Apparently it’s got something to do with the solar system not being in sync with the Gregorian calendar. (How very careless of the solar system.) And it’s in February because of an ego battle between Julius Caesar (the man who named July after himself) and his successor, Augustus Caesar, who was forced to steal some days off February to make his namesake month, August, as long as his predecessor’s. That’s just how you roll if you’re a Roman emperor.
If you’re on a fixed annual salary, it’s tough, because you’re working an extra day FOR FREE. But at least if you’re a woman, you can go down on one knee and pop the question – as long as you’re wearing breaches or a red petticoat. (Seriously? In this age of equality, we need permission?!)
But leap years do feel special. It’s the rarity value.
Something ‘extra’ always feels good. Like a little gift that we didn’t have to work for. Almost as if we all get to live a day longer, a small bonus tacked onto our allotted span. It’s a nice thought.
All this (plus the cute google cartoon) got me to thinking about leaping in general. Quantum leaps, leaps of faith, leaps in the dark, leap frogging over obstacles.
Why would we only give ourselves permission to take a leap every four years? Shouldn’t we be doing it on a daily basis? As Seth Godin says, ‘Like bathing, leaping is a practice, something that never gets old, and is best done repeatedly.’
So – are you a leaper?
The exiting of one’s comfort zone is something that most of us humans do our best to avoid. Even when it’s become really quite UNcomfortable to stay as one is – restrictive, limiting, boring, tedious – it does, at least, have the merit of being familiar. Better the devil you know, and all that.
It’s only by taking a leap, of faith if need be, by taking action even when the outcome is unknown (and isn’t it always) that anything happens. Dreaming, planning, imagining, looking before you leap, is all great, all important. But doing, actually taking action, and a running jump if necessary, is a quantum leap away from just thinking about doing it.
As film director James Cameron says, ‘There are many talented people who haven’t fulfilled their dreams because they over thought it, or they were too cautious, and were unwilling to make the leap of faith’.
If that’s you, in any area of your life – job, home, relationship, wardrobe, social life … and I bet if you’re honest, there’s at least one area where you know you’re avoiding making changes because fear, familiarity or habit is holding you back, then maybe a spot of redefinition is in order.
Stop thinking of it as your comfort zone (with all the attendant associations of safety, warm slippers and cozy blankets) and think if it as the stale zone, the smother zone, the small zone.
And the alternative, wherever it is you land when you make a leap of faith – that’s your adventure zone, your growth zone, your challenge zone. It’s the place where magic and miracles can occur. (Can – not will – there are no guarantees here!)
Of course you may fall flat on your face. Of course it could all go horribly wrong. But leaping builds courage as well as muscle. The more you do it, the easier it gets. And it’s the best way I know to find out what it is you are capable of becoming.
Creativity is always a leap of faith. The blank page, the white canvas, the empty stage on the first day of rehearsals. Who knows whether what appears will be a work of genius or folly?
Falling in love is perhaps the biggest leap of faith any of us can ever make. But worth it, oh so worth it. Even if you love and lose.
And don’t get me started on the leap of faith that is having children!
Thinking that life is safe, secure and manageable is foolish and misguided. I do absolutely believe that the universe is a friendly place, but I also know that life can change in an instant, despite one’s best efforts to maintain a status quo. A faulty heart valve, a runaway bus, a random act of violence, or things quite simply beyond our ken and our control, can send life veering wildly off track, in a split second.
Just being alive and continuing to function is a leap of faith.
Maybe that’s why I like the illusion of being in control and creating momentum that leaps of faith give me. When you’re leaping, no matter how you land, you’re not being a victim. You’re making a choice. And something has to come from that choice.
You don’t have to get it right, you just have to get it going. And you can course correct whenever you need to. You can grow your own wings on the way down, and strengthen them as you start to fly.
‘Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase’, said Martin Luther King. His leap of faith created an unstoppable momentum that changed the world for the better.
Sometimes our only available transportation is a leap of faith. And whether that leap occurs as a giant long jump or as a tiny baby step, it doesn’t matter. It’s how life moves us forward. And better to take the leap willingly than wait until we’re pushed.
So this leap year, I encourage you to trust yourself, trust the universe, and take a leap. Look first, if you need to, but leap anyway. Have fun. Make some waves. I’m going to.