Christopher Columbus needed courage. So did Rosa Parks when she refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, leading to the end of segregation on public transportation. History is littered with courageous acts and courageous people.
You do not have to be a world-class explorer or activist to have courage. Everybody needs it, but how do you get it, especially when you are like the lion from the Wizard of Oz?
As the lion had to learn, courage exists inside of you. You just have to dredge it up after years of burying it behind your safety zones.
The Inborn Courage in You
Everyone was born with courage. You may not remember learning how to walk, but you know you fell hundreds of times before you stood on your own. Learning to walk took courage. And you succeeded because you had little fear or doubt.
Eventually, that changed. Parents and other caregivers told you to be careful, to avoid dangers. Society, after all, values comfort over fulfillment.
Your Capacity for Adversity
As you grew up, you patterned your response to adversity on how people around you responded to difficulty. As a baby, your capacity to face adversity is untested. It develops as you age and gain experience. It can also be strengthened.
Courage As a Necessity
Why do you need courage? Because courage will help you live your life the way you want by helping you overcome fear.
Linda Larsen, for example, knows firsthand the power of courage. Over 20 years ago, she was kidnapped, raped, and held hostage for over five hours. She summoned courage she did not know she had and escaped. "My courage didn't let me down," she says. "Once you know courage is always in you, you can start learning to act more courageously in life."
Obstacles to Becoming Braver
There are, though, things that stand between you and your courageous self, such as:
- Fear of change—Learning how to be less controlled by your fears is one key to becoming more courageous.
- Either-or thinking—You may think of yourself as a wimp and others as courageous, but there has to be a middle ground. You can live in a comfort zone, but you have to be willing to be courageous when it counts.
- Fear of failure—Failure is an important part of success, and being courageous involves being willing to fail at times.
- Lack of faith—Identify your self-doubt so that you can act more courageously.
- Personal fears—These are fears such as fear of taking responsibility for your life, fear of self-discovery, fear of losing control, fear of moving forward, and fear of making the wrong decision. Know that you are bigger than your fears. Follow your instincts, and if doubts emerge, shove them aside.
Finding Courage in Times of Need
You draw courage from what matters to you. For example, if you have been offered a job that will force you to move across the country but you do not care about the job, you will have a hard time finding courage to make the move.
When you have decided what matters, follow these suggestions for becoming more courageous.
- Recall previous times when you acted courageously. Did you move as a child and have to make new friends? Did you go away to college? Focus on times when you acted courageously to help build up your courage.
- Shift your focus. Do not worry about failing or disappointing other people. Worry instead about failing yourself.
- Eliminate the words wish, hope and maybe from your vocabulary. These words fill you with doubt, fear or hesitation.
- Do your homework. If appropriate, know the obstacles you might encounter. Talk with other people who were once in your shoes. But remember that no matter how much you analyze the situation, you will still have unknown answers.
- Surround yourself with courageous people. There will always be people who say never. Find people who support and believe in you.
- Imagine what life will be like when your challenge has passed.Courage can come from seeing past adversity and knowing that things will get better.
- Give it your all but do not expect perfection. Do not give only 50%; then you can say later that you did not succeed because you were not trying that hard. To find courage, you must be willing to give 100%.
- After you have acted with courage, assess your response. Did acting with courage move you forward? If not, figure out how you would behave differently next time. If it did, then bottle that courage, reward yourself, and always remember this time when you acted with courage in spite of your fears.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 09/2013 -
- Update Date: 09/29/2013 -