This post is part of our blog series, The A to Z of Being Babyproof, a celebration of the attitudes and behaviours it takes to balance career and family – because “babyproof” is not a destination, it’s a blueprint for having it all and making it work.
We’ve spent the last few weeks on the blog exploring self-belief and its importance for achieving our family and career ambitions. Positive belief is certainly the bedrock of successful babyproofing, but thoughts and a positive mindset on their own won’t make our dreams a reality. We need to act on our beliefs to realise our goals – and that requires courage. It’s not a word that immediately comes to mind when you think about babyproofing – but to achieve my ambitions of successfully managing my work, my family and my life, I need to use it every single day. If you’re currently feeling like the lion in the Wizard of Oz however, here are 10 tips for releasing your inner gladiator – and making yourself that little bit more courageous.
Cast your mind back to past challenges when you were courageous and it turned out well.
Have there been occasions when you were terrified of doing something, but you did it anyway and succeeded? How did that make you feel? Avoid the common mistake of looking back on past achievements and undermining or belittling their significance. Before you achieved that goal, it seemed daunting and impossible. And yet you did it! Give yourself the credit you deserve and use it to boost your courage when you need it again.
Remember past challenges when you were courageous and it didn’t go well but you learned from the experience.
How did you feel? Think about what you learned and how the event has shaped you and helped you to grow in wisdom and experience. Take courage from that.
Get support from someone who believes in you.
Being courageous doesn’t mean you have to be alone or isolated. Many people have faith in you and your abilities – let their support strengthen you.
Approach everything with a growth mindset.
Carol Dweck in “The Growth Mindset” says that what matters is the effort of trying and what you learn along the way. This will stop you from becoming overly discouraged by mistakes or events that don’t go as planned.
Be inspired by others who have been courageous
They might be friends, role models, colleagues, famous figures or even a mix of them all. I am inspired by my brother, who is courageous every day. He works in the security industry where work is often unpredictable. He has a strong set of values that drives everything he does and he walks his talk. I am also motivated by great figures who have led brave lives, like Nelson Mandela and Maya Angelou.
Be inspired by stories of courage.
We all love a good story, whether it be in a movie or a book. Take inspiration from heroic characters, even if they are fictional. I am hugely inspired by the movie Gladiator – to see Russell Crowe’s character conquer adversity moves me every time I watch it (and I’ve watched it quite a few times!). If you have ever attended one of my Imposter Syndrome talks or seminars, you’ll know that I have created a tool called “The Gladiator Speech” – a powerful statement of intention that inspires courage, develops resilience, nurtures authenticity, increases motivation and ignites a sense of purpose. It is one of the most powerful tools I’ve ever discovered for overcoming fear and being your best self. (Sound amazing? It is! You can read about it here). And it was inspired by Russell Crowe’s character in the movie Gladiator. Proof that the inspiration to be courageous can come from anywhere!
Seize the day!
You are not here forever so make every day count. When your last day comes (and who knows when that might be) you want to look back on your life with wonder and amazement at the risks you took, the things you tried and the courage you showed, not with regret at the things you could have tried but didn’t. I remind myself of this regularly. I fast forward to the day when I am 101, about to take my last breath and in my mind I am playing the movie of my life. I want it to be exciting and daring and adventurous and beautiful. I want my story to be one of courage, of triumph over adversity, of conquering the odds and “daring greatly”. This brilliant phrase was coined by Brene Brown – see her TED talk on vulnerability and read the book Daring Greatly for inspiration.
I’m always amazed how just standing up, taking slow deep breaths, relaxing my shoulders and grounding my feet gives me confidence. It’s a simple but effective tool to use in the moment (just as you’re going into an interview or attending a challenging meeting) to give you a boost of courage. I use it all the time and love how it changes my state from feeling sick and terrified (before a big presentation) to feeling powerful and grounded. There’s science behind this too, as demonstrated in Amy Cuddy’s powerful TED talk on power posing.
Have a mantra
Create a mantra or affirmation, any statement that you repeat to yourself that lifts you up and gives you hope. Even if you don’t believe it at first, repeating it aloud and internalising its message so it becomes part of who you are is incredibly powerful. If you’re not sure which mantra to use – here are a few of mine:
- From the Labi Siffre song Something Inside So Strong : “ The higher you build your barriers. The taller I become.” This is a record I’ve been playing in my head for 30 years. It has given me the courage to persevere when I wanted to give up and to reach for the highest, brightest star, even when failure seemed inevitable.
- “There goes Caroline, everything she touches turns to gold”. Again I’ve used this for years. It’s so powerful just before a big event or presentation when my nerves threaten to undermine me.
- “There goes Caroline, she dared greatly”. Another favourite, this reminds me that what matters is to have tried, to have given it everything I have, and that my life is all the richer for it.
Remember your why
It helps to have a reason for doing what you’re about to do. I always talk about the importance of your why, ie. your real reason for doing something or your inner purpose which is the most powerful motivator of all. Use this to channel your strength. If you know exactly what you want, and why you want it, you are much more likely to find the courage to go for it.
If you practise using some of these tools, you will make brave thinking a habit. When you need an extra boost of courage, you will be able to access it without having to rethink the whole process. Good luck!
Caroline Flanagan is a Keynote Speaker, Babyproof Coach and Author of Babyproof Your Career, The Secret to Balancing Work and Family so you can Enjoy It All. Caroline believes passionately in the dream of having it all, and founded Babyproof Your Life to train and prepare ambitious career women for the marathon of working parenthood so they can find their own way to #enjoyitall and #makeitwork. You can reach Caroline at firstname.lastname@example.org