A is for Audacity

"Babe, I need some encouragement. Can you remind me that the biggest difference between those who make a huge contribution and those who don't, is simply having the nerve to put yourself out there?"

That's an almost verbatim text message I sent to my partner, Andrew, earlier today when I was thinking about writing this post. For all of the ways in which I am competent, interesting and experienced, I still - like the majority of human beings, I suspect - struggle with self-doubt and a fear that my contribution might not be good enough. But I look at so many people who have gone on to make a name for themselves in some particular field, those who have huge online followings or who have written wildly successful books about their every-day experiences or who have achieved amazing physical feats, and I always think, "I could do that." So, why aren't I? Why haven't I?

It's sheer nerve that often separates the successful from the not; those who - heart beating wildly and self-doubt flailing about on their insides - say, "Yes, pick me. I'll do it." And then they keep making that choice, day after day. That's when the requirement for hard work and talent kick in, but audacity is always the first step.

Audacity has a couple of definitions, both of which I'm a fan of: "impudence" and "a willingness to take bold risks". I've always been an impudent sort; a school principal once told my parents, in a tone that implied exactly what she thought of the word, that I was "precocious." My poor mother almost died at her seven-year-old being branded thus, but my Dad has always possessed far more self-confidence than the average human being, so he was secretly pleased that I was annoying someone who he considered to be a bit of an idiot. "A willingness to take bold risks," turns up a lot in my life, too, though I'm starting to realise that my willingness is directly correlated with the perceived severity of the boldness required. 

Do you want big things for your life, or have you resigned yourself to living with situations that you find less-than-great? Do you have audacious dreams, or are you too scared to even go there because it feels pointless - that they'll never happen or never could happen? 

Like so many approaches to life, exercising the audacity to want more, expect more, demand more - from yourself, from your relationships, from your life - is a muscle. It requires a lot of guts to go there, let alone stay there. For example, I recently hiked the Camino de Santiago, an 800 km walking trail across the north of Spain. The bold risk though, that I decided to attempt, was to see if I could walk 100 km of that trail in 24 hours. Why?! Because I like to know where my limits are, and I was curious to see if I could do it. 

I'm never short of the audacity to come up with wild ideas like this one, but a whole other level of nerve is required to move from idea to action. "How am I going to do this," I pondered, "I'm a single woman in a foreign country with no support crew, and I'll be doing this on the back of walking 100 km in the last two days... what do I need to do to increase the possibility of executing this?" So, utilising my ex-lawyer, hyper-awareness of risks, I plotted out everything that might scupper my efforts, and I came up with ways to mitigate those risks. For example, how was I going to deal with fatigue? How could I prevent blisters? How could I avoid pain in my feet? How was I going to handle walking at night? What was I going to do when it all started to feel too hard, and I got lonely?

As you consider the areas in your life where you want more, be realistic about what it will take to effect change, but ditch the self-doubt that arises - most things are eventually achievable with proper planning, effort and support. I didn't know if I could make the full 100 km before I started - that's why it was a bold risk! I was willing to risk failing, simply for the benefits that trying would give me.

So, what happened? I made my bold risk public - I told my instagram friends what I was up to, asked for their support and encouragement (which they generously gave me), and every 10 km I'd post an update. I stopped at 75 km, a full 18 hours after I started, because I felt like it was too dangerous for me to be walking around by myself in the middle of the night. Although I didn't make the full 100 km, and as I said at the time, I have nothing to prove but everything to attempt. 

Get audacious. You have one life, and it should be one that you're freaking excited about.

Anna Stanford