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3 Simple Steps to Cultivate Courage and Create a Life of Meaning

we cultivate meaning in our lives when we pursue our calling



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Our deepest human desire is to cultivate meaning in our lives. Our deepest human need is to survive.

This is the source of our deepest conflict. 

Our brains are survival machines and nothing more. They’re designed to keep us alive. As part of this hard-wiring, we’re also efficiency machines. Our brains seek the path of least resistance. 

It’s a primal desire to conserve calories. 

The more efficient something is, the less fuel it burns. Anything that causes fear or discomfort burns more calories and, as such, needs to be avoided.  

But, beyond our brains is an intrinsic gravitational pull towards meaning. 

We desperately want our experiences, and in turn, our lives to mean something. 

I believe we all have a calling, it’s the song that sings within our souls. As a child, it sang louder; as an adult, it’s merely a whisper.

But it’s never gone. 

“Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” —Franklin D. Roosevelt

I believe we cultivate meaning in our lives when we pursue our calling. 

Whether it be connecting with your love of composing, writing, sculpting, painting, entrepreneurship, or being of service to others. 

It’s releasing the song inside you and breathing life into its external, physical manifestation, and sharing it with the world. 

A life of meaning is a life of novelty, challenge, risk, fear, uncertainty, and the unknown. 

All things our survival brains despise, all things that threaten our survival. We may know intellectually that pursuing our calling won’t kill us, but tell our brains that. 

The lion in the bush is now the screenplay you want to write.

To our surviving efficient brains, the decision to finally put pen to paper and write the first word of the Civil War novel that’s been burning inside your soul is the equivalent of standing at the edge of an infinite abyss contemplating whether or not to jump. 

It’s the head versus the heart. It’s survival of the species versus meaning. It’s an existential tug-o-war. Unfortunately, survival eventually pulls the flag over the line more often than not. 

The head wins as the heart weeps.  

We choose the path of least resistance, which, on its surface, may look nothing like the easy way.

The right school, the right company, the right job title, with a clear path to the next right job title, the Mercedes, and the right house.

We check all the boxes on all the things we’ve been conditioned to believe will make us happy. 

The acquisition of all these things is a tremendous amount of work.

And yet, if you have a calling to write, paint, sculpt, design, compose, entrepreneurship, and you’re proactively ignoring your song, you’ve chosen the easy way. 

When we allow survival to win the existential tug-o-war, we’re left with an existential void in the center of our being. 

And there is nothing external that will ever fill that void. 

The only way to fill that void is to leap into the abyss. 

But how do we leap into the abyss?

We cultivate courage.

Courage is comprised of many components, but I will focus on the top 3 I leveraged when rebuilding and reinventing my life after prison. 

These 3 Practices are the Foundation of Courage.

1. Cultivate Self-Trust

Some people refer to this as faith. However, Self-trust and faith are not that we know something will work out the way we want. 

We can’t know that. We have no control over the outcome, only the effort we put in. 

No, self-trust and faith is the deep inner belief that regardless of how events unfold, we will navigate what comes, and we will come out the other side. We may be bumped and bruised, but we know that we will be ok. 

When you’re terrified of doing something meaningful in your life, knowing you’re going to be ok no matter what is wickedly empowering.

We cultivate Self-Trust by making and keeping commitments to ourselves and to others. We become the person who does what they say they’re going to do.

2. Practice Gratitude

There is a tremendous amount of content out in the world around the virtues of a regular gratitude practice, and rightfully so. But there is something I’ve never seen written about gratitude. 

Gratitude is a foundational building block to courage. 

When we practice gratitude consistently, we rewire our brains from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset. 

How easy will it be to call on courage when we’re feeling scarce?

How easy will it be to call on courage when we’re feeling abundant?

Big difference between the two. 

Try this every day; write down five things you’re grateful for. Then take one of them, and ask yourself, 

“Why am I grateful for X?” 

