“Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision.”  Winston Churchill

What an elegantly simple way to capture one of life’s most important things to know.  Fear is so misunderstood.  I know I didn’t understand it for many years.  I thought that courage was something that only fearless people experienced.  But, the older I got, and the more senior executives I worked with, I began to learn about fear from people who experienced it on a far larger scale than mine. 

The more I spoke with these successful leaders, the deeper I got into their life stories. A constant theme in all their stories was overcoming something—a setback, a failure, a stutter, lack of education—you name it, they experienced it.  In many cases, the person had no track record of rising to the level of challenge that confronted them, at what was nothing less than a defining moment in their personal history.  Some were not sure what happened initially that allowed them to carry on.  Others knew right away. 

The thing they all found out was a life lesson I will always cherish: It’s okay to have fear, especially when you are facing a formidable challenge, or issue in life.  That is only a normal human reaction.  But, it’s what happens next—what we choose to do—that defines who we are.  So, the next time you are facing something that induces that sense of fear in you, stop, take a deep breath, remember this quote and smile.  Smile because you know that you are going to choose to be brave and keep moving forward with courage. 

It happens one step at a time—incrementally building in power until, at some point you look up and say to yourself, “I did it!”  I can tell you from many experiences that those three words, earned in this way, constitute one of life’s most exhilarating moments.  Give it a try and don’t forget to smile.

Good luck on your journey!