Extraordinary times calls for extraordinary leadership. Here’s how to cultivate a garden of courage.
Today, we’re in the slowest rate of change we’ll ever experience again.
Today is the simplest we’ll ever see again.
Today is the youngest you’ll ever be again.
To own your future requires courage to transform and to lead in the unpredictable.
Are you thinking big enough? Different enough? Are you planting, nurturing, and harvesting courage in your life to prepare you for courageous leadership into the future?
The Courage Garden
Think of courage like a garden. Each one of us has all the elements needed to prepare, plant, nurture, and harvest courage in ourselves. And the more you tend to it, like any relationship, the more it will grow and fuel your life (even feeding others!)
As you know, planting a courage garden involves four steps:
Step 1: Prepare your courage garden
Preparing your garden bed for courageous leadership means first looking at the environment, the “soil” you’re in, and ensuring your work and personal environments are conducive to courageous thinking and action. If the soil you plant seeds in is unhealthy, it’ll be too difficult for the roots to grow to their full potential.
Are you giving your body, mind, and spirit the “healthy soil” nutrition it needs to thrive? What can you do to fill your “soil” with the ‘nutrients” courage needs?
Think about when you’ve felt your boldest self, with the energy to make confident decisions, try new things, and approach life in a curious, positive, open, “I’ve got this!” way. What habits (eating, movement, self-care) did you have at the time that could have contributed to your courageous strength and decision-making?
Also, who is surrounding you and influencing you in your life? Surrounding your garden with invasive plants and weeds that steal your garden’s life (aka, toxic people around you) will hinder your courageous garden’s growth.
Step 2: Plant your courage garden
In our work at Be Courageous and our ongoing academic study on the characteristics of courage, we’ve identified personality aspects of humans tied to courageous behavior. Planting, nurturing, and harvesting seeds in your soil that foster these traits will lead to a more courageous life.
- Embracing risk
What kind of courage seeds are you wanting to grow?
Step 3: Nurture your courage garden
You can’t rush a garden to grow faster than it takes. Modern humans are so used to instant gratification that the growing process can often feel frustrating. But if you lean into the beauty of metamorphosis and honor the complicated growth process, it’ll make the fruit of your labor that much sweeter.
Ways to nurture your gardens:
Coaching for courage – Like training for a race, coaches, and buddies help keep you on track. For example, you can check in with each other daily to ask if you’ve watered your courage garden. Or a mentor might say, “If you want to make a particularly courageous move in x amount of time, you better plant that seed of courage now. Otherwise, it won’t have time to grow by then fully.”
Integrate seeds of courage into the workflow of current projects.
Incorporating the vision of your garden into your most essential work streams will help you ensure your garden is tended to. Create seed nurturing opportunities into your projects’ flow to keep them top of mind. For example, build in a “curiosity moment” during a project kick-off to foster new ideas. Have people come to the table with what they’re curious about on the topic you’re working on and find the answers together.
Sign up for projects or activities, both professionally and personally that will foster one or more of the courageous leadership seeds you want to grow.
Want to get better at adaptability? Try taking different ways home from work or volunteering for a role just outside your comfort zone to learn a new skill.
Step 4: Harvest your courage garden
What a feeling to see your garden produce more courageous leadership moves and decisions!
Part of the harvesting cycle includes looking at what you planted versus what you reaped. Were there parts of the garden where seeds didn’t take? Why? Does part of the garden need to be weather-proofed or protected from the elements? Were there discoveries you hadn’t expected? Given what you learned, what are you now inspired to plant and nurture?
Share the learnings with others and teams to help them grow their most fruitful gardens.
Courageous leaders are courage gardeners
The courageous leader is aware of the conditions in which they’re planting seeds, how they nurture growth, and how they harvest and share results.
The courageous leader realizes this is not a one-and-done. Gardening is a beautiful, ongoing process of change and growth.
The courageous leader recognizes their learnings so they know what to do and not to do on their next cycle.
We may not know the future, but we can prepare a bountiful courage garden to lean on when times get tough.
Whether you want to build a garden spanning acres or a small area with flowers, it’s the same process. The love, attention, and care we give our gardens we receive back from them when needed.
We can help you prepare, nurture, plant, and harvest your courage garden and become the most courageous leader you’ve seen yet.
Co-writer: Shannon Geher