To leap in the English dictionary is 'to make a large jump, usually from one place to another'. The definition of faith is 'a great trust or confidence in something or someone'. I've taken a few leaps of faith in my time, they were sometimes large, often scary, and other times unsuccessful. With time, experience, and some success I have learnt that in order to jump from one place to another with confidence requires four things. Specifically, four 'A's'. Awareness, acknowledgement, action and acceptance (I do love alliterations!)
But before we get into the nitty gritty of how to take a leap of faith, let me tell you a story. When I was ten years old, living in a little village in the Welsh valleys, one of my best friends lived a few doors away from me and we would spend our summer evenings playing in and around our street, out on the fields and 'up the tip'. But one game we loved was jumping stones. These stones were 3-foot-high square bollards, evenly spaced about a foot apart - just enough to jump from one to the other. They were placed as a boundary along the road and on the other side ran a scrub area full of nettles and thorny brambles.
We would leap easily along the raised squares, until the last one, which for some reason was further apart from the others - almost out of reach. If the nettles weren't there, say in early springtime, this wasn't a problem. But high summer meant high brambles! One day, as we were playing, we decided to go for it. Dressed in flimsy summer tops and shorts we hoped from one bollard to the next and then, building up our courage, daring each other on to the last. Before home time, my friend took a huge leap towards the final stone. Long bare legs stretching through the air towards her goal of landing safely on top. I saw, as if in slow motion, both her legs suspended mid-air, and then watched in dismay as she fell short and down into the bed of stinging nettles below!
That is something you do not easily forget, and my friend recalls the sting of failure to this day. Now, this childhood leap didn't result in any long-lasting damage, but it certainly made us stop short of jumping further that summer. There are other times when the hurt of not reaching our goal, or the intended outcome can leave us scarred. Sometimes we learn from the chances we take, sometimes we don't. But what I think is particularly sad is when we give up trying altogether. A summer later, when I was eleven, with my legs a little longer, the leap to the last stone (whilst still scary) was easier to do. The joy of hitting the target was that much sweeter.
A leap of faith requires certain conditions to be met. And I would advise that when you start out have a journal nearby to jot down your thoughts. You may also want to talk this through with a trusted person or even seek specialist guidance. Before any leap there must be awareness - knowing where you are and where you want to be. Where are you in your life/work/relationships (insert as appropriate) and where do you want to be? This could have a time frame - where are you now and where do you want to be in one month, a year, a decade - but it doesn't have to. Simply looking up and being aware of your current situation in life and where you would like to be is a great start.
Secondly, there needs to be an acknowledgement of the gap between where you are and where you want to be. How big is this gap? Small, reachable, and straightforward? Or, a chasm, seemingly impossible and complex? Acknowledging the truth of your situation and the amount of change needed is an important step. Seeing the reality of the leap you need to take will enable you to act with confidence.
The third 'A' is action. A leap of faith does not need to be a reckless decision. It can be a planned move, a strategic change of direction. It doesn't require whim or a blind fold! In fact, I would advise you to keep your eyes fully open throughout the whole process, so you know where you are going! The action you take is based on the size of the gap you have acknowledged and the reality of the situation you face. Action should be realistic, achievable, and purposeful. It may require specific help and guidance. It may also require tough conversations with the ones you love. Just because you've considered something, doesn't make it any less scary.
Finally, there is an overarching component - acceptance. This is the parachute for your leap. Acceptance of where you are, of where you want to be and the gap between. Acceptance of the actions you need to take. Acceptance of success. Acceptance of failure. Being kind to yourself on the way to bridging the gap. Knowing there are times you will hit the mark and times when you will fall short. Having an attitude of acceptance is not resignation, it is not doubt, but an embracing of what is without judgement.
So, look before you leap. Take action, but with kindness. Know the gap, be courageous and go for it. If you succeed - celebrate! If it fails - learn from it and shorten the gap next. Leaps do not have to be huge; they can be small steps towards a bigger goal. These could be drinking more water, getting out in nature each day, showing gratitude, reaching out to an old friend, saying sorry or enrolling in a new class at college. Your gaps will be different to everyone else's, so do not compare your leap to any other person - we are all different and unique. But do not give up or give in. You may need a year to grow longer legs.
I'd love to hear about your leaps of faith - big or small. Did you succeed, did you fall short? But most importantly, did you try again? Let me know in the comments below or over on my Instagram @iamsarahalexcarter
Image via Unsplash