Passing through  a metro station earlier this week, I did a double take as I walked past a three-tiered fence turned interactive chalk billboard that had the following sentence starter at the top:

“I wish I had the courage to…”

Underneath were lists of endings to the sentence that dozens of passers-by had filled in with pieces of chalk as they traveled to and from the busy metro stop.

I paused for a moment from my usual rush to get where I was going and took the time to peruse what people had chosen to write to complete the provocative phrase.

The themes popped out immediately.

“Embrace uncertainty”

“Follow my dreams”

“Do what I really want to do”

“Quit my job and move…”


As I read them, I was struck by the same feeling I have had over the years when I ask participants in leadership classes or coaching clients the question,

“What do you want?”

The longings on the billboard at the metro were not much different than the ones I have heard over the years from thousands of people I encounter in my daily work.

So the question really boils down to this—what holds us back from pursuing what we really want?

What keeps us from listening to the deep, yearning voice that just knows what we are meant to do and who we are meant to be in this lifetime?

What is the source of our lack of courage to follow our hearts?

One word—- FEAR.

Fear of …

…the unknown



…disappointing others

…being ostracized

…losing comfort or security

…feeling bad

(And so on—you can fill in the rest…)

As different as we all are—we are connected by the same human needs of wanting to belong, be safe, and be loved.   We all fear loss and pain.

So how do we gather the courage to take the painful actions that actually serve to bring us closer to what we really want?

As the clichéd phrase, “No pain, no gain” reminds us, our quest to stay in our comfort zones and avoid the uncomfortable abyss of change as well as our insistence on avoiding pain, keeps us stagnant. Fear of the unknown prevents us from getting or doing what we really want at the deepest levels.

Getting comfortable with our own anxiety and discomfort as we move into uncharted, unknown territory towards something we want to create takes courage that is within us if we reach deep into the place inside us where it resides. Feeling the fear and doing it anyway is what separates those who move forward and transform and those who ride the “someday” train.

As a practical, realistic idealist, I am not one to advocate quitting your job tomorrow and running off to start a sheep farm in Croatia.

But as a daily witness to major transformations that begin incrementally, I would encourage you to ask yourself the following questions:

What do you need to be more courageous about?

What does the future you long for look like?

Who are YOU in that future?

What action steps will take you towards creating that future?

What courageous step can you begin TODAY to bring you closer to that vision of the future?

As you begin to take small steps, practice sitting still with the fear and anxiety the ambiguity and unknown aspects of transformational change bring you.

Feel the fear and keep taking those small action steps towards the future you are walking towards.

Keep going–one step at a time.

You will be amazed at the amount of courage you actually do have within you when you dig deep enough to find it.


As always– feel free to drop me a note with your comments and experiences.