This story may already be familiar to you, if you’ve been following my life and adventures for a while. But I make no apology for including it again, as it forms such an important part of my own journey towards courage.

I believe that you can’t develop courage in isolation. You can only develop courage in response to the challenges that life throws your way. You need the resistance in order to develop the muscle.

And sometimes – as in my case – courage starts out small. It starts with the feeling that there is something more to life, a sense that you’re settling for fine when you’d rather have amazing, an itch that needs to be scratched, an inkling of potential that needs to be tapped.

It’s how you respond to that inkling that matters. Are you going to turn your back on it, hoping it will go away and leave you to your nice, safe, okay life? Or are you going to find your courage, the courage to say, “I believe there IS more, and I’m going to find it”, the courage to aim for a less conventional kind of success, the courage to believe that life has special plans for you?

Enough preamble. Here’s my story.

The Perfect Life?

It’s the year 2000. I am 33 years old, and I seem to have the perfect life. I have a decent job as a management consultant, a nice home, and a little red sports car – a perfect picture of materialistic success.

In theory, I seem to have it all.

But do I, really? There seems to be a little thing missing, like, happiness.

I get up at six o’clock every weekday morning to catch the train to work. My husband and I sit in our usual seats in our usual train carriage, each reading our copies of The Telegraph, obviously not speaking to the other commuters, or each other – heaven forbid!

My favourite part of the newspaper is the obituaries. I’m fascinated by how people choose to live their lives. And of course, the ones who were interesting enough to get written up in the newspaper have, by definition, led lives that are extraordinary in some sense – soldiers, spies, adventurers, pioneers, campaigners and politicians. Their lives seem so colourful. Mine, by comparison, seems rather…. Not grey, it’s not as bad as that. Just rather vanilla. Nice, but nothing special. Certainly nothing worth an obituary in The Telegraph.

Time passes. I work, pay the bills, pay the mortgage, go on nice holidays to give me something to look forward to, seeing as I don’t particularly like the way I’m spending most of the rest of the year.

I carry on reading the obituaries in The Telegraph, and start wondering – why am I settling for this? My security is starting to feel suffocating. I’m getting obituary envy – what do those people have that I don’t? How come they got to lead such amazing lives when mine seems so ordinary? They seem almost like a different type of person, like they have something I don’t have, and could never have.

Or could I?

The Obituary Exercise

One day, I decide to play with this idea. I devise a very dangerous game. I decide to write my own obituary.

I do highly recommend this exercise, by the way. It gives you incredible clarity on what you want to do with your life, at the same time as reminding you that you don’t have forever to do it in. I hate to break it to you, but one day you’re going to die. And it was only when I really, fully, faced that fact – that I would die – that I actually started to live.

So what I do is, I sit down and write two versions of my obituary. The first is the one that I want to have. I think of those obituaries that I enjoy reading, the people that I admire. They are the adventurers and risk-takers, the people who live many lifetimes in one, the people who had try lots of things, some of them successes, some of them spectacular failures, but at least they have the courage to try.

The second version is the obituary that I am heading for – a conventional, ordinary life – pleasant and with its moments of excitement, but always within the safe confines of normality.

The difference between the two is startling. The difference between the two is courage, having the courage to be different and live the life that I really want to have.

I realise that I have been living my life from a position of fear – fear of being different, fear that I won’t be socially acceptable, fear that I won’t have enough money, fear that I will end up being like my parents, Methodist preachers with middle class standards but a working class income, scrimping and saving and eating cheap food and having holidays on caravan sites in Wales.

And you know what? When I am writing that fantasy obituary, based on the people I admire, those ones with courage…. It feels so real to me, so deeply authentic, that when I finish it I believe for a moment that it is true, that it is the life I am going to live.

And for a moment, I slip into a parallel universe. That life IS real. It is the life I am living. And it feels absolutely amazing.

Sabotage

But then the Inner Critic, the Saboteur, kicks in. Who are you? You’re not a leader, you’re a follower. You’re not a risk-taker, you play it safe. You’re not bold, you’re timid. You don’t have the courage to live like those people.

I crumple. I take those two obituaries and I put them away in a drawer, afraid of what I’ve glimpsed.

But you know what? Once you’ve seen your authentic self, the life you’re meant to be living, it’s just about impossible to pretend you haven’t seen it. The writing is on the wall. Like it or not, you’re going to have to do something about it.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

 

obituary_steve_jobsMore next week! Meanwhile, please post a comment and tell me about the turning points in your life. Or, in fact, tell me about anything you want! You’ll notice that, as requested, I’ve added a plugin so you can subscribe to receive follow-up comments by email. So now we can really get a conversation going.

And do remember, if you’re trying to find the courage to make a change, or struggling to find your life purpose, I do offer one-to-one coaching that can help you. Just ping me a message via the Contact Form.

