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The Trick (That Nobody Tells You!) To Doing Big, Courageous Things With Your Life

The Trick (That Nobody Tells You!) To Doing Big, Courageous Things With Your Life
I'm Stephanie May Wilson!

I'm an author and podcaster and my specialty is helping women navigate big decisions, life transitions — creating lives they love.

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The Trick (That Nobody Tells You!) To Doing Big, Courageous Things With Your Life

“Obedience isn’t a lack of fear. It’s just doing it scared.” – Jen Hatmaker

“Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway.” – John Wayne

I got an email a few weeks ago from a reader who’s considering going on the World Race (an 11 month, 11 country mission trip I did a few years ago!). She was considering going, and had been for awhile, but you could tell she was scared out of her mind at the prospect. She had about 1000 questions. She wanted to know where Racers sleep, what travel days are like, how you shower, if you’re likely to get sick, every detail of what she could expect.

I answered her questions the best I could, but at the end of my response, I spoke directly to her fear (because that’s what was really going on here, I could tell).

I said, “I know you’re scared out of your mind at the prospect of doing this. I was too.”

I told her I was scared, but even that admission was a total, complete, understatement.

I decided to go on the World Race a full year before I actually went, and from that far out, it didn’t look scary at all. It looked like a wonderful adventure, something I was certain I wanted to do.

Everything looks easy when it’s far away. Have you ever noticed that?

Running a marathon sounds like NBD when you have eight months to train and prepare. Starting that new job sounds like a fantastic new opportunity when it doesn’t start until January. Traveling around the world with nothing but a backpack sounds like a treat when it’s too far away to feel real.

But inevitably those things come closer, and as they do, they become positively terrifying.

The closer my departure date came, the smaller and weaker I felt in comparison to the mountain looming before me. I felt too young, and too small, and totally helpless. One of my closest friends has a positively tiny mouth, and it looked like her tackling one of those triple stack cheeseburgers. I’d taken on too much, I’d bit off so much more than I could chew.

I’d cry myself to sleep at night as I’d imagine all of the things I could encounter — my mind was a hurricane of “what if’s”, worst-case scenarios pelting the windows of my mind and my heart, trying to convince me to stay inside forever.

But my fears didn’t just stay in my head and my heart – they exploded out into action.

After a particularly long night of crying and worrying, I sent an email that six months before, I never would have imagined I’d send.

“I’m just not so sure this is a good idea,” I started. “I don’t think this is right for me. Is it possible to give up my spot? Is there any way I can get refunds for the people who have already donated to me?”

I was quitting. I was giving up. The fear had won.

Except for the fact that it was too late, I soon found out. I could get out of going, certainly, but my supporters couldn't get refunds. It was either go, or stay home and lose all of their money.

I was stuck.

And so I did exactly what John Wayne suggests. Scared to death, I saddled up anyway, and I went.

This was us on the train in Atlanta heading to the airport for our very first flight out of the country at the very very beginning of the World Race. I was kidding in this photo, with how scared I look... but also not. :-/
This was us on the train in Atlanta heading to the airport for our very first flight out of the country at the very very beginning of the World Race. I was kidding in this photo, with how scared I look… but also not. :-/

And I’m so glad I did.

My time on the World Race changed my life completely. My faith is so much different, richer, fuller, because of that experience. I am so different because of the things I experienced throughout the year. I walked out of that year looking so much more like the woman God created me to be. Not only that, but everything I’m doing in my writing today, God and I dreamed up while I was traveling the world. And (as if that's not enough!) I met my husband because I went on the World Race. I never would have met him if I didn’t.

My life is forever changed because I saddled up anyway, because I did it scared. And that’s a lesson that I’ve taken into every bit of the rest of my life.

The misconception we have about people who do amazing things is that they’re not scared. We look at Olympians, and people pursuing their dreams, and the founder of the latest, greatest tech startup and imagine that they’re somehow different from us — that they're somehow missing the fear gene, that they’re able to tackle these huge, public things without a quiver or a doubt.

