The Serenity Prayer and Your Career: Part 2

Courage to Change

I talked about the Serenity Prayer in an earlier post, focusing on the first line of the prayer. There are so many things in your job and your career that you can’t change, and it is critical to learn to accept that some aspects of your job are outside your control. Step 1 is to learn to let go of those things, and it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Now I’m turning to the next line in the prayer.

God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, 
the courage to change the things we can, 
and the wisdom to know the difference. — ”Serenity Prayer,” Reinhold Niebuhr

Courage is difficult to pin down. Is it an emotion, a personality trait, an innate ability? Are some people naturally courageous, or can it be learned like a skill? Can you wake up one day and decide to be more courageous?

Maybe courage can be acquired, perhaps even ingested. According to legend, soldiers would drink wine infused with a particular plant, borage, just before heading to battle. Borage, also known as starflower, is a gorgeous herb native to the Mediterranean with blue, five-petaled flowers in a star shape. (Photo above by Paasikivi CC BY-SA 4.0). There is an old Latin rhyme about this particular plant:

Ego borago gaudia semper ago,” meaning “I, borage, always bring courage.”

I’ve worked with clients who are considering changing jobs or even shifting to a new career. Finding the courage to change direction in such an important area of life can be enormously challenging. Even if your current job is not fulfilling, the fear of the unknown can be paralyzing. When weighing a decision about whether to stay or leave a familiar job, it’s not knowing what will happen that can make change so scary.

Finding your courage.

I believe we all have the capacity for courage inside us, but I also believe there are strategies we can use to tap into that strength and bring our innate courage to the surface. Here are some of the exercises I encourage my clients to try to find courage during a job search.

Create a resource map.

Take time to think of people and organizations in your life that you find give you encouragement. Include family, colleagues, communities of faith and friends in this map. If you’re a visual thinker, it can be helpful to draw symbols for each type of resource, such as a heart for family, a fishing net for colleagues in your network, or a lion for your most supportive friends. This exercise helps clients realize they are not alone, they actually have a lot of people and places in their life they can rely on to find strength.

Heart Net Lion.jpg

Keep a journal with an emphasis on courage.

Journaling is a great way to organize your thoughts, reflect on your past, and work through some thorny issues that may be holding you back. Keep this journal as a way to articulate the times you have shown strength yourself, observed courage in the people around you, or noticed a situation that made you feel more (or less) courageous than you usually do.

For clients who are paralyzed by fear, focusing on courage in their daily journal entries helps them look at their actions through a lens of appreciative inquiry, affirming the courage they demonstrate in day-to-day activities and recognizing the courage they see in others.

Set small goals.

Changing jobs is a huge transition, so focusing on smaller goals first can be helpful in building courage. Choosing a small, attainable goal can help someone who struggles with self-doubt. Speaking during a meeting, submitting a proposal to a conference, or even joining a professional association are achievable goals that can instill a sense of strength and courage. It’s important when setting small goals like these to allow yourself small rewards when they are reached, whether it’s a cupcake or a trip to the movies.

Track your failures.

It sounds odd, but if you anticipate a number of unsuccessful attempts before you achieve success, creating a system to track those failures can help you measure your progress. For example, I track the number of potential clients that I talk with about coaching who do NOT end up hiring me. My “proposals declined” metric helps me see that I’m making strides toward getting new clients, even when some folks along the way decide not to hire me. As with the small goals, it’s best to reward yourself when you rack up a certain amount of unsuccessful attempts. Yay, I’ve hit 7 proposals declined this month, ice cream for me!

When you identify who boosts courage in you, articulate the courage you see in yourself and others, and set goals for both successful and unsuccessful endeavors, you will discover that you actually feel braver, more willing to take calculated risks, and more capable of rebounding from initial failure. Tapping into your innate courage is like exercising a muscle, it gets stronger with increased use.

If a bit of borage-infused wine is helpful too, by all means, enjoy. Salud!

If you would find it helpful to work with a career coach to create a resource map or develop a job search plan, drop me a note! You can sign up for my email list as well. Oh, and I'd love it if you followed me on Twitter where I share links to resources, send good energy to jobseekers, and generally offer positivity.