 

 

 

 

15 Comments

  • Hi Roz

    I’ve always loved your story, your determination and your courage. I’m so glad we met many moons ago when you were first on your way to conquering the Pacific Ocean. Watching you speak in my living room to my friends and I was quite memorable. I dare say quite a few thought you were crazy, which of course is, in an adventurers mind translates into intrepid, determined, and ready to kick ass regardless of what anyone says.

    You are one of my heroes, Roz. And I’m so happy that we keep inspiring more women the take the roads less traveled.

    -Deborah Dennis
    Adventure Travel Photographer

    • Hey Deb! Wonderful to hear from you!

      Funny, as you mention your sitting room, I can exactly picture being there that first time, meeting your amazing friends, several of whom went on to become part of the story.

      Thanks for staying in touch. Hope to see you in CA next year. xx

  • Meeting you on that train is proving to be more adventurous even as the years keep rolling by. I was not so sure this new direction your life is taking you on at first was going to be much of an adventure but if there is just one thing life has taught me, it is this: Do not judge the book by its cover. What I mean is that many ‘coaches’ and life-coaching seminars follow the same worn out paths expecting to get different results with the latest and greatest yada, yada, yada. Insanity! Exactly like its definition: Doing the same thing over & over again and expecting to see different results!
    I should never have expected that from you though and you know what ? You are proving tthat to be true….. Thanks again , Roz
    T

    • Thanks for the words of support and encouragement, Thomas. I’m learning that adventure takes many forms, and coaching can challenge me as much as rowing oceans. But no matter what I am doing, the most important thing I’ve learned is that I have to do it MY way, using my unique talents. (Everybody else has unique talents too, by the way!)

      I used to think I had to do things the “right” way. Now I know that my way IS the right way – for me.

  • Now THAT is the best you have produced so far, and by a long way. Even though you have written and told the story many times, it sounds fresh. And it’s personal, not something that reads as if you got it from some manual. You should do well at this new adventure!

  • Well Done Roz, this is great stuff. You’ve found just the right tone & pitch to open your heart about some deep painful stirrings that began prompting you to examine your Life. I’ve been right where you’ve are. What you are doing so well here is expressing your emotions & experiences as powerful as they are in a way that will not Terrify others. You’re making the journey to Courage AND Beyond accessible & tantalising to the many people who desperately need to hear this. This is great work Roz please keep it going. Well Done. Much Respect. Phil x.

    • I promise you I will keep it going, Phil! And thanks for your kind words. Something I’ve discovered recently is how much more powerful my speaking – and writing – are when they come from my heart rather than my head. As a very head-centred person this is sometimes challenging for me – but there again, I like a big challenge!

  • Roz, I like this one a lot…but I knew it (read your book 🙂
    However, you gave up a red sports car? 🙂 Me, I think I will paint my MGA British Green.
    Actually, I do have something to say that is serious. I too have caravaned to Wales and found it fun but lacking. Why? Because I was not with Candy whom I love a lot. So, if your folks loved each other a lot, then cheap food, cheap vacations, etc did not matter. What does matter is Love & Compassion. If you have that with another person or an adventure (like you really have had & do continue having)…then life is worth it. My Father-in-law will die soon, and he will have a great Obit. But he will die lonely & sad. Why? Because he has done his best to be angry with the world & those close to him. Very sad, he has had adventures in life (big ones). But unlike you, he has been angry and self possessed. I am saying this so that your followers know that you have the compassion & love as well as the adventures that you have done. Yes, I have met you and know you a little. Thanks for the post young lady.

    • Hi there Ken!

      Actually, the little red Mazda was stolen. It was in the garage getting repaired after a minor ding, and they left the keys in the ignition. Unsurprisingly, it vanished. The good news was that the garage admitted full liability and paid out more than the insurance company would have done…. enabling me to buy a much-needed laptop!

      It also saved me the tough decision to get rid of my lovely but definitely impractical car.

      Thanks for the wise words about your father-in-law. You are so right – achievements are nothing if there is no love. There are countless good, loving people whose heroism is in the daily kindness they show to their family, friends and strangers. They may never appear in the obituaries, but theirs are indeed lives well lived.

  • Roz, this week I realized that I look forward to your emails as much as I look forward to my morning coffee – a real testament to how much I enjoy your insight, perspectives, and constant inspiration. Luckily, this growing addiction is good for me. Thank you Roz! We are so lucky to have you as a guide and mentor, you are a true life coach and my personal hero. Much love and gratitude, Justine

    • Thank you for your kind words, Justine! They mean a huge amount to me. I’m absolutely delighted to be your good addiction.

      I hope life is treating you well, and that your world-changing work is thriving. Give my love to your parents too!

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