If you are a father, have you ever had to tell your daughter these words?

Have you ever heard a father tell his daughter these words?

These are the words of Malala Yousafzai’s father, Ziauddin, who lived day and night concerned about his daughter’s safety.  Despite these fears he also wanted her to continue pursuing her dreams, even if it increased the chances of her getting killed. 

What a balancing act! 

I would never want to be in that situation.

The book I am Malala is an amazing true story of a fifteen-year-old girl who had the courage to speak out about her right, as well as the right of every other girl, to be educated.  Malala was born in Swat, a small Pashtun village in Pakistan, and at the age of 11 started writing about life under the Taliban. 

The Taliban is an Islamic fundamentalist Sunni Muslim militant group that occupy a region near the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan.  This group is widely known for ordering a ban on girls’ education in the Swat valley in 2009. (source: www.irinnews.org)

The estimated count is that about 40,000 girls were affected.

Families were ordered to take their daughters out of school; failure to do this would result in the bombing of schools and violence towards girls.  This included throwing acid into the faces of girls who continued to go to school. 

While reading this book I couldn’t help but think of what it must have been like to live under these circumstances.  As if it wasn’t bad enough that girls were viewed as less valuable than boys, now any hope of girls being educated was taken away from them.

Despite the threat Malala and her father together travelled to different areas in Pakistan to fight for the right of girls to be educated.

During this time she won many awards and drew international recognition.  Her list of achievements included:

  • Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize in 2011
  • Nobel Peace Prize
  • Addressing the United Nations

Her activism and accomplishments brought international awareness to the struggles girls have to become educated in her region.

Unfortunately, this came at a price and in October of 2015 and at the age of 15 she was shot in the head by the Taliban.  Her story of how she recovered from almost certain death is simply amazing and is a true inspiration to anyone who believes they can change the world.

There are so many lessons from Malala’s experience from which we can all learn but the one that stands out the most is her courage.  Her courage in the face of near certain disfigurement or death and how she refused to be intimidated by the Taliban.

Courage is having the ability to act in spite of fear. 

For me, Malala is the embodiment of courage.

As a kid she wrote a letter to God which went like this:

“I know you see everything, but there are so many things that maybe, sometimes, things get missed particularly now with the bombing in Afghanistan.  But I don’t think you will be happy if you saw the children on my road living on a rubbish dump.  God, give me strength and courage and make me perfect because I want to make this world perfect.  Malala.”

In 2010, the June issue of Neuron published research where scientist successfully discovered that the courage centre of the brain was located in the subgenual anterior cingulae cortex (sgACC) which is responsible for fear, emotion, stress, perception and a host of other tasks.  Scientists continue to build on this research trying to find ways to use exploit this new discovery.

Can you imagine walking to your nearest convenience store to buy a bottle of liquid courage supplement?

Well, we are not there yet but I certainly would not bet against it.

In the meantime here are two very different ways in which you can build and strengthen your courage when it comes to pursuing your passion and achieving your goals.  One approach relies on your ability and the other relies on that of another person:

Exercise 1: Role Playing

If you think it is good enough for your friends to follow then it is good enough for you too!

Have you ever been in a situation where you found yourself saying/thinking that you are great at giving other people advice but terrible when it comes to following your own advice.  Well you aren’t the only one; most of us at some point in time had this thought. The following exercise called role playing, or as I like to call it “reverse the chairs,” is simple yet powerful and I encourage you to try it:

  1. Look back in your life and identify a couple significant situations where you were able to overcome your fear to achieve a major goal such as, but not limited to, expressing your opinion, delivering a presentation, educational designation, asking someone out on a date, etc.
  2. Write down how you felt before you decided to confront the situation and overcome your fear
  3. Write down the thing of which you are afraid and how it makes you feel
  4. Write down how you would feel if you could overcome this fear
  5. Pretend a friend of yours is going through the same situation and write down what advice you would give to that person.
  6. Take this advice and apply it to yourself!

Find a mentor who has overcome similar fears and gone on to achieve what you want to achieve

If you had to pick one character trait or skill that could help you most when it comes to pursuing your passion what would that be?

Ask yourself what steps have you taken to acquire this trait or skill?

If the answer is along the lines of “none” or “not enough” then you need to take some aggressive action towards acquiring this trait or skill.

You would be doing yourself a great injustice if you knew that acquiring a certain trait or developing a particular skill would help you achieve your dream and choose not to do it. One of the biggest obstacles to us taking action towards turning a weakness into a strength is fear.  The fear of what if I fail in my efforts to acquire this trait or skill, or the belief that you are not smart enough or good enough to be able to develop this skill/trait.

Remember one way to define fear is based on the perceived pain or disappointment that may come from taking a certain action.  One of the best ways to overcome this fear and gain courage is to find a mentor who has experienced the same challenge.   This person could come from your network of friends – find someone who has demonstrated this skill and ask that person about how they acquired it.  Better yet, you can ask that person to mentor you towards developing this trait or skill.  Another option is to join a meet-up or support group which helps individuals to develop this skill or acquire the trait you need. 

The key is to take focused and committed action towards doing whatever you need to do to acquire a skill or develop a trait.

Think about this: what do you have to lose by trying or making an effort to do this?  Instead of thinking of what may happen if you aren’t successful, focus on what could happen if you are successful… and then work towards achieving this with a relentless determination that screams of I prefer to try and fail than to fail to try.

 Call to Action: Give Your Dreams a Chance.

Get off the court side of procrastination, self-doubt, analysis paralysis, lack of planning, poor time management, worrying about what people think, etc. and get in the game… your game!

Come join and help us build a global community whose goal it is to bring the world together by inspiring, motivating and empowering 8 million people globally to Think BIG, be BOLD and ACT NOW towards pursuing and achieving their dreams and goals.

If you think this is a crazy, pie in the sky kind of talk you definitely need to read what comes next.

What is the commonality among the following:

  • Horse and buggy, car, train, plane
  • Radio, television, satellite
  • Internet, Facebook, Google, Twitter
  • Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela

If you guessed they all in some way brought the world closer together, then you are correct.

In some way, each one of the inventors and activists etc. allowed us to reach out to millions of people through their inventions, social activism and so on.  In other words, they brought the world closer together, so why can’t you… in your own way?

Okay Paul, I am going to give my dream a chance; how do I get started with your challenge to Think BIG, be BOLD and ACT NOW towards pursuing at least one of my dreams and goals?

Congratulations!!  Imagine where all this can lead! 

To register for this challenge, visit our Facebook page…Think BIG, be BOLD, ACT NOW (hyperlink)

Quote by Theodore Roosevelt:

“Do what you can with what you have wherever you are”