So now we get to the heart of the matter: how to find your own courage. I’m using my story as an example of how someone can go from coward to courageous, but the template I’m going to set out here has an infinite number of variations and possibilities.

In true management-consultant style, the template has an acronym. The 7 steps to courage conveniently form the word…. wait for it…. drum roll….. you’ll never guess this one….. COURAGE.

And C is for CALLING.

The word “calling” might sound a bit spiritual for some people, but when it happened to me, it was so unexpected that it really did feel as if it had come from some place outside of myself. I can still remember the exact moment.

The Lightbulb Moment

Since I’d stepped off the career treadmill, I’d let go of a lot of things – just about all of them, in fact. I’d left my job, my marriage had ended, I’d moved out of the marital home, my sports car had been stolen. I’d used the insurance money to buy a camper van, and I was living in the back of it.

I’d also had my first adventure – three months backpacking around Peru – and written my first book (so far unpublished, but I’m dusting it off at the moment, so it may yet see the light of day). That trip had led to an environmental awakening of sorts, as I’d spent a lot of time with Peruvian Indians, who, like so many indigenous people, believe that there is a sacred relationship between humans and Earth, and that we anger the Earth goddess, Pachamama, at our peril.

I’d spent a month in a cottage in Ireland, pretending to be Henry David Thoreau on Walden Pond, going for long walks and reading books on philosophy and religion and writing in my journal.

I felt like I was figuring out a few things about life, but I was like a carpenter with a toolkit of shiny new tools but no piece of wood to work on. I needed a project. I had no idea what it might be, but I hoped it would involve travel, adventure, and something to do with my newfound green zeal.

It was the summer of 2004, and my father had had a stroke. It would be six weeks between the stroke and his death, and meanwhile my life was on hold. I was up in Yorkshire, spending time with my mother and at the hospital, waiting to see what would happen.

One day I was driving along in my camper van, and my brain was in a relaxed alpha-wave kind of a state, not thinking about anything in particular, when bammm! An idea came out of the blue and hit me like a thunderbolt.

I would row across oceans to raise environmental awareness!

My first thought was, “That’s perfect! That’s exactly what I was looking for!”

My second thought was, “That’s impossible! I’ve never done anything like that in my life!”

I can’t. Or can I?

Sure, I’d rowed at Oxford, but there’s a bit of a difference between rowing with eight other people on a nice flat river, and rowing solo across an ocean.

It was such an outrageously audacious idea that, even though it seemed perfect, I just didn’t see myself as the sort of person who rowed across oceans. Surely I needed to be at least six feet tall and have a big, bushy beard.

So I spent the following week trying to talk myself out of it, but with every passing day I thought of more and more reasons why it was the perfect project. Rather than managing to dispel the dream, I found myself fleshing it out until I had a fully formed vision of what I would do and how I would do it.

I reached the point where I knew I just had to do it, or spend the rest of my life thinking, “if only”.

The “If Only” Test

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the point of no return. When you realise that if you don’t even try something you’ll spend the rest of your life regretting it, you have to go for it.

And so I did. I made a commitment that I was going to row three oceans, using my adventures as a platform for talking about our environmental challenges.

Step by Step Guide to Finding Your Calling

To break the “Calling” down into its constituent parts, the sequence goes something like this:

1. Dissatisfaction with status quo

2. Loosening of self-limiting beliefs, comfort zone beginning to expand.

3. Emergence of a question, e.g. What is my work here? How can I help?

4. Simply holding the question. Not trying to answer it, not engaging brain to try and find a solution. Just hold it.

5. Wait for answer. (This step can take a while. But you can’t rush it. It happens when it’s good and ready, and not a moment before.)

6. Answer arrives.

7. Be very surprised by the answer (probably because it’s better than anything you could have thought of by using brain-centred logic).

8. Think “I can’t”.

9. Consider “But what if I could?” Start making a list, breaking the huge task down into tiny tasks. Think about how it fits with your goals and values. Imagine how it would feel to make the dream come true.

10. Realise that you’re going to have to at least give it a shot, or you’ll be forever disappointed with yourself. Surrender to the inevitable and commit to making it happen.

There you go, simple as that.

Of course, this is just my experience. But it has happened more than once in my life, with some variations. And I don’t think it’s unique.

What do you think? Have you heard a calling? How did you hear it? What did you do? I’d love to hear from you!

I’m planning to write a book about courage, so you could even find yourself getting featured!

 

 

14 Comments

  • Inspiring and so so true. Served 22 great years in the Royal Navy,met my beautiful wife Anita and blessed with 4 awesome children. ( 23, 21, girls 19 twin boys. My only calling and not so much courage. Still knocking on them doors. Keep at it Roz. Live in Wilcove Cornwall pop in anytime.

