A few weeks ago we saw the latest Thor movie. The heroics and courage involved in Thor saving his planet were both entertaining and enjoyable to watch. Surrounded by superheroes and comic thrillers, the latest movie trends have made the heroics of saving the world and fighting bad guys become synonymous with courage.
Courage is defined as the “quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.” (Dictionary.com) I find it interesting the dictionary includes “without fear” as part of the definition of courage. To me, courage is more of a mindset enabling us to act or face difficulty in spite of the fear we may feel.
Dani Shapiro agreed when she said:
Courage and fearlessness are not the same thing. Courage is all about feeling the fear and doing it anyway.” (Still Writing, p92.)
We all feel fear. It is part of how we are hardwired. Our brains are designed to protect us from danger. To change we have to reprogram our brain by doing hard and difficult things. When we allow our fear to paralyze us from embracing life we miss out on things, events, and relationships that can bring us joy.
Try These On For Size
Courage is not intuitive, and it’s certainly not comfortable. Not many of us wake up in the morning wondering “How can I make myself vulnerable today?” At least I don’t. So how do we learn to be more courageous if it doesn’t come naturally?
Courage is like — a habit, a virtue: you get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging.” — Mary Daly
Learning courage takes practice to become a habit, and practice does not mean perfection. It just means trying. Jumping in to see how it feels. There are so many different ways to try courage on for size. Each one may not be a perfect fit, but the key is to keep trying.
The 5 Second Rule
Mel Robbins has what she calls the 5 Second Rule, and no it is not for when you drop food on the floor. Her theory is it takes five seconds for your brain to kick in and keep you from doing something.
There is a split second when we are faced with a decision — a moment where we can either hesitate or jump right in. Decisions requiring a little more courage are ones where I hesitate a little longer. In that micro-moment, our brain starts down the path of self-doubt, fear, and other overwhelming feelings.
The idea is to start counting down…5, 4, 3, 2 and act before you get to 1. Mel Robbins compares it to a rocket blasting off. If we launch ourselves before our brain kicks in we are beating the self-defeating thoughts before they take root — interrupting our old habits for a new one.
We have a new year just around the corner and it is our natural inclination to start thinking about resolutions and goals. Consider setting one courageous goal for the new year.
Success is not final; failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts” -Winston Churchill
When you set goals, you have an intention about something you want to change. Just as our brain tries to protect us from danger, it also works to help us succeed. Goals program our brain to look for ways to accomplish what we want to change. Try using goals to refocus your brain on courage rather than fear.
Let Someone Else’s Courage Inspire You
Look around to find someone who you think is courageous. I’m not talking about comparing! Choose someone you admire, who acknowledges fear but does hard things anyway.
The greatest heroes in my life are my kids. They show me how to be courageous every day! T puts on his Batman socks and battles cancer with a smile. K fights uncertainty about balance in her life while pursuing a degree in nursing. M courageously served a mission despite her introverted nature because her faith was greater than her fear. And E stands firm in what she knows even when it makes her different.
With these types of examples, how can I not feel inspired? I think “If they can do it — so can I.” And so can YOU!
The Rewards of Courage
Good things come to those who persevere, especially those who practice courage. As one last motivator, think of the rewards of courage.
1. Mental Stamina. Training our brain to be more courageous increases our confidence and strengthens our ability to endure difficult situations.
2. Stronger Self-Esteem. Our feelings of self-worth increase when we prove we can do hard things.
3. Inspire Others. Acts of courage motivate and helps others to see what is possible.
Life is hard and often unfair. This sometimes harsh reality leaves us with a choice. We can complain and whine and act like a wimp, or we can accept the challenge to courageously make the most of it.
We don’t have to allow our everyday battles to defeat us. Digging deep, finding strength, and standing up to our trials can be one of the most rewarding joys in life. Life takes courage every day.