The Year of Daring Greatly

The best book I read in 2012 was Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown. But 2013 is the year I’m going to put Brown’s discoveries into action. The phrase “daring greatly” refers to a speech that Theodore Roosevelt gave in 1910. For full effect, like Brene Brown, I will quote the whole section since it is so lovely:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. [MEDIA, TAKE NOTE!]

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,

Because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;

Who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…”

I think some people would say (including myself) that I’ve done my share of daring greatly—with both success and failure. I’ve certainly had my share of critics. But what is truly wonderful about Brene Brown’s book is that, as a PhD researcher, she has been able to help me understand how and why I do what I do, and why it’s good to do even more of it. And how to help me communicate to the people around me in a way that enables them to be both more courageous and more vulnerable, which is what it truly takes to grow.

The idea of “discomfort” is something I’ve always struggled with. At work, there is a constant plea to help employees feel “comfortable.” At home, I face annoyance from family members when I bring up uncomfortable topics (let’s talk about sex!). Socially and in my community I have a little reputation, perhaps, of being the one who asks the stupid, uncomfortable question that everyone else wants to ask but is afraid to, which then often leads to transformative and very uncomfortable change.  And even with you, dear readers, and my blog, I have a vetting process that each blog goes through to make sure that I am not crossing any major discomfort lines.

But it turns out that discomfort is actually essential to personal growth and happiness. Brown talks about the importance of “normalizing discomfort.” It turns out discomfort is not about instability, it’s about learning. You’ve all felt it at some point, a fear of trying something new that turns out to be awesomely fun. Or a fear of saying something honest that, when you finally say it, unburdens your heart and leads to deeper intimacy.

So here’s to discomfort! And the courage to be vulnerable! This year you can expect to see me take it to the next level. I’m not sure what that looks like or where that level is, but I feel in my bones that I’m going to go for it.

It wouldn’t be as much fun, though, without you all joining me. Let’s do it together!  Let’s all have a year of daring greatly! The point, I might add, is that it leads to what Brene Brown calls Wholehearted Living, the kind of living in which health, healing, happiness, and true love can all be ours.

(PS: The picture at the top is a piece of a painting I did as part of a portrait painting class with Max Ginsburg. Sharing my art work is just one way I plan to dare greatly this year! I was very happy with how I captured the luminosity of skin, since that was my main goal in taking the class.)


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14 Responses to The Year of Daring Greatly

  1. Nikki Lindqvist January 7, 2013 at 6:39 am #

    I’m no art critic but your painting looks good to me. I can’t even draw stick people so why you would hesitate to show something this lovely is beyond me. As for the rest of it — go for it! Life is too short to do anything else!! Such easy words to say… I’m encouraging YOU even as I know I might not have the courage to do it. Hmm… must think it over… 🙂

  2. Peter January 7, 2013 at 10:52 am #

    We ran a cool article in Men’s Health that was all about growing comfortable with discomfort. It’s the founding pillar of psychological health, and not just for men, Maria!

    The basic point, for anybody who’s click-averse: Avoiding uncomfortable feelings just grants more power to whatever it is that is causing the discomfort. If you can find a way to simply live with the discomfort, look it in the eye, accept it, you grow stronger. Simple, yes. Difficult, OK. But also a key to a more fully lived existence. So keep on making us feel uncomfortable, Maria, you hear?

  3. Peter January 7, 2013 at 10:54 am #

    Oh, and why the painting with the lovely breasts? Still trying to figure that one out. Didn’t make me feel uncomfortable, if that’s what you were striving for…

  4. maria (farm country kitchen) January 7, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    Dearest Peter,

    I shared the painting of the breasts because I have always been uncomfortable sharing my own art work. I mean, what if it’s terrible? What if people make fun of it? What if they laugh and not in a good way? So it was my little attempt to Dare Greatly with this blog. Personally, I think I did a good job on them.

