I’ve recently taken a few small steps that may prove to substantially alter my life, the details of which I am mostly going to be vague and mysterious about for the time being. What I do want to talk about is what led me to endeavor to take them.
I guess I’ll start with how I define a “moment of courage.” We’ve all had them. I’ve had one rather recently, but in hindsight, I’ve had many of them. A moment of courage is a limited period of time in which I have a clear vision of my possible future – generally one quite different (and better) than the present – and I feel compelled to take a bold step to achieve it. It is my experience that the motivation for change can be positive or negative. You can either be so dissatisfied with your current situation that you feel you cannot tolerate another day of living it without doing something about it or you can be so excited about the possibilities the future holds that you cannot help but sprint toward it. In that moment, you know what you have to do, you know the risks, you know the sacrifices, and yet, somehow you know that it will all be worth it.
The problem is, this period of clarity and courage is fleeting. The longer I give myself to analyze a situation, , the higher the probability that I will talk myself out of it. It is easy and comfortable to maintain the status quo and justify to yourself why you are better off not changing.
There is a ton of interesting research in economics on how people evaluate their options and ultimately make decisions. According to decision theory, loss aversion leads to greater regret for action than inaction, meaning you regret a decision more when it changed the status quo than when it maintained it. This relates to what is called status quo bias, which indicates a person weighs the potential losses of changing the status quo more heavily than the potential gains. This hardwires a strong preference to maintain the status quo over changing it, regardless of the circumstances.
I know my ability to talk myself out of things, and I know my innate human inclination toward inertia and the status quo. What I have learned though is that when these moments of courage occur, I have to act on them as soon as possible. Take that leap of faith and commit to seeing it through even if I experience doubts later on. A moment of courage and a leap of faith led me to competing and to graduate school. A moment of courage and a leap of faith led me to a management position with my company.A moment of courage and a leap of faith have led me to honesty, love, and reconciliation in my relationships with others.
When you have a moment of clarity and courage, cling to it and run toward it. I cannot think of a single instance in which I have experienced one, acted on it, and regretted it. I am not condoning hasty or irresponsible decision-making or unnecessary risk-taking, I am simply advocating for taking decisive action and committing yourself to a path when it presents itself to you and you know deep down that it is the right thing for you, even though it may be scary. Don’t always just settle for the status quo.
I’ve started the wheels in motion for change. I am uncertain of the ultimate outcome, and I have already experienced my fair share of doubts and fear, but I’m committed to seeing it through and confident that things will work out for the best in the end.