I’ve had acquaintances look at me as I write and release a book, or as I pack up to travel the world and they say, “You’re so brave to do these things! I can’t believe you aren’t scared!”

But I am scared! Everyone is!

Everyone who's ever taken a leap of faith, who’s attempted something bigger than themselves has felt scared — has considered backing out, has wondered just how much the impending failure is going to hurt, has worried what other people are going to think.

Fear is a normal part of doing something big — it’s almost a pre-requisite.

But ultimately, they've decided that whatever the thing is, is worth the risk. So with fear and doubt and worry flanking them like an entourage, they’ve saddled up anyway.

That’s how the most wonderful things in the world happen – they happen because someone decided to show up anyway, to hop on that plane, to create that new technology, to start a family, to release their words out into the world, to do it scared.

And so if there’s something in your life right now that you’re considering doing, but something that scares you more than you can even explain, don’t wait for bravery or courage to show up in the form of not being scared anymore. Because I’m convinced that’s just not the way it works.

Gather your people around you, bring your teddy bear if you need to (I have my two favorites tucked away in a closet, and they always come out just before I release something new into the world. I promise you I’m not kidding!), and take the leap even though you’re afraid.

The best things in my life have happened through leaps of faith, and I believe the same will be true for you.

I just want to leave you with one of my favorite verses, and that’s Joshua 1:9. It says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Be courageous sweet friend, because we need you to be. We need you to do the thing, to sing the song that God has placed inside of you. And yes, you will be afraid, but yes, God will be with you every single step of the way. I promise, and so does He.

I'd love to hear from you! What scary things are you facing right now? I'd love to hear how you're planning to saddle up anyway, to do it scared. Pop your thoughts in the comments below! (Or if you're reading this in your email, click right here to weigh in!) We can do this together, sweet friends. I know we can! 

P.S. Sweet friend, if you haven't picked up a free copy of my book The Lipstick Gospel yet, I'd love to send one your way! Here's the link to download it!

P.P.S. If you want to learn more about my experience on The World Race, head to this post!

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In this post, I talk about my fears going into the World Race and how I learned to be courageous despite those fears, and how you can too!

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  1. THANK YOU for this! I related SO much to this since I’m about to go on the World Race in January. I had a year to pray about it before I actually applied and like you said, as it approaches, it gets scarier. The devil threw me a moment of doubt the other day saying “you haven’t even been in an international mission trip before, how do you know you’ll like it? You’ll probably be so uncomfortable and unhappy the first month you’ll want to go home.” But I didn’t entertain the thought like he wanted me to because I know God has called me and I’m willing and he will equip me and be my Comfort.

    • Alexis Leon says:

      Sara! Keep fighting those fears, holding them captive, and surrendering them to the Lord. I too had never been on an international mission trip when I launched for my race. Now I am currently in month 8 of my race and I don’t regret a single second of it! You’re going to miss home and it will be uncomfortable but the Lord walks you through it every step of the way. When the fear is the worst remember that the Lord does not call you to something you cannot handle or finish. Also, always remember why you decided to apply in the first place. When I feel like I can’t handle it anymore I remind my self what made me take the risk to apply and accept in the first place. Good luck and enjoy every moment. It’s life changing! Let me know how I can pray for you please.

  2. Jessica says:

    Thank you for this timely word! I’m about to move to Vail, CO to take a fulltime nanny position, I currently live in NE close to family. I’ve never been to vail I’ve been to other cities in CO though. I’m trying to find a place to live and the dilemma is, do I choose a more expensive place just bc I haven’t met anyone with cheaper rent yet? Plus, Places are starting to get taken up fast. Or should I go down and stay with a friend for a while and look around ?! I have always been the type to figure things out quick and sometimes I do it too quickly and find out there were other possibly “better” situations.

    Please pray for me if you are reading this. May God give me wisdom and provision in this time. I love adventure, and I believe “fear” can be replaced with excitement of the unknown. Replacing fear with trusting in the Lord, having faith that He is always with me and in me. And He will always provide. Here’s to taking a leap of Faith !!! Thank you for your testimony and heart Stephanie !! May God continue to bless you, you are a blessing to me!