Asking “Why?” adds a new dimension to the practice and will cultivate courage.

3. Embody Your Core-Values

Core values are your North Star. 

They illuminate the pathway toward living a meaningful life — one that’s filled with passion, purpose, and fulfillment.

When you take the time to consider your core values, the way through the things you struggle with (feeling stuck, no direction, fear) becomes crystal clear.

Values are the foundation for motivation and resilience (taking the first step and continuing through challenges) and serve as a wickedly powerful perceptual filter. 

When you connect your future plans and goals to your core values, your goals become more compelling. 

They become less overwhelming and daunting. The path forward becomes more apparent. 

Choose no more than 7 characteristics you’d like to embody in your life; these are your core values.  

Incorporate these three practices into your own life you’ll make the leap into the abyss with ease. 

And you’ll uncover something extraordinary:

What your brain told you would kill you will make you feel more alive than you ever have.

Craig Stanland is a Reinvention Architect & Mindset Coach, TEDx & Keynote Speaker, and the Best-Selling Author of "Blank Canvas, How I Reinvented My Life After Prison." He specializes in working with high-achievers who've chased success, money, and status in their 1st half, only to find a success-sized hole in their lives. He helps them tap into their full potential, break free from autopilot, draft a new life blueprint, and connect with their Life's Mission so they can create their extraordinary 2nd half with purpose, meaning and fulfillment. Connect with him here

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The Imbalanced Problem with Work/Life Balance

Balancing is for your checkbook, gymnastics, and nutrition; not for your people’s work/life ratio.



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Balance…it requires an equal distribution of value between two or more subjects to maintain steady composure and equitable proportionality. (more…)

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How to Find the Courage to Start New

Change is scary, but it’s a normal part of life.



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It’s 2023, a new year, new you, right? But how do we start over? How do we make the changes in our lives that we crave so much to see?  (more…)

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Failure is an integral part of life as life is incomplete without failures.



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People often consider failure a stigma.  Society often doesn’t respect the people who failed and avoids and criticizes their actions. Failure is an integral part of life as life is incomplete without failures. Not to have endeavored is worse than failing in life as at some stage of your life you regret not having tried in your life.  (more…)

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5 Indicators of Unresolved Attachment Trauma



Emotional Attachment Trauma

Trauma caused during specific stages of a child’s development, known as attachment trauma, can have lasting effects on a person’s sense of safety, security, predictability, and trust. This type of trauma is often the result of abuse, neglect, or inconsistent care from a primary caregiver.

Individuals who have not fully processed attachment trauma may display similar patterns of behavior and physical or psychological symptoms that negatively impact their adult lives, including the choices they make in relationships and business.

Unfortunately, many people may not even be aware that they are struggling with trauma. Research estimates that 6% of the population will experience PTSD in their lifetime, with a majority of males and females having experienced significant trauma.

Unresolved attachment trauma can significantly impair the overall quality of a person’s life, including their ability to form healthy relationships and make positive choices for themselves. One well-known effect of unhealed attachment trauma is the compulsion to repeat past wounds by unconsciously selecting romantic partners who trigger their developmental trauma.

However, there are other less recognized but equally detrimental signs of unprocessed developmental trauma.


Five possible indications of unresolved attachment trauma are:


1.  Unconscious Sabotage

Self-sabotage is a common pattern among individuals with unprocessed attachment trauma. This cycle often begins with hurting others, which is then followed by hurting oneself. It is also common for those with attachment trauma to have heightened emotional sensitivity, which can trigger this cycle.

This pattern can manifest in lashing out, shutting down, or impulsive behavior that leads to feelings of guilt, shame, and self-loathing.

Many people with attachment trauma are not aware of their wounds and operate on survival mode, unconsciously testing or challenging the emotional investment of those around them, and pushing them away out of self-preservation and fear of abandonment.

This can lead to a pattern of making poor choices for themselves based on impulsivity.


