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The courage to begin again

Tuesday, April 14, 2015 by Marianne Elliott

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30 Days of Courage: a guide to bravery in action

30 Days of Courage is for people who want to step out of their comfort zone, through the small acts of daily bravery that add up to a courageous life. The next course kicks off on 20 April. I’d for you to join me. Registration is open — click HERE to find out more, or get signed up. And now …

A guest post from Laura Calandrella

I walked out on to the deck and took a seat in one of the lounge chairs.

It was a beautifully sunny day and I knew I could easily blend in with the sunbathers at the edge of the pool. No one would suspect why I was actually there.

The minutes ticked by, each one bringing me closer to the first swim practice I had been to in 10 years.

One by one, the swimmers started to appear. Their pre-swim ritual was familiar. They circled their arms to warm up, first forward then backward. They splashed the water over their shoulders, getting a feel for the water temperature. Then they jumped in feet first, rising out of the water only long enough to catch a breath before they pushed off the wall powerfully.

I was one of them once.

I was a competitive swimmer throughout my teenage years and I continued to swim with various teams through my mid-20s, even sometimes alongside former Olympians. I was good, not great – but that’s not what mattered to me. What mattered was that the water and the company of fellow swimmers felt like home.

This particular day I felt like a fish out of water. 

Every beginning brings with it an equal mix of exhilaration and anxiety. The promise of a new start. The uncertainty of what lies ahead. It requires courage to hold these two opposing feelings simultaneously and move forward anyway. But on this particular day, as I looked upon this scene as a foreigner in what should have been my native land, I realized that it requires a special kind of courage to begin something new…again. 

Compassion is at the heart of every “begin again” moment.

I wish I could say I got in the water that day. I didn’t. It took me two more visits to this pool before I finally stirred up enough courage to get off the lounge chair. I know that part of my fear was based on my knowledge that there was (there is) a huge gap between where I once was as a swimmer and where I am now.

But the bigger fear was this: the water was always a place where I had once deeply belonged and I wasn’t sure that was true anymore.

Marianne Elliott Blog: Laura Calandrella on CourageWhen I finally did introduce myself to the coach and the team, it wasn’t an act of bravery. It was an act of compassion. I had to say to myself, “I know you don’t feel like it, but you are absolutely worthy of being here.” I had to embrace my fears, my doubts, and my own expectations for myself. And then, I had to let it all go and give myself permission to belong, to begin…again.

Every starting line is an opportunity for courage, but the starting lines we’ve stepped to before can transform us. 

I’ve been thinking about this experience in the context of the rest of my life. Some of my greatest moments of courage have come precisely because they required me to let go of any idea of where I once was or where I should be. Moving forward meant that I would need to become completely present to my life – just as it was.

It is this kind of courage that allowed me to open my heart to love, again.

It is this kind of courage that allowed me to believe my work can make a difference, again. 

It is this kind of courage that allowed me to become an athlete, again.

The person that I have become is more alive and more appreciative because of this courage. It has awakened something in me that says, “Go after life. You’ve got this.”

I don’t know what your “begin again” moment might be.

They arrive in little packages every day, like the chance to let go of that judgment you have about yourself or someone else. They arrive in life-changing packages too, like the chance to return to a role as a partner, parent or professional in a completely new time and space.

When these moments do arrive, I hope you’ll remember that who you were yesterday is not who you are today. The direction of your life is only shaped by today. So, today be the person who…laughs easily, forgives, sings in the shower, says what s/he thinks, dares to finish this sentence with your own desire.

And then tomorrow, have the courage to begin again. 

Laura Calandrella - Marianne ElliottMeet Laura.

Laura Calandrella is a leadership coach who believes that the key to unlock who we are at our best lies in the integration of mind, body, and spirit. She helps her clients use all three aspects in their everyday choices to create extraordinary results in their lives. In April 2015, Laura began a nine-month “triathlon called quest” to deepen her own mind, body, spirit practice while training for an Ironman triathlon. You can follow her journey at www.lauracalandrella.com

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