Five Seconds of Courage

Five Seconds of Courage

Many things can have an impact that will change your life forever. It could be a friend, a TED talk or a random kid you meet on the street. Those situations of impact may vary greatly in length. However, what I have learned recently is that it generally takes just five seconds of courage to change your life.

To be honest I thought I had it all perfectly figured out. After graduation, I was the proud owner of a bachelor’s degree with a great GPA, a place for master’s studies at my dream university in a new country and incredibly wonderful friends for life. No one and nothing could stop me now. The realization that life might not be so simple came quickly. As soon as I arrived at the new place, the tasks and information came flooding in on me. There I was, alone, overwhelmed, missing Jacobs and simply lost. Of course, I tried making the best out of the situation, but there were too many obstacles and everything was different from what I was used to. And I didn’t like it. But as my mom always says: it’s incredible what a person can get used to. And so I did. I got used to my miserable situation of being on my own every day, of not understanding anything that was happening around me, of the very unfortunate living conditions. So the days went by … until another lecture about protein modelling started. I wasn’t expecting a lot from it. My physical chemistry professor was supposed to introduce us to the topic, which meant a very practical approach: no jokes and you better knew the answer when you were asked something. But instead of stressing me out for 105 minutes, he managed to teach me a life lesson in two. Instead of starting his lecture with words about the primary structure of proteins, he used these: “You can achieve and become anything you want to be in life, both academically and personally. You only have to really want it. You can become a millionaire, but just saying that and remaining seated on your couch is not enough. Then you don’t really want it. And sometimes you will have to walk over dead bodies in order to get what you want. But then you need to reconsider, if this is really what you want.” I was astonished. I would have never expected anything like this from him. During the remaining hours of the class, I had a really hard time focusing on proteins. My thoughts were circling around that one thing I had wanted for quite some time now, which would transform my unhappy self into one that could enjoy life again. I realized that those steps, which needed to be done in order to get it, were actually quite simple. However, they would require something I can’t access easily: courage – action in a risky environment.

It’s funny how your own perception of courage differs from day to day. Try to think back of the most courageous moments in your life. When were you scared, but took the shot anyway? Imagine you’d be in a similar situation again today and decided to act the same way. Would you still think you had just done something brave? In most cases I don’t. And this situation was no exception. Looking back I ask myself: why haven’t I taken the shot earlier? Why was I so afraid? Yes, I was lucky it worked out and I would have felt horrible if it hadn’t turned out the way it did. But didn’t I feel terrible before as well? I figured that in those moments when you decide whether to stand out and take the shot or to just be another face in the crowd, the best thing to do is to take a deep breath first.

I need about four seconds to close my eyes and take one deep breath. And then all it takes is just one more second to do the first step; to open your mouth and start asking your question, to raise your hand and volunteer, to click “Send”. With this you get the ball rolling – and it’s hard to stop it now.

Please, do yourself a favor and remember the next time you get a quiet minute that there is no point in getting used to things you don’t like and that you can achieve or become anything you want. All it takes is five seconds of courage to change your life. Doesn’t it?

Eva is currently pursuing her MSc in Biomedical Methods and Technology at Malmö University in Sweden. She believes that every “yes” to an opportunity will bring about a great story for rainy days.

Photo credit: Jump’n’Run by Sascha Etezazi found on