Nina Grunfeld’s three steps to becoming courageous. Step 1
Take a moment to think about the last time you felt really courageous. The time that you knew you were frightened and had a feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach. And yet you went ahead and did whatever you were going to do. I don’t necessarily mean physical bravery, like bungee-jumping or facing bullets. It could be anything you dreaded and overcame.
One time when I felt that real, vivid dread was before I got married, although it now feels strange to think I was so frightened of the act. My parents were divorced by the time I was six and I never thought I would get married (what would be the point?). And yet I had been proposed to by someone I really loved. The decision felt enormous and the fear was huge. I copped out. I got a let-out clause from my fiancé − a letter in which he wrote to tell me that he would let me have an easy divorce if I didn’t like being married. Then, on the day of our wedding, I had a few drinks before I was led to the altar.
The key point to that story is not my Dutch courage, but the fact that I now can’t imagine that I was ever worried about the decision. Twenty years later, I’m so confident that it was the right choice that it’s almost impossible to recreate that fear.
And that’s one way to start becoming courageous − by thinking about all the other times that we’ve had similar, impossible choices to make and how they’ve turned out all right.
Maybe you had a decision to make about the person you’ve ended up marrying. Maybe you argued about having children or where you were going to live. Didn’t those issues seem enormous at the time? And yet, looking back, it is hard to relive those feelings.
Courage comes not only from understanding that we have done something before and so can do it again, but from moving forwards once we’ve decided on a course of action. It’s essential to throw ourselves behind our decision and get on with it − not to look back and say “I could still be single and having a good time,” but to be happily married and thinking of what life as a married couple has to offer. It’s all about moving on rather than living in the past.
Of course, not all of our decisions work. Couples (such as my parents) do get divorced − another decision, with yet more courage required. But, again, once you’ve made up your mind to do something, just get behind that decision and work with it. The courage can be seen in the consolidating, not the regrets.
Next week I’ll explain how to make it even easier to become courageous.
Nina Grunfeld is the author of The Big Book of Us (Short Books). To order a copy for £11.99 plus £1.25 p&p, call Telegraph Books on 0870 155 7222. Nina is the founder of Affordable Life Coaching and runs life clubs and day workshops (020 7222 2199; www.lifeclubs.co.uk).