At Christmas my department head gave the whole team calendars that she had put together with photos and inspirational sayings. The entry for June was a quote from Winston Churchill – “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
I think the coming change is going to require both kinds of courage and the second is definitely the harder one.
The first is about stepping forward, offering yourself and your ideas to resolve problems. It is about identifying something that is wrong or unfair and making sure that those who need to hear about it will hear about it so that it can be addressed. It isn’t about whining or whinging, but about bringing concerns forward in an appropriate manner. Make no mistake, I recognize this as difficult. It is easier to ignore problems that don’t directly concern you or to keep quiet and let someone else deal with it. It is also easier to fall into patterns of passive-aggressive behavior or to loudly complain without actually proposing or even wanting solutions and justify that as standing up for yourself or others. It is a hard line to walk.
I think part of what Mr. Churchill was referring to with the second statement was about listening to your opponents and how they perceive the problem instead of just assuming you are right and your way is the only side that matters. He was a diplomat and had to do a lot of that type of work. Sometimes, though, you also need to really listen to the people who are trying to help you. It is easy to assume you already know what you need which prevents you from hearing new ways of doing things or learning them. There is an old zen saying to the effect that you must empty your cup so that it may be filled. It takes courage to tamp down your ego and let go at least long enough for someone else’s way of doing things to take root with you. None of us are so wise and skilled that we have no need to learn anything new.
Another part of listening is having the courage to listen to your heart or your gut and take actions that may seem a little crazy or which will take you out of your safe place. That is the kind of courage I am trying to work with now. There is a large part of me that says that I need to immediately find another job, any job, and be working as quickly as possible. But that is fear talking. I need to listen to the other part of me that says this is an opportunity to take the necessary time, let go of my fear and find a place where I can contribute and learn and feel satisfied with the work I am doing. I need the courage to stand up for myself and to listen when my heart tells me I am in the right place doing the right thing.
Whether I want to or not I am stepping into the unknown. May my courage rise to help me face any obstacle.