I am privileged to work in the field of coaching and professional development and am lucky to share a front-row seat with some inspiring and high-achieving people. Recently, during an “offsite” day with some of my clients, I had something of a revelation. Before then, if you had asked me to describe the people who participate in the work I do, I was likely to give you a technical answer. Not quite specific enough to have you flicking faces down on a “Guess Who” game board (blue eyes, no hats or no moustaches!), but not far off. I probably would have said, "ambitious, high-calibre professionals from across the working world".
And of course, that was true. But going deeper, you could also see common characteristics of people who had stepped into that environment: curiosity, interest in development, kindness. But one significant quality was there in everyone, and it became clear to me in that moment. All of them had real courage. Courage is a precious resource. It's hard to generate and very easy to lose.
It takes real courage to:
- Share openly (the real truth, not the social media version)
- Be seen to be ambitious
- Admit you don't have all the answers.
In contrast, it's actually quite easy (in the present moment at least) to:
- Keep the head down, drive on and hope things work out
- Wait until the next time (there's always a next time)
- Continue to sweep the hard stuff under the carpet
Once I had that realisation, I then noticed something as important: spending time with courageous people builds our own level of courage. It's inspiring and infectious.
Today, more than ever, we need people with courage.
It mightn't be the level of crazy courage that Ernest Shackelton's famous advert attracted, but courage nonetheless.
I often find when working with clients that they rarely have to take a harder step than the initial request for help. It takes courage to stand up and say that you think you can do better.
As a society, we will only progress when we take a proactive approach to looking after each other, and that also means looking after ourselves. And to do that, we have to recognise our own failings and weaknesses. It takes courage to be vulnerable in a world where many expect perfection.
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