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There are moments in time, and choices made within them, that really stick. I experienced one last week. It started with an S.A.C.–a small act of courage–and led to an “a-ha” moment.

In past posts, I have shared that I am working on a Master’s thesis. It started off fantastic. I flew through the course work with excellent grades. I had a clear idea of my thesis topic and my preliminary proposal was complete; all I had to do was expand it. The thesis was all but written, and I was flying. Then something happened and things completely turned around. “Something” was fear.

I developed writer’s block and wasted an entire year procrastinating. I chalked it up to heavy family commitments and took a leave of absence. Looking back, I can see that family commitments became my cover-up. The reality, however, was that I couldn’t acknowledge what I knew deep down: I was scared. Even though I had real-world evidence to the contrary, I was afraid that I didn’t have the knowledge or ability to see it through.

A good friend of mine once said, “Anything can happen once. But if it happens twice, it’s a habit.” Last year, I came back from my leave and guess what started happening… Family commitments, delays in writing, a gong show getting participants, wasted time. I regrouped, got back on the horse, and it all started happening again… wash, rinse, repeat. It’s not a habit if something happens a third time–it’s a wake-up call. Last week was my mine.

My study is about how we can use self-care as a source of empowerment. How engaging in physical activity can transform not just our health, but how we see ourselves, and how this outcome positively shapes our lives. I decided to put myself through the study, but when I reached down to grab the questionnaire, I hesitated. Answering the questionnaire could expose me–the real me–and two thoughts immediately came to mind: “What am I hiding from?” and “When I see myself, what if I don’t like what I see?”

What followed was my small act of courage. I simply reached down and picked up the questionnaire. In the face of fear, I acted. I didn’t over-think the moment, didn’t think about theories and strategies, didn’t dissect my childhood. I acted in the simplest way and what transpired was magical.

I wrote and wrote, and what I wrote was authentic, insightful, and not so scary. And I learned that awareness doesn’t always have to come from deep reflection. Most importantly, my small act of courage moment showed me that even the smallest action can have a profound impact.

Fast-forward to today. I haven’t only delved into the questionnaire, I’ve started writing my thesis again, full force. I have acknowledged the fear that was holding me back and moved past it. And my small act of courage has spilled over into other areas of my life! Goals that were taking months to complete are now taking days and weeks.

So, from inside of this amazing new awareness, I made a promise to myself: This year is dedicated to performing small acts of courage. But I’ve already broken my promise, or at least changed it. Not just this year, the rest of my life! The costs are too great otherwise.

If you look, you will find opportunities to take small acts of courage everywhere. You don’t have to look too hard or think too much. You will just “know.” And in those moments, what will you do? How could a small act of courage impact your health, your career, or your relationships?

The choice is always yours. The power is in trusting that however small the act of courage, the potential exists for it to make a very big difference.

Marco Iafrate