The Courage to Be New

There’s nothing in a caterpillar that tells you that it’s going to be a butterfly.
— R. Buckminster Fuller

When I was writing my book two years ago I asked my friends for advice on how to begin a project and one favorite piece of advice I got from my friend Cheryl was to ‘have the courage to be new.’  This was especially good advice at the time because the project itself wasn’t new at all. I had been working on the book for five years. So when I took some time out to work on it in earnest it would have been easy to stay entrenched in the vision I had, rather than being open to what might emerge.

The courage to be new is like all good advice. You forget it. And then you need to be reminded again. And again. And so I am reminding myself (and you too) this New Year’s Day: Have the courage to be new.

This is also, like all good advice, easier said than done. Which is funny because we do all sorts of things to try and be new--- we try to make change, or we actually make change. We buy new clothes, we seek out new relationships, new jobs, new roles, new experiences. And then we freak out when things feel different.

Old habits don’t just feel familiar, they feel like solidity. They feel like the very thing you can count on. Old habits are the laws of nature that you know. And when you have the courage to be new, often it can feel like you are living in a world with new laws of nature. You can feel wobbly, you can feel uncertain. It can feel like you now live in a world that you can’t predict. In fact, it might be a litmus test of your courage to be new: if you know exactly what is going to happen next, you are probably doing the old habit, probably not in a new place.

How do you have the courage to be new? How do you even head into the ‘new?’ How can you learn to tolerate wings when all you knew were legs?

I think the first step is actually quite simple. It is to remember to have the courage to be new. To remember that ‘new’ is part of the growth process, part of the healing process. Then you need to look out for it—notice when you feel off, feel wobbly, feel uncertain—and then protect space around that. Our ‘new’ needs space and time to get more settled. Our ‘new’ needs to be repeated over and over until it no longer feels new. Our ‘new’ needs to be acknowledged and honored because in order for you to experience new, you had to be brave enough to give up the old habit, give up the old protections. You had to be brave enough to let go of all you knew, and let the new thing grow in you.

And take time to really enjoy it too. When you have the courage to be new, you get moments of surprise, of the unknown. You can catch yourself off guard which can be really, really fun. Most of you have heard of a gratitude journal. As you heal and grow, try tracking the things that feel new. The moments of surprise. Your sudden smiles when something happened you weren’t expecting. Be bold, be brave, be new.

Wishing you a Happy New Year 2016 from Emotional Geographic!