A Coaching Power Tool By Maria Stefansdottir, Executive Coach, ICELAND
Courage vs. Stagnation: Ways to Feel More Courage in the Face of Stagnation
This power tool aims to support people to get out of their comfort zone toward a more fulfilling and challenging life. You may be too comfortable in your life as it is to be willing to take a risk. You still feel you can do more, but it is challenging to step out of your everyday routine and move towards something bigger and more challenging. You prefer the known to the unknown. The road toward living up to your potential can be long and bumpy, with many steps and fears to overcome. Finding a lifelong calling and moving towards happiness takes courage, especially when making life-changing decisions. A change like that doesn’t happen overnight. However, with reframing and powerful questioning, everything is possible, and you encounter many “aha” moments and realizations. Susan Jeffers’s book Feel the fear and do it anyway is the inspiration for this power tool. She makes risk-taking look easy and fun and teaches you how to expand your comfort zone gradually and in a fun way (Jeffers, 2012). The following sentence is powerful and is often quoted: “If you knew you could handle anything that came your way, what would you possibly have to fear? The answer is Nothing”(Jeffers, 2012).
We might be ready to make changes to our lives, and we might have the urge to grow despite having, in many ways, a comfortable life. A nice job that provides for current lifestyle, hobbies that fill spare time, nothing is wrong, so why bother? We want to make changes because this nagging and uneasy feeling says there is something more out there. The longing for happiness and having a more meaningful life rest within us. Through coaching, hidden dreams surface, and things that have never been said aloud are suddenly out there. Once it’s been said, it’s harder to ignore. Coaching can especially be powerful when people are uncertain of what they want to do with their life. Your true purpose is a question worth exploring, and with the assistance of a coach, the client can figure out what’s been standing in the way and why this hindrance isn’t true or real. Growth and a more meaningful life lie in front of you in all their beauty.
Courage vs. Stagnation: Definition and Explanation
Merriam Webster defines stagnation as “a state or condition marked by lack of flow, movement, or development”(Merriam-Webster.com, Stagnation, 2022). If you are stagnating, you are not moving forward. Stagnation doesn’t have to appear negative, and you can be in this condition without noticing; many people are. It can be a comfortable and safe place where you could stay for the rest of your life. It’s comfortable in a way that makes it difficult to change. You can always neglect the urge you sometimes feel or the annoying feeling that something is off since ignoring is easier than acting. All you must do, to begin with, is to decide that you are ready to take the first step out of stagnation and into a life full of beautiful possibilities. Things you want to change can be so many: your job, relationship status, acquiring new hobbies, participating in a social activity like charity or politics; the list can be extended. Whether minor or even a big life-changing decision, whatever you seek, it’s easier to stay in your safe place. When you realize you are stuck and want to move, you’ll need the courage to change things.
- You become aware of your longings and desires. What is it you want to change or accomplish?
- You identify what’s been stopping you.
- Is the hindrance you identify real?
- Is it true that you can’t get passed what you believe will stop you?
- You realize how you can conquer your fears and hindrances that keep you from living your life the way you should.
When you become aware that you are in a state that you want to move away from, you need to explore what you want to change and where you want to go.
The definition of the word courage by Merriam Webster is “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty”(Merriam-Webster.com, Courage, 2022). It’s a strong word, and it’s hard to be courageous all the time; it means taking risks and trusting that everything will be fine. It means you must overcome your fears and move on without looking back.
When you have become self-aware and know you need to take action to get what you want, it takes courage. Because, after all, why should you? Fear of the unknown can be overwhelming and easily stops you from moving on. By realizing you have the courage, you need to find a way to exercise it to help you move on and out of your comfort zone. Soon you discover that the hindrances are most often only existing in your own mind. As Susan Jeffers points out, “…each time you move out of what feels comfortable, you become more powerful. Your whole life expands to take in more of what there is in this world to experience”(Jeffers, 2012).
Here is a small example of circumstances where courage is potentially needed:
- Changing jobs
- Breaking up a relationship
- Building a new relationship
- Public speaking
- Giving up a habit that is not serving you
- Changing lifestyles
The above can be a challenge, and where we need to be courageous. Coach uses powerful questioning to help visualize a life without fear of the unknown.
Powerful questions to ask when there is a lack of courage:
- What if you weren’t afraid?
- What would you do if you were brave?
- What makes this true to you?
- What makes you believe that?
- What comes up for you when I ask what your fearless self would do?
- What if you knew that you would succeed?
As Brene Brown writes in her book The Gifts of Imperfection, “Courage is…a habit, a virtue: You get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging”(Brown, 2010). After realizing what’s been stopping you from moving on, you can face blockers and fears, whether they are real or not.
Let’s look at the following real-life situation, a story about Anna who wants to change jobs.
Anna has been in her current job for 15 years. It pays well, she likes most of her colleagues, but she is bored. There are no more challenges, and she has stopped asking for them. A year has gone by without her taking steps in her job hunting. Finally, she comes to a coach and asks for help. During their first conversation, she explains that she’s afraid that she will miss her lovely colleagues and is unsure if she has something to offer in a new company. After all, she’s been with this one for 15 years and has acquired all her working experience there, but they might do things very differently in other companies that she would not know how to do. And who wants her anyway? Won’t she be applying again and again, going to interviews, only to be rejected repeatedly? Isn’t it better to stay where she is, where everything is – almost – fine?
Working with the coach, they started by looking at her self-doubt and fear of rejection and then moved on to building confidence in what she has to offer by looking at her strengths and passions. Next, the coach assists her in envisioning what it is that she wants, which is a job where she can use her powers and experiences, and meet more nice, ambitious people. She realizes the only thing stopping her from getting that is herself. She is now employed in a different company, learning new skills and using her experience and knowledge. She misses her old colleagues, but they are still her friends, and she is making new friends at her new workplace. It took courage to start applying, but it became easier and more exciting after the first interview until she found a match. In hindsight, she sometimes wonders why she didn’t do this long ago.
To shift from stagnation to building courage and taking steps towards a better life, we need to see and admit the current situation’s pain, unhappiness, or emptiness. As Marion Franklin states, people are more motivated (90%) to move away from pain than to move towards pleasure(Franklin, 2019). When we realize how we can overcome our fears, a whole new world to explore emerges. It may be a rough path, and we might need handholding, but it’s hard to go back when we experience that those changes bring something good and fulfilling. Once we get ourselves out there and start acting, new opportunities present themselves. We commit ourselves to move on, and we keep that promise with the guidance of a coach. By doing this, we build courage step by step and strengthen our courage muscles.
- How do we look at courage?
- Where do we need courage?
- Where does it show up?
- How can you build courage?
- Can you think of a role model who has shown courage in a way that you admire?
Brown, B. (2010). The gifts of imperfection. Center City: Hazelden Publishing.
Franklin, M. (2019). The heart of laser-focused coaching. Wroclaw: Amazon Fulfillment.
Jeffers, S. (2012). Feel the fear and do it anyway. London: Penguin Random House.
Merriam-Webster.com. (2022, January 15). Courage. Retrieved from Merriam-Webster.com
Merriam-Webster.com. (2022, January 15). Stagnation. Retrieved from Merriam-Webster.com