I've been fortunate enough to learn an abundancy of things in my 28 years of life thus far. I've learned a lot of lessons. Formulas. Ways to be more creative or see things from a different angle. Ways to cope or deal with stress. Ways to communicate better or apply problem solving skills.
Indeed, I'm truly blessed to have been taught so many things from an array of incredible people over the years - things I will never, ever take for granted. Things I try to carry with me every single day I'm lucky enough to wake up.
There is one thing in particular, however, that I learned from someone that has undeniably stood out the most.
They say, "certain people enter your life for a reason". And I can think of no better example or rather, person, than my brother-in law. Thanks to him, I was able to understand what REPEATED ACTS OF COURAGE are. And that's exactly what I want to share that with you all today. Because it applies to EVERYBODY.
...And I truly believe it can help everybody too.
To begin, I want to paint a brief picture for you. And while my artistic skills are absolutely abysmal (I can't even draw a stick figure properly. Ask me to. I dare you), I think just about every single person in the world has experienced what I'm about to write in some form or another. So, it will probably make it easier to envision.
. . .
You're walking around at school trying to find your next class. It's a new semester. Hope is abundant and you're rocking those new kicks you bought yesterday just to add a little extra 'glow'. You feel great. You look great. And man, anything is possible. You discover the location of your next class with plenty of time before the bell rings and slip inside. It's assigned seating and you map your way across the name plates to discover yours radiating in the back corner. As you sit down, you stare ahead at the empty desk next to you.
It's her. It's him. It's your crushes name. They've been assigned next to you.
It's a new year. A new semester. Anything is possible. Anything! You decide that this is fate. You decide that you were put in this spot for a reason - to finally talk to the person of your dreams and flex those new kicks underneath your seat. Your heart starts beating faster. You feel the adrenaline coursing through your veins, ready to surge. And then, your crush enters the room in dramatic movie-like slow motion.
They sit down quietly next to you. Now's your chance! Now's your move! Class doesn't even start for another five minutes! They're punctual like you! Your heart races further. You open your mouth to speak... And then...
Fear paralyzes you.
As the bell rings and the crush fades away, you silently kick yourself. Well, there's always tomorrow, right? But then, another day goes by. And another. And another. Until an entire semester you've sat next to a person you think the world of and didn't say a damn word.
But, hey... your shoes at least still look cool though. Right...?
. . .
If this sounds familiar, then you're not in solitude, trust me. How many times have you ever wished you said or did something? How many times have you let fear paralyze or control you? We're all guilty of it at one point of our life. No one is safe. No one is perfect.
And yet, as for me? I wasn't just guilty for it.
Hell, I was self-proclaimed famous for it.
I was in the purgatory of community college when I first learned what repeated acts of courage are. I wish so much, even to this day, that I had learned it sooner, but man... I'm just glad that I did. Because everything changed after that. Everything.
My older sister had met an amazing person that would eventually become my brother-in law. And from day one, him and I developed a very unique and special bond that beats stronger than ever today. I opened up to him one afternoon about a situation that highlights the picture I wrote about earlier - there was a beautiful girl in one of my classes that I sat next to and wanted to talk to. But I was too scared. And didn't know what to say.
When I vented and opened up to him about it, I honestly was expecting a "script" or "blueprint" of what to SAY. You see, my brother-in law was one of the most confident people I had ever met in my life and I was... well, an introvert. I was shy. I didn't take a lot of risks. And the thing I always wanted that I lacked in life was just that what my brother-in law had... courage.
I mean, I had a tattoo of a LION - a freakin' LION - on my right tricep at that point of my life. And I couldn't even talk to this girl?!
But, I digress...
What my brother-in law gave me from that fateful afternoon conversation, however, was NOT a script. It was NOT a blueprint. Instead, it was only four simple words.
"Repeated acts of courage."
It sounded so cryptic when he said it that I couldn't help but bite. And in a nutshell, my brother-in law told me this:
If you take the time to do at least ONE act of courage PER DAY, you will gather the momentum to do it the next day. And so on. But you have to keep doing it EVERY day. Or else you will lose that momentum. And momentum... is everything in life.
Pretty simple, right? And yeah, I guess in principle, it actually is. Yet, the word COURAGE itself suggests the slaying of fear. And fear? Not exactly the easiest thing to overcome. Like the last boss of a video game (I'm a bit of a geek, sorry) or the thing that keeps you wide awake at night... fear isn't something to be taken lightly.