  5. JO January 7, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    thank you for the fresh 2013 message.
    in Beauty of appreciation

  6. Lynda Grow January 7, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    I love your articles, Maria, and I am glad you are willing to stretch yourself, emotionally, artistically, intellectually. As you said, it is the only way we grow! I love your painting. Mother was an artist. My favorite was her self-portrait in pen and pencil. I framed it and she said “but it’s not finished!” I said, Mother, neither are we, isn’t that the point?

  7. Irma January 8, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    Thank you, Maria, for another heart-felt blog. I’ve been a fan of Brene Brown for the past 2 years. I too have been the one delivering uncomfortable questions, which is often received with that silent stare. It’s in that space that I wonder about. And as that space of discomfort grows all around me, it takes courage to:

    1) either repeat the question….perhaps more gently
    2) hold the silence or
    3) back away making a joke out of my question.

    I find holding the silence yields a deeper moment. As the moment folds into my “daring greatly”, if my intention is that of love-filled awakening (vs. judgmental or critical…okay I can be guilty of both), I know I’m not standing alone.

    Love the womanly image, Maria.

  8. Lisa January 8, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

    Another book I must add to my “to-read” list! Sounds like a wonderful read. And your painting is lovely. Thanks for the inspiring post today.

  9. Karen January 9, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

    Maria, love the painting and the book sounds like a “must read”! I had my own small ah-ha moment recently when I finally changed hair stylists, much to my great happiness! It showed me how “stuck” I get in habits and relationships and ways of doing things. I think 2013 is the year to shake things up!

  10. Donna in Delaware January 9, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

    Way to go Maria, I’m in for the ride! As one fellow art student to another, that’s pretty darn good work! At least you have been trying. I must make time this year to do the same. A friend of mine in VA have been water coloring for the last 2 years, haven’t seen any of her work, she knows nothing of art, but she have been trying and traveling to different areas in the country to draw and paint.

    I’m vowing to be a mover and shaker this year, no matter what goes or comes! In the past, people have made me uncomfortable in words and deeds, but I stood my ground and towed the line. I refused to give in to them, and was and is much better for the experience. Now when I am in their company, which I still dislike, I can show them that they have no power over me in a negative or awkward sense. I’m certain that they don’t like it one iota! So go for it Maria, I’m right there with you.

  11. Donna Murphy January 9, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

    Thank you for leading us to the ‘discomfort zone’ and basically living honestly, with ourselves and the world. I will be reading the book you mentioned also. I’m 66 years old and I’ve decided that I need to make some changes in my life for my health and well being. Thank you for helping to change my mind and not be bothered anymore. I’m just not going to be bothered by the obesity reports and just do the best I can to eat healthy and walk more. I really enjoy the learning from you.
    Donna Murphy

  12. Mark Felt January 11, 2013 at 9:50 pm #

    It is easy be daring and think of yourself as brave when are riding the coat tails of your family and employees.

  13. maria (farm country kitchen) January 11, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

    actually, it’s even harder.

  14. Kristi Forsman March 14, 2016 at 12:13 pm #

    Hi there,
    I am just discovering Brené Brown and trying to wrap my head around being okay with discomfort. I am all about being comfy ☺️…however, my need for something more is beginning to win out my comfy default groove. I have been wondering about my past experiences and how they would have been so different if I would have expected discomfort & accepted it as a sign I was going in the right direction. I have subscribed to the “fake it before you make it” school of thought…but, as it turns out…it is flipping exhausting to pretend you’ve “got this” about ten steps before you actually do. All to avoid looking awkward…& just be human…stumbling through..doing the best you can. In fact…it was so exhausting & stressful it simply wasn’t sustainable. So…instead of muddling threw slowly & surely…I opted out. I can’t change the past but, I am feeling inspired for some new adventures with a more realistic approach. I am curious how you applied this concept to your life and the different outcomes because if it.
    Thanks a lot, Kristi

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