Courage Is Calling | Part 2

BookRemarks are not book reviews, but topical posts inspired by books. This post was inspired primarily by Ryan Holiday’s Courage Is Calling and Timothy Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Workweek.

Part 1 of this series led us through defining our dream and identifying the fear(s) keeping us from pursuing that dream; we also considered the costs of letting fear hold us back. Part 2 will prepare us to take action.

It’s perfectly natural to be afraid of starting on a big, new venture. But as Ryan Holiday says in Courage Is Calling, “There is nothing worth doing that is not scary” (page 10).

As we continue through our framework for accomplishing our dreams and overcoming our fears (adapted from Timothy Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Workweek), it’s time to face our fear – and to plan for failure.

3.   What is your nightmare scenario – the worst thing that could happen if you pursued this dream?

Like Holiday, Ferriss also connects conquering fear to defining it. So, he encourages us to identify in excruciating detail the worst thing that could happen if we actually tried to accomplish our dream.

What is the worst that could happen? Let your imagination run wild, and play out the scenario – all the way to losing your job, your house, and your life savings.

Often, the worst-case scenario is not as bad as we imagine it. Ferriss quotes Seneca, who long ago recommended doing a little experiment:

Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest of fare, with course and rough dress, saying to yourself the while, “Is this the condition I feared?” (page 42).

The Apostle Paul certainly didn’t fear nightmare scenarios; he even shared Seneca’s sentiment: “For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:11-12, NIV).

It also is worth recalling that the biblical David was “there” long before we were – in the deepest and darkest of places. He was physically hunted by King Saul, who wanted to kill him.

It’s easy to imagine that he may have written Psalm 118 while on the run: “Out of my distress I called on the Lord,” David wrote. But the psalmist didn’t stop there. Instead, he continued, “The Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (verses 5-6, ESV).

At another point, David’s deep, dark place was more emotional than physical, as he felt convicted in the aftermath of his adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of her husband, Uriah. It’s easy to imagine David penning Psalm 130 in a time of such emotional distress: “Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice…” Once again, he didn’t stop there: “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope” (verses 1-2, 5, NIV).

The psalms offer a lot of hope; if we trust in the Lord, he can see us through the worst of times. In Psalm 27, despite the tribulations of life, David wrote, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (verses 13-14, NIV).

If our nightmare scenario does happen, God can lead us through it. We just need to trust Him and think through the situation.

Take some time to write down your nightmare scenario before moving on.

4.   How could you start to repair the damage, or alleviate the consequences, of your nightmare scenario occurring?

In other words, pretend your nightmare scenario actually occurred – what would you do next? How would you get things moving back in the right direction?

In one of his messages, Chip Ingram provided three questions to help us overcome depression. They are also useful in overcoming nightmare scenarios:

  1. What can I control? (For one thing, you can always control your attitude.)
  2. What can I do to get through today? (That is, identify needs and prioritize your actions.)
  3. What hope do I have for tomorrow? (Remember that God is sovereign.)

Last time, I mentioned that God gives us our dreams. He wants us to accomplish them. But to do so, we need to step out in faith.

Occasionally, however, we seem to step out in the wrong direction, and things do not end well. Perhaps the result was a temporary setback, and God will use it to increase our faith and our trust in Him. Sometimes, however, we simply misinterpret his will for us. We move in the wrong direction and fall flat on our face. We FAIL hard.

So what?

Even if we were 100% wrong and we moved in a direction that God clearly (in retrospect) did not want us to, we can still take heart and know that things will be okay.

Here, it is worth remembering Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV).

Please note that this verse does NOT say that God will make everything we attempt succeed. It is NOT a guarantee of success, or even that we won’t suffer some pretty big setbacks. It also doesn’t say that everything that happens is good.

But this verse does say that God can – and will – work all things for the good.

Perhaps you felt God was nudging you to start your own business, but it failed. There is a good chance you learned some valuable lessons. God can use those experiences to help you later. Perhaps a future venture will succeed, in part because of the lessons you learned. Or, perhaps you will be able to reassure someone else who loses everything in an unsuccessful business venture; you can encourage them through sharing your experiences.

God can use anything for good – even our past sins can make us more forgiving of others, or can allow us to minister to people who are caught up in the same type of sin now.

So, even if we reach for our dream, fail, and come crashing down, we can take comfort in knowing that God will still be able to make lemonade out of life’s tartest lemons.

5.   What are the more likely outcomes of pursuing your dreams – both positive and negative, both temporary and permanent?

In other words, since your worst-case-imaginable, nightmare scenario is unlikely to happen, what are the more likely options?

For example, you might not lose your job, your house, your life savings, and end up homeless during wintertime in New York City, but you might lose a $25,000 investment and six months of work.

Of course, you might succeed. You might create a business that gets off to a slow start, but after a year or two it replaces your current income and allows you to quit your job.

Consider the range of results from pretty bad failure to homerun success. Start zooming in on the most likely scenarios, and think them through.

It’s worth remembering Proverbs 16:3: “Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed” (NLT).

Keep in mind that one of the most accurate predictors of future success is perseverance. If we keep working toward our dream, even after most other people would give up, we are much more likely to succeed.

When things don’t work out so well, remember what championship-winning football coach Jim Tressell said: “Failure is an event, not a person…. You only fail when you quit” (The Winner’s Manual, page 133). Perhaps we failed at something, but we are not failures; God still sees us and loves us.

Isn’t this great news?

So, we’ve already worked out our first action steps to take if our nightmare becomes a reality; we know how we could start recovering from such a situation. We’ve identified some of the more likely scenarios. We also know that God is there for us.

Now, think about Proverbs 14:23: “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty” (NIV). We need to realize that nothing will get done until we actually do it. As Holiday puts it, “Words don’t matter. Deeds do” (page 260).

Our dream will only become a reality if we start working to make it happen. Consider this proverb: “Intelligent people think about what needs to be done here and now. Fools are always dreaming about faraway places” (Proverbs 17:24, ERV).

It’s time we stop daydreaming; it’s time to start pursuing our dream in earnest. As Paul said, “Run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24, NIV).

Tune in next time, as we walk through how to proceed once we’ve conquered our fear of failure.

How has working through your nightmare scenario changed your thinking? Let us know in the comments below…z`

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