But that doesn't mean it CAN'T be taken. That doesn't mean it CAN'T be broken. And here's how to do it... here's how to follow the advice that changed my entire life.
Here's HOW to perform Repeated Acts of Courage:
- IDENTIFY THE FEAR: This is the only easy part of the process, but it is nonetheless critical. What are you afraid of? What's the thing you didn't do today that you would like to do tomorrow? For me, at that moment in my life, my fear was making connections with strangers - namely, a girl that I had a crush on. Once you know your fear, you're locked in and ready to go. The rest, is up to you. And you alone.
- LOOK THROUGH THE FEAR: This doesn't mean ignoring the fear, but rather, looking to what it will feel like AFTER you've essentially conquered it. Imagine how much better you'll sleep tomorrow night knowing you did what you did. Imagine going to bed without a regret in the world. I can assure you, there is a reward for beating fear, every damn time. And the rewards grow bigger and bigger the higher the fear. For me, I thought about what it would feel like to have that girl know who I was. The only way I would have a chance is if I put myself out there and I knew that by doing that... I would be at least ONE step closer in the direction I needed to go for myself. And that was motivation enough.
- COMMIT MENTALLY: Promise yourself that you WILL do it. Promise yourself that you WILL go for it. We all wake up and have to sooner or later stare at our reflection in the mirror each morning. Don't let that person on the other side down. For me, I had been in that situation too many times before. I didn't want to let it happen again. And so, I committed mentally that I would talk to her the next day. And held myself accountable for that promise. Because there is no worse feeling in the world than breaking one - especially, to yourself.
- FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAYS: Spoiler alert, just because you made a commitment, doesn't mean the fear itself suddenly dries away. At least, on your FIRST series of repeated acts of courage, it won't. It gets easier and easier, believe me... but the first go is tough. And it's as real as it gets. So... Is your heart beating fast the moment before you do it? Good. Are your palms sweaty? Great. Now, don't think, and just DO IT. Fear doesn't actually paralyze you. It just feels that way in the moment. Fear itself is ALL mental. Count to three, take a deep breath - and on three, you MUST, MUST go! For me, I was nervous as all hell. But then, I remembered that promise I made to myself and how horrible would feel letting myself down another day. I turned around from my seat and said the words, "How are you doing today? I'm Kyle, by the way." It was NOT smooth. But, guess what? I didn't die. I didn't explode. And in that moment... I got a little bit braver and stronger. And so will you if you just feel the fear, and do it anyways.
- REFLECT AND DO IT AGAIN - BUT BIGGER: Congratulations! You just did something you didn't think you would ever do! And, look at that? It wasn't nearly as bad as you thought it would be, huh? I can't write what this feeling is like because it's something you just have to experience for yourself... but I will say that it is, without a doubt, one of the BEST emotions you can gain out of life. Having said that... this is the most important piece of the puzzle: it doesn't stop there. It begins there. Because whether you know it or not, what you just did was build momentum in your life. And the only way to keep momentum rolling... is to keep moving forward with it. Start from the beginning, knowing you're a little bit more courageous than before now. Then, find something else that you want to do tomorrow that you might be scared of...but here's the catch: take it a step beyond what you did today. "If you're not growing, you're decaying." And if you're not finding a new target, well... I'm afraid (terrible pun) you're setting a limitation on just how brave you can be in this world. And if you want to get what you want in this world and out of life, you're going to have to be brave.
The most beautiful thing about repeated acts of courage is that after a little while of doing it... it gets easier and easier. Plain and simple. It becomes a habit. Suddenly, the things you were once afraid of, you aren't afraid of at all! You just ave to keep going with it. It's repetition for a reason. I cannot stress that enough.
What happened to me? Well, I kept talking to that girl every class. It started with small talk. Then, to making her laugh for the first time. Then, it progressed to studying together.
I can't write a "happy ending" here because I later on found out that she had a boyfriend... and while the disappointment was real... the one thing I was ot disappointed in, was MYSELF.
That was a domino effect for me. And when I look back on all the friends I've made - all the people I have in my life right now because I learned to make connections with strangers - well... I'm just happy my brother-in law gave me that advice. It's something I carry with me every day, and maybe, just maybe... it's something you'll carry with you now too.
Thank you, brother.