    • John, thanks for your comment. You know what? I believe that gratitude is a powerful emotion that opens up all kinds of wonderful stuff. So keep on being grateful for your lovely family – that is a fine calling in itself!

  • Roz, I’m absolutely loving this series of yours. Just know that a lot of us out here look forward to your posts every week, greatly enjoy them, but never get around to telling you. So now I’m telling you.

    This: I just didn’t see myself as the sort of person who rowed across oceans. I needed to be at least six feet tall and have a big, bushy beard. Ha!

    I also wanted to tell you that you inspired some of the attributes of a character I wrote for my young adult series PARALLELOGRAM. She’s a teen adventurer who, among other things, rowed across the Atlantic. I’ve listed your book ROWING THE ATLANTIC among the books for further reading in the resources at the end so that other people can enjoy your book as much as I did!

    Also, you’re one of the adventurers who inspired my character in the book. “Savage” is listed right in there with Shackleton.

    Thanks for putting yourself out there, not only to do grand, daring physical feats, but also to write the things you write. I love your style, I love your words–you’re a great inspiration! Carry on with all that!

    • Thanks, Robin, for your lovely comment. It’s really fantastic to get your feedback, and to know that my words are landing with you.

      Thanks also for bringing my story to a new audience. It’s so important that youngsters get positive role models – especially ones without beards. 🙂 And I am truly honoured to be mentioned in the same breath as Shackleton!

  • Roz, As I reflected on your guide steps for finding your calling,
    the idea arrived that the exercise could be adapted to a short term
    circumstance that one wishes to address; “defining your challenge” if you will. I was reflecting on three current matters on the way to work this morning -and ways to address them from July to December.

    Another practice I have developed is an annual “mission statement”
    that I write out during the holiday period to use for the coming year. Perhaps these could be sub topics in the courage book.
    My plan for tonight is to sketch out my 6 month challenge.

    • What a GREAT practice, Tracy! I am a firm believer in creating a vision of the future that we want.

      Having said that, this summer my current “goal” is to NOT have a goal, but rather to follow my curiosity without any agenda or plan. I believe life goes in cycles of BEing and DOing and right now I’m really happy to relax into the BEing… in the full expectation that a DOing time will come, and this time in the chrysalis of BEing will prove to have been time well spent.

      I hope you have a wonderful evening planning your next 6 months – and also hope that all your dreams come true!

  • Beautiful and inspiring post, Roz! Great timing as I was dealing with a “naysayer” who refuses to accept my calling. Asking “what if I could” and imagining the possibilities always fills me with positive energy!

  • Hey Roz,

    I loved your blog! I have had a calling from a young age to protect oceans. I have followed this path all of my life through grad school and my professional career. When my husband was offered a wonderful position in Colorado, all I could think of was that my ocean career was over. I had already taken a 6 year break raising kids and chickens and felt like I would never get back to my ocean protection calling, especially when we were moving to the middle of the US. But I fought this sense of loss and started the Colorado Ocean Coalition in 2011. I had no idea if this effort would work, but now after 4 years, it is blossoming into a real community driven collaboration. Follow your passion and the rest will fall into place. Vicki

    • Thanks for your kind words, Vicki! So full of admiration for the great work you’re doing in Colorado, raising awareness in a landlocked state. It goes to show that where there’s a will (and a determined woman!), there is a way!!

  • Hi Roz

    Just read your post on ‘ Finding your Calling “. Still to find mine and I feel as far away as ever from finding it. However, I have not yet given up and intend to continue the search. I will accept where I am for the present; maybe not try as hard and use your method and see what emerges. I’ll let you know how I get on. Really enjoyed your talk at Alternatives a few years ago and your book on your Pacific crossing too. Best wishes Len

  • Roz

    Great series of blogs.

    Having a disability (in my case Friedreichs Ataxia), can easily lead to you wondering what your life is about.

    My Calling came when my Dad, two younger brothers and I decided to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds for Ataxia UK, in my case with the help of a Mountain Trike. (Ok some beers were involved in the decision making!!).

    We successfully got to Uhuru Peak on October 13th last year.

    Since then I have been involved with encouraging other wheelchair users and people with Ataxia to “Give It a Go” (an Australian phrase my Dad has drummed into myself and my brothers).

    I realise now my Calling isn’t to be an inspiration (as some have said), but to show others that if they want to do something, then they can, they just need the COURAGE to do it !!

    • Good for you, Iain! Some people would just curl up into a little ball of self-pity – it takes true strength and a ton of courage to get out there and make your illness mean something, and to help others. Thanks for sharing!

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