Courage to do those big things that need to be done or courage to face those countless little tasks that make you just want to give up – it all matters immensely.
We all know someone who seems to have great amounts of courage. Who faces the things that need to be done in a way that we admire. The first person I think of when I think about this is my friend Sally. Several years ago she was slowly dying and none of the best doctors and institutions in the country could find out what was wrong. She went to countless medical centers and each said they could not help her yet she maintained a positive attitude. I deeply admire her courage. And I’m thrilled to report she was finally diagnosed and today is very healthy.
If you had a conversation with the person that you admire for his or her courage, you might be surprised to find that he or she has plenty of fear in addition to plenty of courage. I know this was true for Sally as we talked about fear many times as she dealt with her deteriorating condition.
Most of us think of courage as the absence of fear. That is completely wrong. Courage is the ability to take appropriate action despite being fearful. It is moving beyond the paralysis that can be a natural reaction to fear. It is taking charge of your behavior in spite of your emotion. You may be quaking in your boots, but you take action anyway. .
Courageous people seem to develop that ability in three stages. In the first stage of becoming a courageous person, you access your courage in situations where there is a goal that is important to you. For example, when you gather your courage to ask your boss for a raise. The vision of the possible result is an important motivator for the nerve-wracking conversation. There is a goal that requires you to act in spite of your fear. This is courage.
The second stage of becoming more courageous is when you begin to overcome fear and take action because of your personal values. The acts of a courageous soldier defending his country would be in this stage. Another example might be the woman who stands up and speaks at a city council meeting about a noisy new business being proposed for her quiet neighborhood. This is courage, too.
The final stage of courage development occurs when the feeling of performing acts of courage becomes reason enough to do it again. When you take that risk and overcome fear, there is a feeling of euphoria and accomplishment that is very rewarding. The person that excels at courageous acts enjoys that great feeling on a regular basis.
This final stage of courage is illustrated when you intentionally accept challenges, whether large or small, because of the benefits to your personal growth. Courage is always present within all of us and this positive attitude towards using it leads to a large amount of personal growth. There is no way to challenge yourself on a regular basis and not make some impressive growth and change as a person. This was clear in my conversations with Sally; she knew she might not live, but she intended to make sure the time she had was meaningful.
Remember when you are looking for more courage, it is an inside job. You already have within you all the courage that you need. Perhaps what you need to do is to nourish it by attention to the many courageous acts you already take on a daily basis.
Look to the small things that you do every day in order to get where you want to be and that you don’t really want to do. Call that what it is… courage.
Notice the many times you act based on your belief system when not acting would be easier. Again… courage.
Find ways to do more of both these things and before you know it, you’ll think it is fun to stand up to your fears!
Where do you fall on the stages of courage development? Where would you like to be? Let us know your thoughts and ideas for developing your courage in the comments.