I’ve been called fearless many times, but that’s simply not true. I’ve been riddled with fear more times than I can possibly count, and suffering from anxiety, I actually have more fear than I should. Making it more challenging is that most of that fear is completely irrational.

People are always so shocked to hear that, and often the conversation leads to all of the scary things I’ve done and continue to do.

How do I get on planes multiple times per month? Cage dive with great white sharks? Trek mountains? Travel to third world countries across the globe, sometimes alone? Backpack miles through the desert to see a waterfall? Scuba dive? Sky dive? How did I quit my high paying corporate job to start a travel agency (in the day of online booking)?

One word: courage.

More than twenty years ago, I found a greeting card that said:

Courage is not the absence of fear. It’s doing what you want in spite of the fear.

I’ve since learned it’s a modified version of a Franklin D. Roosevelt quote. That $2.00 greeting card had the most enormous impact on my life and my decisions moving forward. I was, and still am, very afraid.

Fear was a very strong, convincing feeling, but I focused on having courage. I was not going to let fear stop me from doing the things I wanted to do. It was no longer going to hold me back.

I started exercising my courage muscle…which simply means doing something even though it scares me. I’m a data girl, so I realized I can use the data to help me develop my courage.

How many people fly every day? How many of those people get hurt? The answer is so small I can’t compute it. There are millions of scuba divers…and yes, some people get hurt or die…but the fraction is so very small. Yes, surfers get bitten by sharks, but how many people are surfing versus how many surfers are getting bitten? Again, very small. I used that to push me forward in spite of the fear.

When I scaled Mt. Kilimanjaro, I was sure I’d have less fear and would climb more mountains in the future. What I didn’t expect was how much more confident it would make me in the business setting.

I summited a freaking mountain…I can negotiate a business deal. I swam with humpback whales…I can certainly navigate a boardroom of directors and make my voice be heard and valued.

Whether you flex that muscle in a personal or professional setting, the results are the same. The muscle gets stronger. You get more courageous, your fear lessens, and you take on new, bigger challenges.

The confidence you achieve from being courageous, even once, starts a snowball effect that you can harness in every aspect of your life.

Originally published on Ellevate.

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