Back in 2002, when I took my job with Doctors Without Borders in Mexico I had to pack up my comfortable life in the United States and move to a part of the world that had no running water or electricity.
To an area where there was centuries-long, deep-seated conflict between the indigenous people and the Mexican government. To do a job for which I had no experience.
It was definitely the weirdest thing I had ever done. I had no real idea what I was doing. But I believed I would figure out a way to do it.
I’ve learned that what looks “weird” to other people, feels like excitement to me. I’ve learned that it’s the wisdom of the world speaking through me. And trusting the wisdom feels like a huge leap of faith.
So I’ve learned to leap. Before the voices of self-doubt keep me stuck. Once a leap has been taken, or a path has been selected, momentum takes over and there is little time to indulge self-doubt or fear because there’s work to be done. So you get on with it.
But here’s the really cool thing. You take the leap and do the work, but you’re not doing it alone. The Universe also starts to conspire on your behalf. You don’t have to take my word for it. Listen to what WH Murray, a Scottish mountaineer and author of The Scottish Himalayan Experience:
This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence: Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.
It wasn’t until I was sitting in the airport in Amsterdam (where the Doctors Without Borders headquarters of my project was located), about to board my flight to Mexico City that I suddenly wondered whether I would actually be able to adjust to life in such a foreign environment. (Did I mention there would be no electricity or running water?)
Would I really be able to do the job I’d signed on to do? But even in that weird and wobbly moment, I knew that I would find a way to manage.
Why was I so certain?
There are lots of reasons. And none of them are because I’m braver, more talented, or smarter than you. Because I’m not. I promise.
I’m scared of public speaking, and parties of people I don’t know, and difficult conversations or phone calls.
But despite my very ordinary fears, over the years enough people have asked me where I find the courage to make my bold choices, that I’ve come to see that although we are all inherently brave, some of us forget how brave we can be.
I’ve come to see that my path through life has equipped me with certain tools that help me make the daily decisions that add up to a courageous life.
I can see how my experiences have taught me to have faith that everything will be okay, and most importantly that even when everything is not okay, everything is actually okay.
I’ve been getting really curious lately about how I came to acquire those tools, because I want to share them with you. Because I want to offer them to anyone whose self-doubt is getting in the way of their good work in the world.
One of the things I’ve learned about courage is that we can “positively reinforce” our own courageous choices by taking time to notice them, recognize them and actually give ourselves some credit for them.
So today — please take five minutes to give yourself the credit for how weird and courageous you are.
And then make a habit of stopping to notice the small (and large) ways you are embracing your weirdness and choosing courage every day, and of giving yourself credit for it. If it helps, you can imagine you are talking to a good friend: How would you tell or show her how proud you are of her weirdness and courage?
Now, tell or show yourself how proud you are of your own willingness to be weird.