Being Brave

Choosing Commitment over Change

My theme for 2019 is commitment.

Commitment feels scary to me. Sticking to something is definitely on my developmental edge.

Which I find slightly ironic.

This theme and this post came about after a random conversation with a friend who told me she thought I was brave for leaving my career - twice - to follow my intuition into the unknown.

Bravery - the quality or state of having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty

Courage - mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty

When I left the RAF in 2014 and then my job in an international development consultancy in 2017, I did not feel brave. Almost the opposite.

I was terrified. I was terrified of being stuck. Of having regrets. Of my life passing me by. Of not fulfilling my purpose, not that I could articulate what that was but I felt, I feel, something in my heart and solar plexus that tells me I have one.

Navigating change doesn’t feel like courage to me. I have been navigating change my entire life. There is comfort in the familiar discomfort of change.

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I was born into a military family. By the time I was three years old, I had lived in three different houses, my father had been away on operations in Northern Ireland for six months, I now had a little brother and sister (twins) and an au-pere. By the time I demanded to go to boarding school at the age of six, I had lived in four houses, been to three schools, three au-peres had come and gone, and I told my parents I didn’t want to make friends in the next place because I didn’t want to say goodbye. When I started boarding school at eight, my school tally was up to six as was the number of houses. And things didn’t stop there - with my own RAF career, the number of houses I haved lived in is up at 32 - at the time of my last move I was 33 - and that doesn’t include being away travelling, on operations, and so on.

I’m not telling you any of this to brag or seek your pity. It’s just my life. Change has been a constant companion for me.

I’ve never really had to see anything through. The longest I’ve ‘been’ in one place was five years at boarding school and we all know those school years are hardly a time of stability for most of us.

There are some huge benefits to this. I am highly adaptable. I make acquaintances easily. I don’t have hoards of collected stuff at home. I learn fast. I’m well-organised, focused and disciplined - I can create order in chaos. And I am really good at packing, even better at unpacking.

And I have also come to realise this constant change has left me with what are now unhelpful patterns of thought and behaviour.

I need to control everything. I’m always worried people are going to leave me, so I protect myself and don’t let people in. As my friends will testify, I am terrible at keeping in touch with people, because there was never any point.

Commitment, in all its forms, scares me.

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At the end of last year, I started to feel the urge to run. It’s been 18-months since I left full-time employment (the average tour length in the RAF) and two years since I bought my flat (the longest I have lived in one place since I was a teenager). It comes as no surprise to me that I’m here in Bali now, wanting a change of scenery and routine.

It’s also deeper than that.

It turns out getting a business off the ground is hard. I have never done anything like this before. Why does part of me thinks I can be an overnight success in something I’ve never done before? I feel like I am always on the edge of my comfort zone, at best; at worst, I am so far outside of my comfort zone, I can’t even see it in the rearview mirror anymore! I struggle with being patient and with not being good at something. So, there has been a big part of me that wants to reinvent myself yet again - because that feels easy (well, easier).

Sticking to this, seeing it through, means I have to face the risk it will fail. That I can’t make it work. Because when you change and walk away, you just never know what would have happened. And that feels safe. The only way it succeeds is for me to commit and show up every day and to keep going - this was one of the many lessons I learned running 1000 miles last year . But maybe it doesn’t. Maybe I give it everything I have and it still doesn’t work. Maybe I don’t have what it takes. Maybe I’m not enough.

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My commitment is to surrender control of the results. To know that I did my best and enjoyed the ride. My commitment is to the process. My commitment is to showing up and learning and getting in alignment and doing my part. My commitment is to be curious and open-minded. To evolution and expansion. To turn ‘I don’t know how to do that’ into ‘I wonder how I can find out how to do that’. To treat this as a self-directed MBA - this process is less about building a really successful business, although I would love that, and more about learning about building a business. Learning about the kind of person I need to become to create something that impacts lots - you know what, I’m going to say it - millions of people. F**k, that’s hard to put on paper!

My commitment is to that dream, to that power I feel right at the core of my being, to the part of me that believes anything is possible. My commitment is to be compassionate to the part of me that is scared, vulnerable and delicate. My commitment is to share this journey with others, to support and to be supported, to inspire and to be inspired. To love and be loved. To give and to receive. To not just balance those energies me, but to integrate them so their power is multiplied beyond imagination.

Now I feel brave. And just a little scared.

Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent, guts. That’s what little girls are made of.
— Bethany Hamilton