Courage is the choice and willingness to confront agony, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation.
I have always been quite a courageous person. I am not sure exactly why. I guess it is how I was brought up… The Wilson childhood was outdoorsy and adventurous. My Dad is a bit of a daredevil and as a child we mountain biked, canoed, and went skiing – water and alpine. My Mum, my sister and I followed Dad where ever he went, whatever he did, we trusted him to look after us.
I learnt to ski when I was 7 and I can remember blasting down black runs and mogul runs from an early age. We were never reckless, but we were fearless. The character education my parents gave my sister and I, most definitely developed our courage to get stuck in and our resilience to bounce back and carry on.
So being courageous in my life is very much in my DNA and in the fabric of my upbringing. This has led to me doing some amazing things as I have grasped opportunities in my life to continue this adventurous streak. I have travelled lots, volunteered lots and put myself out there.
I am not really one to get homesick and I don’t really let things hold me back. On reflection, I am very comfortable being out of my comfort zone. And it has served me well until this point.
Another part of my upbringing is in the courage of my convictions. I have a strong sense of integrity, ethics and what is right. I have made decisions in my life that feel right, listening to my intuition I have reacted instinctively to different scenarios.
I have had the courage to walk away from friendships and relationships that do not serve me – both personally and professionally. Those who know me, know that I have also resigned from a lot of jobs! It takes courage to articulate when things are not aligned.
I started doing the #OneWord ritual 5 years ago and they have been my North Star – last year my #OneWord2019 was Joy and this year my #OneWord2020 is Purpose. It is a simple and effective reflection on opportunities to ask: Will this bring me Joy? Will this serve my Purpose? If not then is it a good use of my time and energy? Maybe Courage should be my next word…
I can remember doing a presentation at the Leading Women’s Alliance on ‘Saying Yes’. Shonda Rhimes wrote and a did a TED talk on having the courage to say Yes and working it out afterwards which really resonated with me. I was sharing this mantra, when the lovely Karen Giles challenged me on this and said that sometimes we need the courage to also say No. Depending on what is being asked I totally agree. It takes as much courage to say Yes as it does to say No, depending on what is being asked and by whom.
So my courageous act last year was to resign from Headship. I had just bought a house, turned 40 and following lots of conversations with friends and family, at the end of March 2019 I pulled the rip cord. It came as a shock to lots of people, but things were not aligned.
Finding myself on unexpected gardening leave for a few months I dug deep to find the courage to make a positive out of a negative. I needed to get some physical and some mental distance to process my emotions. My solution was to book a 2 month trip to South America and disappear for a bit. I courageously went away by myself and joined an open group of strangers to travel from Peru to Brazil, through Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.
I have travelled a lot but I have always had work sat there on my shoulder reminding me of my responsibilities on my return. It was refreshing on this occasion to escape from the world, have little social media and no professional identity. I didn’t talk work for 2 months. If anyone did ask I was a teacher from the UK. People were not that interested in talking professional lives anyway. I guess we were all there to escape from something or someone?
On my return to the UK I started my new role in ITTE. I brought to this role my new relationship with work and my self-identity. I consciously re-framed how I feel self-worth, I have re-calibrated my work-life balance. There are lots of things I have enjoyed about this role, but going back to my one words, I have not felt enough Joy nor Purpose. Consequently, I have again resigned! It was announced this week that I am working my notice until April 30th. I am then going independent from May 1st.
I have lots of plans for the future. I thought I was being courageous leaving full time employment, but with the world developments of the last few days, I need my reserves of courage even more than ever right now, as I face unchartered waters. It was scary leaving a secure salary, stable benefits as it was, but it felt right. Regardless of what is going on the world right now, I have still made the right decision for me and my career. I just need to be courageous, creative, resilient and optimistic about what the future holds for me next chapter.
So keep those flames burning. It might feel very dark right now, but there is a light to follow. And yes that is me fighting the demons in the headershot – the monster is symbolic of so many things right now!
Go forth and be courageous!