For my 40th birthday my family took me on a picnic in the city and were so excited to reveal they’d bought tickets for the family to ride the Wheel of Brisbane, a 60 metre tall observational wheel comprised of glass gondolas. I feigned excitement (the surprise I didn’t have to fake) while my heart pounded and my lungs shallow breathed. White knuckled, I forced myself into the small gondola and sat down, gripping tightly the pole next to my too small seat. I stared straight ahead, not looking down, not looking sidewards lest I spy how high up our carriage was. Suddenly my family saw through my charade, and four very wrinkled brows accosted me. They were so sorry, they thought it would be fun, they didn’t know I’d freak out… but I did it anyway and I survived the Wheel of Brisbane because I reached within and found that while I was 99% I-just-might-vomit-scared, I was also 1% brave.
No one feels 100% brave all the time. Brave is not the absence of fear, it is keeping on going even when you are scared.
Sometimes we mistakenly see brave as conquering ginormous tasks: giving a speech in front of 1000 without peeing your pants, asking your neighbour who’s been flirting with you out on a date or riding a glass gondola wheel 60 metres in the air. But sometimes brave is recognising that we have uncomfortable feelings and sensations and choosing to do something anyway.
The secret to brave is to be a little brave all the time. Brave is collected within us in drips and drops, in small decisions, in moments that pass in seconds. I believe that brave is always available, sometimes it’s 1% brave and 99% worry and fear. Taking a few slow breaths and seeking to find within ourselves that tiny 1% brave is a helpful mindfulness practice. It is good to discover where that 1% brave is within us (and sometimes it’s in our big toe or an eyelash). If we can imagine that tiny bit of brave being accessed, and giving it a voice that tells us we can do something, it might just be enough to get things done that scare us.
The practise of being 1% brave helps build resiliency. Every moment of being brave is not wasted when that particular moment is gone, brave is collected within our body as evidence that we survived and therefore we can do hard/scary/unknown things again. When we face difficult things, allowing ourselves to feel the disconcerting physical sensations that worry, fear and anxiety can bring into our bodies we can also remind ourselves that brave is present and pause to allow ourselves to connect with that deep inner resource.
Small moments of brave builds up within us like a small muscle being exercised. Repeating the exercise of courageous living with our 1% brave grows it to become 2% brave and that 2% rises within to strengthen to 3%. There is no limit to brave, but all brave starts with that teeny, tiny 1% whisper “I’ll give it a try.”