Wishful Thinking leads to growth and change, which usually involves a level of risk, and taking risks requires courage. My initial reaction to taking risks usually involves fear, which usually leads to procrastination.
If so, keep reading . . . I have learned to use a series of activities to increase my courage and face my fears.
The idea of combining the steps into a diet came to me after reading the book “The Joy Diet” by life coach and Oprah magazine columnist, Martha Beck. I read “The Joy Diet” about 10 years ago, and immediately started using it to create more joy in my life.
Beck lists “Taking Risks” as the fifth step of her ten-step plan for finding joy.
She encourages us to take risks that make sense and are oriented in the direction we want to go. She has one warning: the risk must be scary. (That part was easy for me!)
I hope “My Courage Diet” helps and encourages you, as much as it has guided and supported me.
To get started, all you need is a pen, a piece of paper, and the wish to change your life, even just a little.
My Courage Diet
Begin by writing a list of all the brave or difficult-to-accomplish things you have done.
List every single challenge you have faced and every fear you have conquered. Remember, there was a time when tying your shoe, passing your driver’s test, and getting your first kiss, date, degree or job – seemed very, very scary.
Try not to think, just write. Set a timer for 15 minutes – writing and creating a deadline are essential parts of the process.
Then reread your list; fill-in any blanks; round-out the details and add any other brave acts that come to mind. (You can keep adding to the list forever!)
Each day, pick one item on the list to review and revisit. Take a minute to fully picture the scene and to feel the memories and sensations it brings. Remember how good it felt to face, achieve or complete the item . . .
Sixty seconds of reminiscing can bring you a flush of positive feelings and a nice boost of courage. (This part is really important so, please do it even if it seems silly.)
Think of the music that gets you going and in a great mood.
For me “Eye of the Tiger” is a sure winner no matter what I am trying to conquer (no laughing, please). Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration” (no snickering, either) and Kenny Loggins’ “This is It” got me through my undergrad degree; Alaniss Morisette and Tina Turner kept me focused through relationship upheavals; classical music helped me with my Masters and Joe Cocker, Aretha Franklin and Iron & Wine’s “The Trapeze Swinger” kept me company in the Peace Corps.
It’s your pick, your list, your music.
Now, put the music in a format that is easy to access and then, listen to it! Once, twice, three times a day – at home, in the car, running, walking, whatever it takes to keep you feeling motivated.
Create a list of movies that have inspired you. Select movies based on real people, who have faced overwhelming challenges. People, who have stepped in and out of their comfort zones, and achieved their dreams.
“Rudy”, “Rocket Boys/October Sky”, “Cinderella Man”, “The Greatest Game Ever Played” and “Julie & Julia” are some of my favorites. I’ll also add “Tin Cup” to the list, it is not in my top 10, but there are some scenes I adore. (Remember all of this is up to you, it’s your choice. Be honest about what you love.)
Carve out time to watch these movies.
If you already love a movie, reading about it or watching the trailer will bring all the good feelings associated with it back to you. Or, simple, replay the film in your mind, remembering the scenes, music, and characters that made it special to you.
If you cannot think of a single inspiring movie, go to the American Film Institute’s “100 Years 100 Cheers” web site and download their list of the 100 most inspiring movies. Keep watching until you feel energized and inspired.
Make a list of books or stories that have inspired you. Include your childhood favorites.
Read them again. If you are crunched for time, read the first and last chapters or your favorite passages, or even an online summary. It only takes a few minutes or a quick glance to bring back the memories and the meaning they held for you. (Your brain is an amazing, high-tech, personalized support tool. You have primed it with good thoughts, which it will automatically release when you take a moment or two to reconnect with the moments and memories you love. Don’t let this gold mine of goodness sit idle, unearth the buried treasures that motivate and inspire you.)
Repeat diet steps 1-4, as necessary. Repetition does not imply defeat or failure in any way; rather it reveals bravery and resiliency. When we rewind and recycle what has worked for us in the past, we are showing a high level of emotional competency, and it’s a great way for us to face new or stressful choices and challenges.
Please add anything you want to the diet or change it in any way that gets you ready to take on the world.
It is your courage diet now; go for it!
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(I posted the original version of “My Courage Diet” on Wishful Thinking Works in 2010 – it works!)