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Deborah J. Coppins

2011 Speaker

Deborah J. Coppins

The Next Right Step

I have done nothing “fearlessly” in my life. Although I’ve returned to grad school at 38, admitted myself to rehab for a food addiction, taken on challenging global roles, and had a child on my own at 41, the truth is, none were done without fear. I did them, somehow, despite my fear.

There are differences I want to make in the world, that at 51 I’ve yet to do, so what I want to understand more and celebrate most isn’t the accomplishment itself, but how I get through those fears – what I do to silence those reality-twisting, possibility-robbing voices. I want to celebrate that most because, for me, it is the real work. I want to understand it better because that awareness increases the likelihood that my “next right step” won’t take me so long.

I now stand toe-to-toe with the fears awakened by my own next right step. I want my path through these fears to be as familiar as my 3:00 a.m. trip to the bathroom and my belief that I will transcend them to be as palpable as their presence.

The following Cherokee legend of a grandfather instructing his grandson on life hangs on my refrigerator.

“A fight is going on inside me,”

“It is a terrible fight between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

“The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought for a minute and then asked,

“Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

I’ve learned feeding my good wolf consists of five humble elements; sufficient sleep, exercise, prayer and meditation, time in the woods, and time with true friends. Consistently feeding my good wolf is often as hard as it is simple, but I’m getting better at it and the ground is shifting. Drawn more to my strength, and my boldness, I am more connected to the possible; my fearful and disappointing days becoming more like speed bumps than roadblocks. I am more of who I truly am, regardless of my circumstance, and my “Rocky-on-the-top-of-the-steps” spirit is gaining ground. Cue the music, it just doesn’t get any better than that.