It seems to me that the world is stuck. We have political parties with seemingly irreconcilable differences, polarizing opinions on guns, abortion, the environment, with no signs of compromise and no apparent hope of resolution. The rancor from all sides has devolved to a single position: “Just say no.” No matter what price there is to pay. This post is the first in a series in which I explore the courage it takes to lead.
Any time we go after what we most want, or pursue something of importance, courage is required. It takes courage to step out of the queue and pursue a dream, or to reach for your heart’s desire. It means taking risks. It means letting go of the status quo and striving to create something that different parts of your psyche may doubt. It means facing hardship, ridicule, embarrassment, possibly failure and, worst of all, your own internal criticism.
Courage is required because to live from the authentic center of who you are, and to pursue or protect what is most precious to you, is not easy in our society. Many naysayers, well-meaning colleagues, and friends, as well as the fearful inner voices within us, try to keep us in line. We are challenged to keep quiet, to conform, to step back into pre-assigned roles and ways of behaving. We are assailed by inner doubts and fears, sometimes by threats, but most often by misunderstanding and puzzlement, or by the not-so-subtle judgments of those who don’t understand what we are doing, or who may be threatened by our increasing authenticity.
I am convinced that courage is desperately needed if we are to live lives of purpose, meaning, love and fulfillment. Courage today is in short supply. The failure to find courage has led to an increasingly fragmented society filled with divisive personal and institutional agendas. Our political leaders, for the most part, demonstrate a penchant for expediency and the “quick fix,” lacking the courage to tell the truth to the electorate. Many industrial leaders have also failed to demonstrate courage, seeking the lowest common denominator and the easiest answers when faced with the toughest questions and challenges in our rapidly evolving “information revolution.” Candor and facing tough choices require courage, and courage could make great leaders of these same people if they…if we…could exercise it.
As a society we lack courage to face the truth about how we have been living and the decisions we have been making or avoiding. It is time to wake up and face the current realities of our age. We must somehow find within ourselves the heart to open our eyes and look beyond our expectations, hopes, fears, and past beliefs if we are to gaze unflinchingly upon what stands before us and what we must do.