It's not that before this year I was living out of fear or being un-brave (if that is even a word?!) but with BRAVE being my word of the year for 2019 I have intentionally focused more on this idea than ever before. I've done things that I hadn't done in years like run a half marathon and sign up to run another one three months later. I've done things I would have never fathomed like take a CrossFit class or share an Instagram story. Even writing this blog post about bravery is me being brave. Whether I was afraid of failure, what I might look like or what others might think of me or because I didn't want to try and not succeed, I would simply not try at all.

The last few months I have put myself out there more than I can ever remember which has allowed me to positively transform the way I live my life. Without a doubt, I feel more empowered, confident and even when I know I might fail, I'm living more than I ever have and I love it!  

I've also read books that I might not have picked up before but because they aligned to my word of the year have found a place on my nightstand. If the title has anything to do with being BRAVE, I want to read it!

To that end, I just finished an amazing nonfiction book by Reshma Saujani called Brave, Not Perfect. The book is definitely geared with the female reader in mind, so as a female, mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend myself...I loved it!!

Author Reshma Saujani begins by addressing the differences from as early as infancy and childhood between boys and girls and how certain behaviors and actions taken towards or around them can demonstrate this notion of either being brave or perfect. If you had one guess, you'd probably assume that boys are brave and girls are perfect. And, if that's what you guessed, you'd be right. Society has often encouraged boys to get down and dirty, climb to the top of the highest play structure, speak their mind while girls are encouraged to be prim and proper (think princess culture), polite, quiet and play where they are less likely to get dirty or hurt. Essentially, Saujani writes "boys are taught to be brave, while girls are taught to be perfect".

Chasing perfection is an uphill battle. We'll never be completely happy because there will always be something else that vies for our love, attention, well-being, etc. The end result is that we end up becoming more and more afraid of failure. In the book, Saujani refers to a statistic from the National Institute of Mental Health, "one out of every four women will experience severe depression in her lifetime". More often than not by trying to do and be everything, we are putting that added pressure on ourselves, but it doesn't have to be that way.

Instead of perfection, Saujani says, aim for excellence. Striving for excellence is a much healthier and sustainable approach. Perfection is a concept of all or nothing. If you do nothing, you fail. If you do it all, you're might feel so burnt out and exhausted that you can't even celebrate what, if any, success you achieved so you feel like you've failed. Excellence isn't all or nothing, win or lose. Excellence allows you to celebrate victories, large or small, along the way. Any win on the way to a larger goal is worth acknowledging. Failures along the way, also worth recognizing. The path to excellence allows you to celebrating trying. Excellence allows you to put perfection to the side and retune your mindset to be brave.

Saujani lays out several strategies for thinking differently and becoming brave. Just as we focus on habits like aiming for 30 minutes of exercise daily or eating less sugar, we need to work on making bravery a habit. I love this because as I said earlier, my word of the year being BRAVE has allowed me to focus more habitually on living my life with a much braver approach than before. The habits listed below are taken straight from the book but today I'm sharing my own ways that I'm becoming more "brave, not perfect" as it relates to each strategy.

"Build a Bravery Mindset"

Over the past year I've been trying to provide more self-care and self-love towards myself. When I went to the Whole30 book tour last year, Melissa Hartwig Urban said to the audience "You have to fill your cup first." I took that to heart and keep that thought in the back of my mind daily. If we aren't taking care of ourselves first and foremost, we won't have the extra energy and brain power to even think about "becoming brave". I make sure I get to the gym five to six days a week, get plenty of sleep each night, meditate, and carve out a few minutes for myself each day. Having a "full cup" or at least as full as comfortably possible, I can make braver decisions, try new things and step outside my comfort zone with confidence more often. I'm also setting mini stretch goals for myself that tie back to being BRAVE. Making myself purposely uncomfortable helps build my bravery mindset.

"Get Caught Trying"

Pretty much walk straight into the lion's den, so to speak. Not only should you prepare yourself to try new things, but you should actually try new things. Taking  on new physical challenges is one way that I'm working to strengthen my bravery muscle. Trying CrossFit was a huge step into my discomfort zone. A year ago if you would have asked me to join a CrossFit class I would have laughed in your face. But, this year, I decided to let go of fear, tried it, loved it and am visiting another CrossFit gym in a couple of weeks. Be comfortable with failure and accept feedback. As someone very comfortable in the gym, initially it was hard to try a new CrossFit exercise and flat out fail. Those failures, in the end, made me stronger and eager to want to keep trying time after time again.

"Nix the Need to Please"

As a mom and wife, I wear many hats. Sometimes if feels like I've got on fourteen hats at once. I like to be a 'yes, girl' or a 'try to do it all girl', but I'm steadily learning how to say no. It's not easy, because I like to be in control but is it ever a weight off my shoulders. Once you've come to understand that you cannot do it all, you'll also realize that you don't have to do it all. Utilize your resources. Learn to be comfortable delegating. Let the kitchen be messy. Allow your spouse to put the laundry away and don't stress when he puts your tops in the bottoms drawer. Call in a favor. Say yes to saying no and feel the pressure release.

"Play for Team Brave"

Over the last few months I have been fortunate to make many wonderful connections and friendships with other women in my town. As a member of women owned business and creative entreprenuer groups, I love to see this powerful notion of community versus competition. In get togethers with these ladies and in our social circles, it's encouraging to see fellow business owners, creatives and friends lift each other up sharing successes, failures, feedback and new opportunities among other things rather than viewing and treating each other as roadblocks and competition. I've had other women leaders share info with me or loop me into a new group without my asking. I am empowered to see women supporting other women in their personal and business ventures and I'm honored to be included with these groups and developed new friendships as a result.

"Surviving a Big Fat Failure"

This last one includes a few steps and I think each one is a key step in the process towards releasing perfection, accepting failure and becoming brave.

"Step One: Throw a (Short) Pity Party"
"Step Two: Celebrate Your Failure"
"Step Three: Shake It Off (Literally)"
"Step Four: Review, Reassess, Realign"
"Step Five: Try Again"

Let's face it, life is hard. It's okay to wallow in your failures as long as you set yourself a time limit and don't stay there too long. Recognize your failures and celebrate that because you failed, you tried. That in and of itself is worth acknowledging. In the words of T-Swift, "Shake it off". Go for a walk outside, run if that's your thing, do whatever you need to do as Queen Elsa says to "let it go". Once it is out of your system, reflect. What went wrong? What went well? How could you do it differently? Could you benefit from help? And, then, when you're ready, get back it at and go again. Don't try to do it all perfectly, but do try. Be bold. Be better than yesterday. Above, all, be brave.

If you're looking for a new read that will help you loosen the reigns of perfection, rewire your mindset to become more brave, live a little on the edge of your comfort zone and even begin dipping your toe into your discomfort zone, I definitely recommend this one! It's a quick read with a ton of great takeaways and lessons that can easily be applied to your life.

Do you have any book recomendations for me? If it is about bravery or getting out of your comfort zone, I'm all ears! Please share!