Far too many of us move through life allowing fear to dictate our choices and limit our horizons. We instinctively avoid anything that might induce vulnerability, risk or potential failure – retreating into the safety of our comfort zones where all feels managed and predictable. Yet by letting these anxieties and self-protective impulses run the show, we miss out on so many of life’s initiations into personal growth, joy and unanticipated opportunities. Our world gradually begins shrinking inward as we find ourselves leading an increasingly constricted existence hemmed in by our own inhibitions. Fear can masquerade in many crafty forms – procrastination, excessive caution, imposter syndrome, analysis paralysis, addiction to certainty. At its core is the contraction of our life force, the shackling of our creativity and bravery. We trade the wildness of authentically showing up for a domesticated, pale version of living that feels like going through the motions rather than dancing full-out. Courage, by contrast, is the force that allows us to feel the fear but let it billow our sails rather than weigh us down with anchors of avoidance. It’s born by staring squarely at the gaping maws we’d rather ignore, then taking one step after another anyway embodied commitments to personal integrity and growth. For many of us, it first takes breaking a sweat to interrupt our fearful inertia. Doing one small defiant thing each day that upsets the apple cart of our well-worn grooves and makes our heart race a little – even if just momentarily. A candid conversation we’ve been avoiding. Finally sharing a piece of creative work after years of insecurity stalling us. Making travel plans to shift out of our physical and mental ruts. Courageously broaching an intimate truth. With each successive bout of leaning into the currents of discomfort and vulnerability rather than fighting them, we become incrementally desensitized to the panicky voices forever warning us to retreat to safety. We build the courage muscle, allowing us to navigate progressively wider stretches of choppy waters without defaulting to lifeboats of defensive withdrawal. Eventually, our small faithful steps yield a wealth of grit, resilience and an almost stubborn willingness to brave hazards that once held us hostage. We become larger lived, showing up more richly for all of life’s invitations rather than hiding out in the bland waiting rooms of our fears. Equally vital, that valorous inner fire fuels our confidence to take bigger leaps into the unknown – following those nudges that spark our vitality and have seemed too preposterous to attempt before. We give ourselves permission to vision from limitlessness rather than suspicion. To dream boldly and risk failure for the promise of inhabiting our highest integrity. Over time, our internalized definitions of courage and possibility continue expanding to integrate new heroic callings. What once loomed as terrifyingly impossible gradually transmutes into eminently achievable or even mundane with enough trailblazing. Through it all, we draw upon the simple yet defiant truth that our playing-it-safe defaults rob us of far more than any temporary hurdles we face. That the greatest loss lies in reflexively passed-up chances to stretch into our utmost aliveness. That fortune persistently favors the audacious. So we find the valor to forever overrule our fear impulses. Until at last, unbridled courage becomes not only our way of being, but the way of our being here at all.

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