2. Persistent Pain

Chronic pain is a common symptom that can stem from early trauma. Studies have shown a connection between physical conditions such as fibromyalgia, headaches, gastrointestinal issues, insomnia, muscle aches, back pain, chest pain, and chronic fatigue with the aftermath of chronic developmental trauma, particularly physical abuse.
Research has found that individuals with insecure attachment styles, such as anxious, avoidant, or disorganized, have a higher incidence of somatic symptoms and a history of physical and emotional abuse in childhood compared to those with a secure attachment style.

3. Behaviors That Block Out Trauma

Trauma blocking practises are used to avoid the pain and memories connected with traumatic events.
Emotional numbing, avoidance, and escape via briefly pleasurable activities that distract from terrible memories or suffering are common examples. Unfortunately, this escape habit stops people from successfully processing and recovering from their trauma.
Furthermore, when the pain resurfaces, more and more diversions are necessary to continue ignoring it. This can be seen in compulsive behaviours such as drug or alcohol addiction, emotional eating, numbing oneself through relationships, workaholism, excessive or dangerous exercise routines, compulsive internet or technology use, or any other compulsive behaviour used to distract yoursef from intrusive thoughts and emotions.
These actions have the potential to prolong a cycle of avoidance and repression, preventing persons from healing and progressing.

4. A strong need for control

It’s understandable that some people may struggle with control issues in their adult lives, especially if they felt helpless or vulnerable during their childhood.
This can happen if someone had an overbearing caregiver who didn’t let them make their own choices, expected too much from them, or didn’t take care of them properly. As adults, they might try to control everything in their life to feel more in control and less anxious or scared. This might be because they didn’t feel like they had control over their life when they were a child.
It’s important to remember that everyone’s experiences are different and it’s okay to seek help if you’re struggling with control issues.

5. Psychological Symptoms That Are Not Explained

Individuals with a history of developmental trauma may experience a range of psychological symptoms, including obsessive-compulsive behavior, intense mood swings, irritability, anger, depression, emotional numbing, or severe anxiety.
These symptoms can vary in intensity and may occur intermittently throughout the day. People with this type of trauma may attempt to “distract” themselves from these symptoms by denying or rationalizing them, or may resort to substance abuse or behavioral addictions as coping mechanisms. This can be a maladaptive way of trying to numb their symptoms.

What to do next if you’re suffering from emotional attachment trauma?

Everyone’s experience of healing from trauma is unique. It’s important to be aware of whether you have experienced childhood developmental trauma and how it may be affecting your relationships as an adult. Sometimes, the effects of trauma can be overwhelming and we may try to push them away or avoid them.
If you notice that you’re engaging in these behaviors, it’s important to seek help from a trauma therapist who can support you on your healing journey. Remember, you’re not alone and it’s never too late to start healing.

There are several ways that people can work to overcome emotional attachment trauma:

  1. Therapy: One of the most effective ways to overcome emotional attachment trauma is through therapy. A therapist can help you process your experiences, understand the impact of your trauma on your life, and develop coping strategies to manage symptoms.
  2. Support groups: Joining a support group of people who have had similar experiences can be a great way to find validation, empathy, and a sense of community.
  3. Mindfulness practices: Mindfulness practices such as meditation, pilates, prayer time with God or journaling can help you become more aware of your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations, and develop a sense of spiritual connection and self-regulation.
  4. Trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (TF-CBT): This is a type of therapy that is specifically designed to help individuals process and recover from traumatic events.
  5. Building a safety net: Building a support system of people you trust, who are there for you when you need them, can help you feel more secure and safe in your life.

It’s important to remember that healing from emotional attachment trauma is a process and it may take time. It’s also important to find a therapist who is experienced in treating trauma, who you feel comfortable talking with, and who can help you develop a personalized treatment plan.

If you desire to work with me on healing your wounds and unlocking the aspects of you that were never realized so you can achieve more success in your life then head over to and join my weekly LIVE online mentorship calls.
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