Opportunity seems to elude us in times when we need it most, and often we become accustomed to the idea that there are no chances to be taken. I’ve known this mental challenge in athletic, academic, and professional environments. I see no way out of a cycle that seems to be unbreakable. However, in time, I always see missed opportunities and kick myself for not realizing what I could have done sooner.
“I wish I knew what I know now, when I was younger…” -Faces
Lately I’ve felt similarly stuck in a pattern of inactivity in the relationship department. It seems that I’m surrounded by a hopeless sea of couples and college kids and that I may as well go knock on Sacred Heart’s door to sign up for a life of charitable devotion. However, a few days ago when I was making out a fresh list of goals, I happened to add in a line that’s reframed my mindset and refocused my vision.
Just a simple line: “Do something brave everyday.”
It sounded easy enough. Make the bed Check! Floss. Check! Finish homework. Check! Do something brave. Umm… It’s kind of hard to get that ball rolling. I ran when it was dark out (sorry mom), but that didn’t seem brave at the time. This had to be something I worked up the courage to do. I was out with a friend and we scoped out strangers to talk to at the bar, but either we didn’t have the desire or the courage to strike up a conversation with them at the time. I told myself, I’d check that item off my list tomorrow, when I’d have plenty of opportunity.
The next day I kept my eyes open for chances. I had an outdoor concert and a soccer game that night so there were plenty of people and lots of things going on. But then there was all this pressure. What classifies as brave, and when do I want to be brave, and what will happen? I tried to consciously take more chances in the soccer game, but somehow that didn’t seem brave. There’s not too much working against me when it comes to striving to play sports better. However, as a slight introvert who typically goes to soccer games and jets off after the final whistle blows, being open in a competitive environment is not my forte. So when I subbed out, I struck up conversation with teammates who I typically don’t really talk to or know well. While I didn’t make a move on anyone or really take a risk, I felt like I took a baby step towards my goal. Still no check.
It’s been two days since then and I’ve inched my way towards meeting this goal. I talked to someone cute in line at Starbucks (but never got his name), shared a Lyft with a handsome stranger (and some others), and told someone who wanted to set me up with her friend to offer him my number. And even though none of these is what I think of as super brave, it’s more than I typically would do. I believe its progressively working me up to being brave when it counts.
Similar to how participants in a study that asked people to do 5 random acts of kindness one day each week, I had a goal to meet and consequently saw more opportunities (even missed opportunities) in everyday instances.
“I’m gonna muster every ounce of confidence I have
And cannonball into the water…”
Since last Wednesday, when I set up this goal, guitar practice is more encouraging, new volunteer opportunities are more up my alley, and strangers are more approachable. I’m working my way out of a perspective that saw too many things out of my control towards one where I am capable and powerful.
The challenge is to keep pushing my limits until what is brave this week becomes old hat next week. Putting myself out there and trying uncharted territory will be the habit.