Nancy defines deliberate courage as “...an attitude or a frame of mind; it’s a way of being in the world where the intention behind our actions points in a singular direction—to our authenticity. Yes, real courage is the willingness, the intention, the ambition of being authentic; of dropping pretense, ego and arrogance in favor of truth, transparency and transformation.”
While we use different language in our book “Accelerate: High Leverage Leadership for Today's World” to get at these "distinctions in being," I was immediately sparked and moved into reflection by reading Nancy’s wonderful definition. To me, in the phrase ‘the intention behind our actions points in a singular direction,” the intention that is being pointed to is your ‘Yonder Star’ (which we define as your vision, mission, and purpose). The authenticity she speaks of is an absolute prerequisite for real, meaningful progress in fulfilling your Yonder Star.
The biggest detractors from that pursuit are our fears and circumstances, (see our Leadership Choice Point model and related discussion in "Accelerate"). We're not talking about any old circumstances, since, after all, circumstances are all around us all the time. Specifically, we are referencing the circumstances to which we give over our power. When circumstances have power your ability to be an effective leader and really, your ability to lead at all are significantly hampered.
It’s the “I can’t do that because of ...[insert person, place, or thing du jour]. " It’s the circumstances that seem to justify playing small or not doing anything at all. It’s the distraction that jumps up in the middle of a situation where deliberate courage would be required to keep moving you forward and yet the circumstance seems to require “taking a breather,” “handling another responsibility,” or simply “shutting down."
The toughest of all is the circumstance you simply can’t face. This is the one that runs the show instead of your dedication to your Yonder Star.
Deliberate courage is required in this case. What this means is letting the situation "be," and giving up the meaning you were putting on it. The moment you give circumstances power, you have lost yours. The circumstance owns your life unless and until you give it up and let it be.
So where in your life are there circumstances to which you are obsessively attached or feel anxiety when you think about them? Perhaps you spend time talking with others about it, (time you could have been working on your Yonder Star). Right now I hear lots of our clients who are frozen in inaction by the economic conversations, the political wrangling, or the pace of global change. Some get all caught up in family and relationship drama, and are some are enfeebled by a grieving cycle. I mean no disrespect and I am not asserting that these things aren’t “real.” I am saying that giving your power over to any such conversation blocks you from choice and powerful action towards your Yonder Star. Letting go of your attachment, letting it be, and deliberate courage are the antidote.
Try identifying three circumstances, beliefs, or relationships that you have been saying you can’t change, can’t stand, or always upset you. Ask yourself if you are willing to let go? What would be lost if you did? How much of your time would be freed up? What power would you gain? What joy and satisfaction might be available to you and those around you? What return might be available from devoting your newfound time and energy to fulfilling your Yonder Star? How about getting to work?!
(Footnote: Apologies to whoever it was that first spoke the line that is my title today. I have no idea where I got it, I rely on it often for my own freedom, and I greatly appreciate the gift.)