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I used to watch movies and see women who I admired and wished that I could be as brave and as free-spirited as they were. I didn’t know that my life would force me to be more courageous and more open-minded than I imagined.

Many people were trying to make better financial decisions and tread lightly through the world after the Great Recession, but I made what seemed like the craziest decision ever. I decided to move to another state–leaving my own home, my tenured job, and everything and everyone that I knew in the middle of a hiring freeze, furloughs, and a deflated housing bubble. I moved away so that I could be with the man that Iove. It was one of the hardest things that I’ve ever done, but also one of the best things that I could have ever done.

Many well-meaning people believed that I was making the biggest mistake of my life, but I found strength in knowing that I wasn’t making a reckless decision. These people often asked me why would you leave all of your family and friends? Why would you leave the house that you worked so hard to buy? Why would you move to a place that you’ve only been to a few times? Why would you leave NOW? The answer was short–I moved for love, but my purpose for moving was much more personal. I moved to prove to myself that I had the courage to try. I moved because I believed that there was more to life than what I was doing at the time.

It wasn’t quite extraordinary, but it was courageous, especially for people like me who like to color inside of the lines. I knew that I had all of the tools that I needed to create a new community and succeed in my new town. I also knew that all of my life experiences up to that point would help me to handle new challenges. I, not only did well, but I thrived! I got married to a great man; I built a business; I’ve traveled more domestically and internationally, and I learned a lot about myself in the process. I learned that Christopher Robin from Winnie the Pooh was right–I really am “Braver than I believe, Stronger than I seem, and Smarter than I (ever) thought.”

Now, years later, as I face another challenge and another opportunity to step out of my comfort zone, I’ve thought about a few things that I learned from the first time that I was making a very scary and drastic decision. Here are some of the things that I learned:

Encourage yourself! It’s great to have approval and understanding from the people around you, but I have found that I have to be my own cheerleader first. Sometimes people can only cheer you on to the level that they understand. Anything outside of that may seem strange. It doesn’t mean that they don’t care about or love you, it’s often fear of the unknown that grips us all. In order to move past fear, self-encouragement is key.

Trust yourself! Many of us place our trust in our creators, the systems that we work for, our friends and family, or even weather forecasts. Imagine how different your life would be if you trusted yourself just as you trusted the sun and the moon to rise each day. Imagine how different your life would be if you believe in yourself the same way that you may believe the things that people say about you. Trust your ability to do what’s best for yourself. Trust yourself to not disappoint yourself.

Be Brave! Bravery isn’t just something that you read about or watch in movies. Bravery exists in you and other people around you. I used to believe that brave people were the people who did monumental things or those who demonstrated extraordinary efforts. Bravery is being willing to do things that are out of your comfort zone for your own sake or for the sake of those you love. I learned that I was brave too. I did something that may seem so simple to many, but at the time, it seemed very irrational. Being brave enough to try is something that many people aren’t willing to do. Be willing to do something different.

I don’t know that I would have been able to succeed if I hadn’t trusted myself and understood that many great things often begin as difficult things. While it all hasn’t been rosy, it has been worth it. I found being courageous to be liberating. Life is so much more fulfilling when the time is spent doing the things that bring your heart joy rather than doing things that fit society’s molds. Now as I move on to my next venture, I have decided to embrace the challenge and live for myself instead of what I think that I should be doing at this point in my life. I’ve decided to say yes to courage. I’ve decided to live for me!