I have become more fearful and less optimistic; perhaps due to the COVID 19 pandemic; perhaps because of global warming, the rise of autocratic regimes, the rise of inequality, the lack of privacy; perhaps due to the manipulation and hatred created by out-of-control social networks in so many places around the world.
Day after day the news is filled with stories designed to scare us, because fear always sells (as does sex). News media exist to make money − a fact not always compatible with accurate news reporting.
The pandemic has made our world smaller, more isolated; we did not evolve to thrive on virtual contact, and so the lack of physical contact takes its toll, as evidenced by the rise in depression and stress-related sickness.
My objective is not to make you feel depressed or pessimistic. However, we must find a way of facing fully and consciously the world as it is, if we are going to do anything about it.
Keeping in mind all that I have written above, my main project for this year is to develop greater courage, bravery − call it whatever you want. I know from experience that courage is like a muscle; you need to use it in order to have it available when you really need it. “Use it or lose it” as the saying goes. The more you practice doing brave things, the braver you become.
Courage is fundamental in life. Nothing meaningful in life can be achieved without it. Courage or bravery is the ability to act, to move forwards in spite of our fear. Without courage we quickly become stuck; our lives become smaller and we are much more likely to seek comfort in unhealthy ways, and become more likely to fall victim to addiction.
Courage can be physical, emotional or mental. It can mean learning and mastering a new activity like climbing or caving, where we have to master our fear of injury or death. It could mean facing an emotionally uncomfortable situation in a relationship; to stand up for ourselves; or it could simply be a difficult and complicated task with important consequences. Without courage, none of these are possible.
Courage and creativity are transferable, that is to say, when you practice courage in one area of your life, it helps you to be courageous in other areas of your life. In reality, courage means developing a useful relationship with the feeling fear creates in your body. When you practice creativity in your life you are more likely to find better, more creative solutions to problems.
So how to start? Bring creativity into your life. Dedicate time to doing something creative: music, drawing, writing, painting, cooking, singing, music, acting. Do it simply to enjoy. It doesn’t matter whether or not you are good at it. That is not the point! Do you enjoy it? Does it give you satisfaction?
With bravery, make a list of your fears. Start small, make a plan to confront and work these fears. For example, if you fear heights then why not try a safer form of climbing such as “via ferrata”. If this makes you feel uncomfortable − good! A large part of bravery is simply knowing how to be comfortable outside of your comfort zone.
As always, do this with an attitude of open curiosity, kindness to yourself and a sense of humour.
Peace health and happiness for 2021.