“Courage is important because “we all have to do things we don’t like sometimes.” – Eric, 5
Children, despite having limited life experiences, understand the concept of courage because it is one of the earliest qualities we encounter.
Our first wobbly step is done with courage. Letting go of our parent’s hand during that first day in Kindergarten takes courage. We also learned to be courageous when it was our turn to go down the big slide without an adult waiting to catch us at the bottom.
The challenges we had to overcome while mustering every courageous bone in our body were filled with things to fear. Therefore, courage is never about the absence of fear but rather continuing on despite it.
We have the freedom to choose how to respond to challenges. Mastering the ability to take a step back to pick a response to a trigger or a certain situation ultimately shapes how we live our lives. The struggle is part of our existence – this we can’t change. However, what we can change are our responses.
As adults, we have a degree of commonality when it comes to the things we fear in our everyday life.
- Fear of rejection from others and of our creative ventures
- Fear of speaking up and saying “no”
- Fear of uncertainty and failure
- Fear to be open and vulnerable
- Fear of being our authentic self
- Fear of admitting our mistakes
- Fear to pursue our passion
Allowing fear to be the driving force of decisions often leads us to:
- Live an inauthentic life
- Suppress our beliefs and values
- Compulsively look for an easy way out when things get tough – escapism
- Procrastinate whenever there is an urgent need to finish a challenging task
- Avoid hard decisions even when our wellbeing depends on it
If we truly want to build courage, what we must learn is to see a crisis as an opportunity to become a better version of our self.
Things Aren’t As Bad As They Seem
According to psychology, most of us tend to catastrophize events that have not happened. Catastrophizing is a cognitive distortion that prompts people to jump to the worst possible conclusion after a minor setback. When a situation is upsetting, but not necessarily disastrous, some may perceive it like they are in the midst of a crisis.1
Feeling that we’re dealing with a crisis lessens our ability to be present with what is actually happening.
An example would be immediately assuming that your co-workers and boss will think you’re incompetent and should be fired after a minor mistake on a task. Yet what was really happening is you overlooked a small detail (which is normal) that can easily be corrected.
Jumping to the worst possible scenario blocks our view of the opportunity in a situation. In turn, when we’re faced with a real crisis, our reaction becomes irrational, unproductive, and self-sabotaging.
Again, it boils down to choosing our responses to the external world. Changing our thoughts allows us to let go of resistance to what is and allow what could be.2
Train Your Courage Muscle
Courage is like a muscle that gets stronger with constant use and exercise. Limiting beliefs that lead to negative emotions will persist unless we’ve learned how to stop the pattern. To break away from those patterns, we activate the muscle for courage each time. As a result, we grow stronger and establish muscle memory in similar situations.
It is important to determine what scares us the most to determine what we can do to face them.
If being alone with our thoughts is a source of fear, then engage in activities that encourage us to face it like taking ourselves to brunch without constantly checking our phone.
If we fear pursuing our passion for photography, perhaps we can start small by taking part in a group exhibit to get feedback from friends and strangers.
Constantly facing the source of our fear quelches the emotion of fear itself. Rinse and repeat.
Choosing to be courageous to start an exciting journey to self-discovery is only the beginning. We will naturally struggle and want to retreat once we open up and break out of our comfort zone. How we react to that moment of fear will determine how we go through life. Do we scour or do we take a deep breath and lean in?
We are the ones who breathe life to our fears which means we also have the power to take it away.