If you search “Be Bold” on Etsy, over 10,000 results pop up consisting mostly of prints and art pieces. It’s a common phrase we throw on the wall or paste on a coffee mug.
But, it’s a phrase, I think, is hardly understood. What does being bold entail, exactly? We say it all the time – to others, to ourselves – but what are we supposed to do to actually be bold?
According to The New Oxford American Dictionary, being bold means “showing the ability to take risks; confident and courageous.”
The problem is, these attributes don’t always come naturally. So how do we learn to be bold?
1. Be purposeful.
Taking risks isn’t a natural thing. We’re biologically hardwired (unless you’re a freaky adrenaline junky) to avoid risks in order to protect ourselves. If avoiding risk is unnatural, we have to make a conscious effort to take them.
I’ve seen a trend lately where people challenge themselves to do one thing every day that scares them. If we force ourselves to take even the smallest risks, the bigger risks will become that much easier to take.
2. Accept rejection.
Some risks are easier to take than others. For me, the idea of bungee jumping or traveling across Europe alone is much less intimidating than admitting I’m upset with a friend or sending my writing in to a publishing company.
Why? Because these last two scenarios allow room for rejection. My friend could tell me my feelings aren’t justified. I could (and likely would) get rejected from the publishing company. Much more is on the line when the risks we take jeopardize more than just our physical safety.
When we learn to accept the idea of being rejected, it becomes easier to approach risky scenarios with courage, and the confidence that rejection won’t destroy us.
3. Make it fun.
Making a game out of risk-taking can be fun! If you and a friend both aspire to live bolder, more courageous lives, why not challenge each other to take those baby-step risks I talked about in number one?
Encourage each other to talk to that stranger, send your writing into that publishing company, try out for that play. Even something as silly as daring your friend to leave her number on the table can be a small step to living more boldly.
4. Realize it’s not so risky.
A lot of the things we assume to be scary, dangerous or potentially harmful aren’t really so… at least as not as much as we think they are.
Being rejected from a publishing company for the first time didn’t tear me up as much as I thought it would. Being rejected by a stranger isn’t as scary when you realize you’ll probably never see them again. Spending money to take a road trip down Route 66 doesn’t seem so bad when you remember you have the time to regain those funds later.
All too often we either live too much in the here and now – forgetting about the time we have to recover, make changes, save money, etc., – or in the future – thinking only of the consequences of our actions so that we freeze and never take action.
Consider the here and now, as well as the future, and the pros of living boldly far outweigh the cons.
5. Think of the memories.
When do we make the best memories? Likely when we’re being courageous, confident, and bold.
One of my favorite memories from my time abroad is when I took a night train, alone, from Prague, Czech Republic to Krakow, Poland. I got on the wrong train car, couldn’t speak the language, cried when the lady told me I had to get off the train in the middle of nowhere, and ultimately, had one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
If I hadn’t decided to take that trip, if I had let the fear of missing out on my friends’ trip take over, if I had feared too much for my own safety and forced myself to ignore my desire to see Auschwitz, I would have missed that entire experience. It took courage and boldness to get me there. It was a risk – one I’m so glad I took.
Ultimately, the risks we naturally avoid have greater benefits than we realize. To live a bold life, we need to ignore the fear of rejection, the fear of being unsafe, and the fear of losing time and money. Of course there is a need for practicality, but I believe our natural ability to recover mentally, physically, and monetarily from taking risks is much stronger than we realize.