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The Courage for Course Corrections

“Many people feel they are powerless to do anything effective with their lives. It takes courage to break out of the settled mold, but most find conformity more comfortable. This is why the opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it’s conformity.” — Rollo May (via Poetic Outlaws)

Some of us have an internal wrestling match battling in our heads between what we could be doing and what we’re currently doing. Which tendency dominates, the call of the wild or the call to conformity? Surely, we can’t have it all, but we can find ways to lean into that which stirs our soul.

Teaching ourselves that all is not lost by breaking free from expectations offers an off-ramp from the conformity highway. Micro-adventures demonstrate that we can do things we previously thought out of reach. You don’t sail around the world by buying a boat today and leaving tomorrow. There’s learning and work and sacrifice that go into that process, as friends on Fayaway have documented. Each day offers a lesson in what not to do, but it also highlights what is possible simply by changing our course a degree or two on the compass heading.

A friend recently posted a picture of a group photo taken a long time ago, when we were all much younger versions of ourselves. One of those people in the photograph had never really hiked before, and every step was new for her. She flipped the script on that and is now one of the most consistently active hikers in New England. That reinvention happened slowly in those early days, but now there’s no stopping her.

We hear stories of people like JK Rowling writing in cafe’s in Edinburgh, or Mark Dawson writing on the train while commuting back and forth from his previous day job. There’s nothing to this but setting out to do what we say we want to do. How much time do we waste in excuses? We’re simply a course correction away from living towards that dream. The very act of changing course and sticking with it takes courage, but habit soon takes over.

“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.”
― James Clear, Atomic Habits

When we see the evidence all around us of personal transformation, shouldn’t it provoke courageous action in ourselves? Perhaps. But it’s easy to see that which we aspire to be and view the gap as too far. We forget that each transformation was once a small course correction on the compass, acted upon one day at a time, until identity and routine took over.

It’s easy to declare what we’re going to do in our lifetime. It takes courage to actively choose the alternative path from that those we’re closest to expect us to take. It takes even more courage to teach ourselves to take that new path and to keep going on it until we find ourselves. But what are we here for but to find our why and to do something with that?

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