I’m having one of those gloomy day today. I felt so relief and calm when you said: “Even when things are not at all the way I want and expect them to be, they are still okay.” Yes, we should have faith and believe that things will turn better, eventually. Thanks so much!
Noel´s Last Fabulous Post ..Regret Quotes & Moving On QuotesMy Profile

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Stacey April 13, 2012 at 9:44 am

Hi Noel!

Thanks so much for your kind comment! I’m absolutely delighted to hear that some of my words brought you a measure of relief and calm!

I encourage my clients to feel their feelings and then reach for a “better-feeling” thought. Very often this takes the form of a “What if…” or “Wouldn’t it be nice…” statement, like “What if this disappointment leads to even greater opportunities? What if I saw a clear path, or was content to rest if I didn’t see it? What if I stopped feeling pressure, what if I let myself grieve for a day, what if I let myself rest? What if answers came in the resting? What if sadness and exhaustion are my rightful states at the moment? What if letting go of my guilt and anxiety over feeling sadness and exhaustion allowed me to see more clearly once I make it through to the other side! Wouldn’t it be nice if I allow myself to be, even if it’s an uncomfortable place to be. I have faith that all works together for good, and when I feel too discouraged to carry on, the Universe will carry me instead.” You get the idea. 🙂

Most important is to know that there is always support and encouragement for you here! We honor and appreciate you exactly how you are at this moment.

Hugs and love to you!

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