are contagious; and if there's one emotion that seems to spread even faster than all the rest combined, it's fear. Fear breeds fear. One fearful thought quickly snowballs into a bigger one and then another. It creeps its way in, metastasizes and leaves you living under a dark cloud of anxiety that has you feeling like you have no choice but to take the safer path of least resistance, political correctness and convenient mediocrity. That's no life! Below are five questions (with corresponding action steps) to help you live a bigger, more rewarding and more courageous life! * WHAT IS COURAGE? Before we get to the questions though, let's just take a minute to explore what it means to be courageous; to answer the question: "What is courage?" Courage is not fearlessness. Nor is it an absence of self-doubt. Courage is action in the presence of fear. Living with courage begins with taking a good honest look at the choices you are making today and challenging the assumptions, stories and excuses that are driving them. Stepping beyond the confines of your comfort zone will call on you to dig deeper into yourself than you have up to now; to dare to accomplish things which have no guarantee of success and to trade the 'fine and good' for an experience of life that is far better, deeper, richer and infinitely more gratifying to your spirit. The world has more than its fair share of people living lives of immaculate mediocrity. There are things that you and only you can do, things that will never be done if you do not dare to do them. So don't tiptoe through life only to make it safely to death. Instead, take your 'fear bully' by the horns and dare to dream more, do more, say more, live more, give more and be more! Fortune favors the bold. So live boldly! Your life is way too short to be lived any other way. 1. What do you really want? If you don't know where you want to go in life, any road will take you. So get really clear about it: If you could have the ultimate relationship or job or career or business or lifestyle, what would it be? Don't let "what's realistic" keep you from thinking big. Sure, you may not always succeed in accomplishing your dreams; but you have absolutely zero chance of accomplishing anything worthwhile if you are too afraid to dream big in the first place. Any area of your life in which you have no clear vision is an area where you are not living as powerfully as you could. So if there is an area(s) of your life in which you feel a clear level of dissatisfaction or unhappiness, then that's the key place to focus first. What would need to change in those areas of your life to have them be the way you really wanted them to be? ACTION STEP #1: Write down a goal you want to achieve (however big or scary). 2. What's the price you will pay for not making changes? Research has identified a psychological phenomenon whereby we human beings tend toward discounting the cost of our choices even when it's obvious they are not benefiting us. Why? Reality ain't pretty. The result? We kid ourselves everything's hunky dory and that we really are content with the status quo when in truth we know, in our heart of hearts, that it sucks and we are settling big time. Acknowledging that you are stuck or unhappy in an aspect of your life and that you will pay a profound cost by doing nothing - whether it be in stress, missed opportunity, anxiety, regret or unfulfilled potential - is a crucial step toward courageous action and absolutely crucial to re-creating it the way you want it to be. ACTION STEP #2: Write down how you will feel about yourself one year from now if nothing changes. 3. Where have you been letting your fears hold you back? Often we don't like to admit where our fears are running the show. Sometimes we don't even realize they are! But only when we start owning our fears do they stop owning us. So really delve deep into this question. Ponder what you would do if you had no fear of failing, being criticized or looking foolish. Reflect on what you would change if you didn't doubt your ability to handle the challenges that change would bring. What possibilities would open up if you could trust yourself that no matter what happened you could handle it? Fear is not a 'bad' thing. Far from it! Rather it's a question of whether or not your fears are actually serving you (protecting you from REAL danger and enabling you to thrive in work, relationships and life) or if they are holding you back and sabotaging your efforts to achieve the successful, meaningful and happy life you want. ACTION STEP #3: Make a firm commitment to stop allowing fear to run your life. 4. What are the initial steps you need to take? Nothing changes if nothing changes. The problem is though that as soon as you begin to think about the changes you need to make to achieve your dreams, you very quickly find yourself overwhelmed with just how much must be done to accomplish it. So it's really important as you are starting out to clarify a specific goal you'd like to achieve and then to break down that goal down into smaller bite-size steps. The most important thing here is to take some action, any action, since courage is really only an accumulation of lots of small 'bite size' steps. As Martin Luther King once said, "you don't have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step." (and then the next one, then the next and so on. ACTION STEP #4: Write down your first five steps and assign a deadline to each. 5. How can you create a more supportive environment? When you have an external environment around you that supports you, holds you to account and brings out your best, it makes it easier to persevere, and ultimately to prevail, when your internal motivation system is running low. Share your goals with positive people and ask for their support; take time regularly to schedule your priorities; join a support network; or hire a coach. Likewise, be VERY vigilant of those people and forces in your environment that could jeopardize your success. People who are unsupportive and discouraging can be like a lead chain around your ankle when it comes to moving forward. Einstein once said "Free spirits have always encountered violent opposition from cynical mediocre minds." So do what you need to do to minimize the impact of the mediocre minds in your life. Likewise, if there are other forces in your environment that could pull you off track, whether a lack of proper planning, organization or dysfunctional systems, attend to them. Don't underestimate the impact your physical, social and emotional environment can have on your well being, productivity and motivation to stay on track toward your goals. ACTION STEP #5: Share your goals with supportive friends and ask for support.