Leadership coach Nancy Belmont from Alexandria, Virginia unveiled something both powerful and inspiring this May in her hometown. It's a set of giant blackboards stretching eight feet tall and twenty feet wide along a wooden fence on a busy street. A bucket of chalk hangs on each side of the blackboard. The top of the chalkboard asks what people wish they had the courage to do and people filled it up with things they'd love to be brave enough to accomplish.
Within a few hours, the chalkboard was full. Belmont photographed the entries and created a Facebook page of what people wrote down. Then she added more chalkboards. Turns out, people in Alexandria and all over the world are resonating with this idea. Belmont says she was inspired by a TED talk to live big and a Before I Die Project in New Orleans a few years ago. Belmont had participated in a 360 leadership assessment with feedback from others as well as herself identifying that she needed to be more courageously authentic. This project was a huge fear, but now her greatest success.
Belmont says it's often the case that people come to the wall not sure of what they fear or will write down, but the exercise helps peel away the layers to let the fears emerge. The first fear she wrote down was "I wish I had the courage not to worry about money", which she found challenging as a small business owner. After the first week in June, Belmont's chalkboards will go down in Alexandria, but she hopes to take it on the road.
A few of the powerful things that participants have written down that they want to be courageous enough to manifest are...
• Adopting a child
• Not to be a bully
• Run for office
• Start a business
• Ask for a second date
• Stand up for myself
• Be me
• Say no
• Change careers
• Try out for the crew team
• Go to a shelter
• Bike a volcano
• Travel to a foreign country
• Tell my secrets
• Be vulnerable
• Risk looking foolish
• be okay failing or being rejected
• Move across the country
• Ask the person I like out
• Tell my partner what I really need
Belmont has received lots of positive feedback, that the exercise has moved many participants to take positive action towards the things they most wanted in life but were afraid to try for.
Everything in life that matters takes some risk. Fear isn't a bad thing, but we don't want to allow fear to run our lives and keep us from taking healthy risks and growing. I love Belmont's project because it reminds all of us of the power of setting our intentions. It also demonstrates the power of having a community that bears witness to our hopes, dreams and plans. Living big, with authenticity and courage is possible for each of us, and when we see others around us living this way, it can become contagious.
How could you live your life bigger, and get past a fear that is holding you back from living fully? When people are interviewed in their 70's and beyond, they often regret the risks not taken and the words that were not expressed. The courage wall project is a powerful exercise to reflect on by yourself, or discuss with your partner and children. We need more warriors for brave authenticity. You are the author of your own story. Pass it on!