Courage and muscle have a lot in common. The more we use them the stronger they get. Yet, if we neglect them they wither away and become frail, weak, and when called upon for quick action they often have a hard time firing up.

This post is all about the relationship between anguish and courage. The path that leads to a life lived on our own terms often features pebbles, boulders, and an occassional “this road is closed” sign.  It takes courage to walk across those pebbles, move that bolder, or have the patience to wait out that “road is closed” sign or to find another way around it.

Courage is life’s blood that fuels us

There’s an epidemic going on right now and it’s a lack of courage. It stems from the inability to hold ourselves accountable for our actions. To avoid accepting responsibility for our decisions, playing the victim, and not honoring who we are and what we believe in.

When was the last time you were courageous? When was the last time you felt butterflies in your stomach or your insides moving up into your throat? When was that last time you felt you scared, so nervous, or so unsure about a decisions you were making that you were certain the perspiration from your forehead might drown you or the pace of your heart would rival Usain Bolt’s 100 meter sprint pace?

It might not always seem like it but the decisions we make every day can influence whether or not we face anxiety, stress, danger, pain, or difficulties. Courage is the willingness to make those decisions every day and live face to face with their outcomes. It is the ability to move forward regardless of any anguish you may face. Everyone of us faces fears, doubts, depressions, and anxiety. But not every once of us has the courage to move beyond them. It is only those that do that are considered courageous.

Without courage all other virtues would be obsolete and fail to exist. Passion, humility, honorability, integrity, truth, confidence, strength, and compassion to name a few. It takes courage to display these on a day-to-day basis. It’s hard, it’s real hard.

Winston Churchill called courage the first human quality because it is the quality which guarantees all others. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to become the person you truly want to become. To be the person you really want to be you will most certainly face fears, hardships, doubters, and those trying to keep you down. We often get so wrapped up in all the ways that things can go wrong that we forget about all the ways that things can go right. It takes courage to shift your mindset. It takes courage to find your way and to be true to yourself and discover your virtues… A whole sh*t ton of it.

Exercise it often

Practice courage often. Constantly display it by trying new things, being unique, or tackling a fear. Big challenges produce big courage but small ones every so often maintain its strength. Make a list of what scares you.

Are you in a relationship but scared to commit (no, not me :) ), afraid to bungee jump, want to learn how to dance, try a Crossfit class, sell your car to start your own business? Make a list, a long list of everything thing that scares you and slowly tackle each one by one. Start small and build up. Just like exercising a muscle exercise your courage. The more often you do so the stronger it will get and the more confidence you will build to tackle bigger and bigger challenges.

Accept anguish

Lets get this out in the open right now. When you display courage you are taking a risk and acknowledging the fact that something could go wrong. Accept it and display the courage it takes to move on. Find temporary and specific causes for why things may have gone array. Remind yourself that any pain, discomfort, or stress is only temporary and related to this event only. Believe that you are more often than not the cause of good and positive outcomes and that the decisions you make and actions you take more often than not lead to results that represent your virtues.

Courage is not invincible

Displaying courage does not mean you are invincible. It is common to display courage and still have fears and self-doubt. If you’re married think about that decision. If you have kids, quit a job to start you own, or have ever given a presentation if front of a large crowd.

The decision to tackle those challenges does not mean you will not have doubts. You may make decisions and seriously doubt if they are the right ones. The decision itself is not where courage lies but instead it is in the ability to face those self-doubts and to decide what you will do once faced with them.

How committed are you to displaying courage

Rollo May in his book “The Courage to Create” shares a wonderful analogy.

The acorn becomes an oak by means of automatic growth; no commitment is necessary. The kitten similarly becomes a cat on the basis of instinct. Nature and being are identical in creatures like them. But a man or woman becomes fully human only by his or her choices and his or her commitment to them. People attain worth and dignity by the multitude of decisions they make from day by day. These decisions require courage.

How committed are you to living an optimal life? Often when we think about the commitment it may take to get their we get scared. Unlike the acorn or the kitten we are guaranteed anything in life so every decision we make is faced with the possibility that it may not work out as expected. Do you have the courage to face those possibilities head on with the reward being your optimal life?

Each one of us is here for a purpose. We all have unique gifts to share with this world, to ourselves, and to others. Do you have the courage to discover those gifts and share them?

Look for the flashing neon sign

The decision to be courageous can be made very easy for you and much of the risks associated with it can be dissolved. Life has a funny way of hinting at us what we should be doing. If you’re tired all the time it’s telling you to rest. If you are overweight it’s telling you to start exercising and eat better, if you are unhappy it’s telling you you’re doing things not aligned with your virtues, and if you’re happy, healthy, and full of life it’s telling you to keep doing what you’re doing fool and don’t let anything get in your way.

Keep your eyes open. When are you at your happiest, healthiest, and most energized? You may find multiple outlets but that’s life’s way of telling you what you need to be doing more of.

It takes courage to be you – Look around, the world has a mold for us. There is a laundry list of things “we are supposed to do” by a certain time and in a certain way. There’s an assembly line we are all on with the same mold coming down quickly on each of us. It takes courage to get up, leave some behind, and make your own mold.

So if you are a dancer – dance.
If you are a painter – paint.
And if you are a writer – write.

It doesn’t make much sense to be anything else but you and it doesn’t take much courage either.

Featured photo credit: o ponto de vista de Felix Baumgartner pouco antes do salto que  via Flickr

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