This afternoon I was standing on the beautiful beach near where I live looking at the water thinking do I really want to go in? Frankly, it looked cold and a bit wild. I’ve always wanted to live on the beach and now we do. I love it and go for a swim most days. However, I still find myself thinking every now and then, it’s probably going to be freezing cold, do I really want to do this? As I was standing there, I started thinking about the importance of courage. I had also just got off a phone call with a client who was managing some challenging issues at work and had demonstrated real courage in having some difficult conversations, so it was top of mind.
My experience in life to date is that I have demonstrated more or less courage depending on the context and what’s going on for me at the time. The above picture is of me on top of Mount Sinai in Egypt after having climbed it over night and sleeping at the top. I remember this day really well and it popped into my head whilst standing on the beach. To be honest, there was very limited courage required from me to get to the top of the mountain. Its a pretty well trodden path, although a fairly long hike, if you’re reasonably fit and healthy you should make it without too much trouble.
On my travels up the mountain I encountered an older woman who was clearly struggling with her health and ability to make the climb. I got chatting with her and we walked for some time together. It turned out that she was driven by a deep faith and had travelled a long way to come to Mount Sinai. It was her first time overseas and this was a deeply spiritual journey for her. Choosing to climb a mountain in a foreign country, especially at her age and health was very challenging and absolutely worth it in her mind. She made it a significant way up the mountain and cherished the experience. In her own way, she showed significant courage.
So what does climbing a mountain have anything to do with normal life and in particular work life? Growing awareness of our context and being led by a deep understanding of our purpose is I believe a critical factor in helping people to be more courageous. Finding the courage to lead and do the right thing by your organisation, stakeholders and people, especially when it is difficult, is what supports real transformation. It’s the little things (that are actually big things) that require courage that count. This courage and leadership is contagious and spurs others on. Understanding your purpose and context is like the proverbial shot of spinach to help us all be more courageous.
I then jumped in and went for a swim. As always, the water was beautiful…