Stories of courage have shown up in every culture throughout history. For some reason, we usually associate courage with physical prowess. We love stories about how people risk their life to rescue a child in a burning building or pull a victim from a car wreck.
We tend to forget that we also need courage in other areas of our life. We need courage to stand up for our values and beliefs. It takes courage to start a new business, change careers, or commit to a relationship.
The opposite of courage is fear. We rely on fear to keep us physically safe so we can re-evaluate our surroundings, and be psychologically ready to respond to the unknown in our environment. Franklin D. Roosevelt said that courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.
In other words, courage means we don’t ignore our fear, but we move forward anyway. Our fear can be a signal that something significant is ahead of us, an opportunity to stand up for our values and beliefs.
While the absence of courage is fear, it doesn’t mean that courageous people don’t feel fear. The difference is that courageous people don’t let their fear paralyze them.
The challenge we face in today’s world is to differentiate between the fears that serve us well and those that hold us back.
Once you begin to avoid a fear, and feel relieved that you’ve avoided it, the behavior is reinforced so that in the future, you will continue to avoid the fear. It becomes a vicious cycle.
If you listen carefully, you will hear a tiny voice inside that says: you will die full of regrets for a life that might have been if you do not move beyond your fears. Courage is a habit, and the more you practice it, the stronger it gets.
Here are 3 easy ways be courageous enough to take smart risks:
1. Connect With Your Heart
At our deepest level, we were created to move forward with our heart. The word courage is derived from the Latin word “cor,” which means heart. At the core of courage is heart.
Your heart expresses the person you were truly meant to be. Only through courage can you be empowered to move into the unknown without fear because if your path has heart, you know deep down it is the right one for you.
It doesn’t take courage to follow the easy path. If your heart is not in it, you’ll quit when something doesn’t go your way. Until you gain clarity on your values, you’ll be tempted by any bright shiny object that sashays in front of you. Advertising preys on people who aren’t clear on their values and rely on slick ads to establish the important things in life for them.
You cannot follow a path with heart if you don’t know which direction you want to grow. If your biggest value is to be constantly entertained, just snort coke all day long and call it good.
This is where the rubber meets the road. Our values are reflected in the way we chose to live our life and treat other people. Words are easy because we can say whatever we want without meaning them. Words are cheap because we don’t have to back them up.
How To Make It Work For You: Values are very personal. Draw up a list of bad values and good ones. If you’re confused, follow these guidelines:
Bad values are those we cannot control, the ones that place us in situations where we look outside ourselves for the solution. For example: money, being the center of attention, good looks, always seeking pleasure and excitement, or not able to be alone.
Good values are the ones that you can control. For example: honesty, courage, charity, humility, and self-respect.
2. Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone
People who are courageous are open to failure because they pursue something greater than their pride. To be courageous, they must risk failure and rejection in order to follow their heart. It’s worth it, though, because in the pursuit of their values, they create a more meaningful life.
Brene Brown says that we measure our courage by the ways in which we allow ourselves to become vulnerable. When we’re vulnerable, we’ve also steppedout of our comfort zone.
The possibility of greatness opens up when we are are truly prepared to move through our fears—in other words, allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Too often, it is much easier to settle for highly functioning mediocrity in our life rather than to risk exposure to criticism and the possibility of failure.
Courageous people also know that if they stick with comfort zones, their dreams will wither and die. The only difference between a rut and a coffin are the dimensions.
We need to be brave if we want to live authentic lives and pursue the values that give us meaning. One of the dumbest things you can do in your career is stay, for years, where you’re comfortable. Not only will you get bored, you’re likely to forget that no job is secure.
The only thing that is secure is your belief in yourself and your ability to contribute to something that matters to you in life. If you maintain that mindset, you’ll find rewarding work no matter where you end up. But to land on your feet, you need to continually push yourself out of your comfort zone
How to make it work for you: Keep a petri dish of new experiences near you at all times. Pick one of them each day and experiment with it. If it scares you a little, that’s even better. You’re scared, yet you still act. Repeat. Do something scary once a week. Over time, you’ll be amazed at how what once scared you is now a commonplace experience.
3. Answer The Call To Adventure
Our Wyoming ranch house was surrounded by rugged mountains. After school I’d take off and explore my world. When I recall my childhood stories, I tell people how I rode over a rattle snake on my bicycle, got bucked off my horse and landed in a barbed wire fence, and watched a mountain lion attack an old horse on the east meadow.
Perhaps these things weren’t safe by today’s standards, but for me they held the pulse of life. My childhood was not boring! This was one of the greatest gifts God could have give me—an appreciation for adventure. I still hear the call to adventure through an inner voice that beckons me to take a risk and move beyond the ordinary.
The call to adventure is different for everyone, but the answer will require the courage to try new things, even if your first response is fear. Fear is not a bad thing. Instead, it’s a question of whether your fear is based on ignorance, a prior experience, or lack of confidence.
How To Make It Work For You: Examine the labels you’ve given yourself. The labels that others give you don’t matter as much as the ones you give yourself. It’s easy to build boundaries around ourselves and what we think we can accomplish. Test each self-limiting belief you have about your skills and talents.
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