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Finding Courage in the Big Decision

Guest post by Paul Gustavson

“Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway”
– John Wayne

Have you ever faced making a difficult decision that you knew could change everything? Perhaps it was a decision that kept you up at night causing you to wonder and worry; a decision you knew that could change the course of your life.

Not to long ago, I found myself in a very similar scenario. It was one of those “should I?” or ‘shouldn’t I?’ moments. There were three potential outcomes if I went forward.

  • It could jeopardize everything and put my family in a financial bind.
  • It could simply be a new transition that would have no adverse impact.
  • It could be the fulfillment of a dream that poured blessing on my life and others.

The other option if I didn’t go for it was to settle for what I already had, and just continue on and be content with the status quo.

So what was the dilemma that I was facing?

Well, to understand my dilemma, I need to back up a bit. Years earlier I had cast a vision to start my own business. But, before I could pursue that I knew I needed experience. Year after year I pushed my dream aside knowing “I wasn’t ready”, until one year I finally asked myself. “At what point do you think you will be ready?”

Almost at the same time two of my work colleagues revealed their aspiration for launching a business too. The idea to pursue our dream together excited us. We pushed forward to cast the vision further, however, we chose to do so with minimal risk to our day job. We worked nights and weekends working proposals, writing software, and creating small web sites. Our pursuit became more like a hobby though. Our income wasn’t great. We could have probably made more money selling our old baseball cards on EBay. But we decided to stick it out and persevere. Finally, three years after we started, opportunity came knocking and we faced The Big Decision.

The opportunity was a real contract with real dollars for an idea that we pitched a few months earlier. The contract amount would be enough to allow us to step away from our day jobs and make it a go of it full time – for at least a year. But there was still some apprehension.

We feared the great unknown, and we were challenged by some great people we trusted who advised us we shouldn’t. Yet this golden opportunity sat there, and we had to make a decision.

Every leader will face making a big decision like this at least once. It can be paralyzing. But there are four factors to consider that we used to guide us.

  • Check Your Fears

If you have no fear, then I’d be worried. Think of fear as an early warning radar system that you monitor for potential threats. It’s intended to protect you; make you think before you act. Fear lets you know that there may be some danger if you choose to proceed. What’s fatal isn’t the fear, it’s often our choice in response to the fear.

  • Shift your Perspective with Hope

Instead of surrendering to fear, shift your perspective and identify your hope. As I share in my upcoming book Leaders Press On, “Hope is the spark to get you going. Hope is greater than fear.” When you have hope reflected in your heart and mind – you can take on any fear. Hope is a catalyst to living.

  • Cast a Vision

The key element to casting a vision- or recast a vision – is to start with a clear objective, which centers on your hope. Also identify what you need to do to reach the objective. This centers on your mission. A third component is knowing your purpose. This is your why. Your objective and mission need to pass the filter of your purpose, because your purpose is what drives you and your team.

  • Persevere with Courage

Vision though isn’t enough. The objective needs to be targeted, the mission needs to be executed and the purpose needs to be pursued. As Morpheus once said in the movie The Matrix, “There’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” Be intentional. When you choose to be bold, you’ll find that the magic happens outside of your comfort zone.

Using these four factors and every bit of our faith, my colleagues and I chose to move forward in our decision. It wasn’t easy, but it’s been fruitful. The reward has definitely been worth the risk. I encourage you also to use these four factors next time you face a big decision. Let courage be your story.

Connect with Paul on Twitter @PaulGustavson

Paul Gustavson is a cofounder of SimVentions, and a founding member of the John Maxwell Team. SimVentions is located in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and has been recognized as one of Virginia’s Best Places to Work.  As the Chief Technology Officer, Paul leads in identifying and contributing to the company’s capability and influencing the strategic vision.  He is also a connector and pioneer focused on innovative and relevant ideas that can make an impact. Paul has written for numerous journals and publications, and presents and speaks at conferences domestically and internationally.

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