  3. Just the exact words I needed to hear today. I am following God in obedience to taking two seminary classes on top of my full-time job and church ministry responsibilities. Yesterday, I wanted to give up and drop one of the classes, because fear told me that I couldn’t do it. I’m so scared, but God spoke to me through this. He’s gonna do an even greater work through me. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Rebecca says:

    Thank you so much for posting this article, Stephanie. I actually just submitted an internship application today despite still having fear about going and being far from home. Your post really filled me with peace as I continue to trust God with this internship opportunity. It is encouraging to be reminded that God will be with us every step of the way, even in our fear, and that He can equip us and give us courage along the way. Thank you for your honesty and for being an encouragement today!

  5. Jessie says:

    Thanks soo much for this post!!! I’m about to start college as an international student, and there’s so much that has to be done. It’s pretty overwhelming! I don’t have to wait till the fear goes away. All I need to do is dive in.

  6. Lauren says:

    This post describes exactly the way that I feel. I Just graduated college, moved away from home for good, started a new RN job, and am getting married in a little over a month. I am terrified of all the change and all the things that could go wrong–that I could fail at. These words are such a comfort to me, and a sweet reminder that the Lord will be with me through all of these things He has called me to. Specifically love the reminder that obedience doesn’t always mean there is no fear, but that through Christ, we can have the courage to take a leap of faith!

  7. Katy says:

    This is so helpful and relevant to me right now. I launch in January and I feel like a giant ball of stress and worry right now. Not quite scared yet, but not where I should be. I felt such peace when I decided to sign up for it, and I’ve lost track of that somewhere in the logistics and type-A planning. I don’t think it will become real until training camp. A squadmate sent me this and I really needed it. Thanks for your honesty and genuinity.

  8. Lindsey Barnes says:

    Wow! I LOVE the verse at the end, and boy did I need these words today. My hubby and I have finally decided to begin the journey to try and have children.We have been married for 4 years, and kept putting it off, “let’s find a house first”, “I need to have a better job”, “let’s pay off all our bills”, “let’s remodel the house first”. At the root of it all, I think we have just been scared, and I know I am terrified now that we have actually decided to start down this road. What if we aren’t ready? What if we can’t afford it? How will it affect our relationship?? All these worries and doubts keep running through my head, but I’m also so, SO excited for this. I just read the email you sent today, Stephanie, and in response to your question “What would you do if you knew you had nothing to fear?”, I would have children and be a mommy! Please pray for the hubby and I as we go on this exciting & scary journey. Thank you for the encouraging words!

  9. Malissa says:

    This is such a wonderful post. I am currently struggling with my own self doubt and what I want to with my career, my life, my dreams. Its so overwhelming. I am scared to try something new, take a next step, and frustrated at the same time because I dont know what that step is yet. Thank you for the encouragement. <3

    xoxo- Malissa

  10. Rachel says:

    Hi Stephanie,
    A friend passed your article along about making decisions which really helped give me some piece of mind and a new perspective. It’s nice to know that God doesn’t have a right or left way for you to take but to work through whichever path you decide. Right now, along with many others, I am facing a decision of what to do next. I’ve recently graduated from college and now trying to figure out my career path/grad school. For awhile I’ve wanted to move away from home and be on my own to gain that personal growth and adventure, but considering all things might be more financial smart to stay home and work this year to save up for grad school. I’d love to talk more and hear more of your advice!

  11. April says:

    Thank you so much! As I am a week away of going on a one a year mission trip to the city of Philly! I’m a country lady who is about to take the city! I didn’t think i would ever live or fall in love with the city life and I Did. God showed me that I have a heart for people in city so he asked to show up so it’s time to saddle up and jump out of the comfort of my woods and farms and take on the busy streets and really close neighbors! Thank you for this and love Joshua 1:9 it’s one of my favorite verses it reminds of who God is and how big he Is!

  12. Bridgette Hylick says:

    Thank You Stephanie for this email! It was so encouraging and exactly what i needed in my life right now.

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