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How to be Courageous: A Complete Guide to Developing Courage

How to be Courageous: A Complete Guide to Developing Courage

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?

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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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Justin Miller

Healthy Lifestyle Architect, a Fitness and Nutrition Coach

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Last Updated on February 20, 2019

13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with Them and Enjoy the Ride

13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with Them and Enjoy the Ride

Fear. I spend my life talking about fear — fighting fears, fixing fears and understanding fears. And yet I doubt I get 10 calls a year from people saying “Mandie can you help me fix my fear?”

Why is this so critically important to you?

The realization for me is that fear is not the fundamental driving force in your life it’s what regardless of whether I’m talking to a doctor, a teacher, a CEO’s, a senior citizens or teenager – every single one of those conversations has a direct correlation with your world.

Fear can range from the overwhelming desire to look away or stop in your tracks to literally fleeing your country and the life you knew. In this article, I will share you with 13 tips to face your fears and enjoy the ride.

1. Know That Fear Is Real, but Can Be Overcome

Right now around the world people are facing fear — real fear. Fear that I pray my children and I will never experience. Does that lessen my fears or your fears in your relativity safe 21st century life?

When I look at the world we all live in, I find that fear like so many other emotions can mean so many different things to so many different people:

  • The child who has to be physically dragged to their first day of school.
  • The man facing the judge.
  • The woman with her hand poised over the buttons over her phone because she has to walk down a dark corridor late at night alone.
  • The man as the surgeon says “count backwards from 10 Mr Smith.”
  • The woman that’s told “We are sorry, we can’t help you.”
  • The man that faces the empty circle of a gun and prays for his very existence.

These and a million more (Portrayed in every kind of movie, book or song you could imagine) are what make us human. We face fear and somehow move forward or are stopped in our tracks.

Like the rabbit in the headlights of the car that veers off through the field away from the tyres of the car or stays still praying for salvation. Like someone will save them. Sound familiar?

Fear is huge. Fear is everywhere and yet fear can be overcome, controlled and can even be a power for good.

2. Accept Your Fear

Firstly if you aren’t facing the barrel of the gun, atrocities that make the news or impeding death, that’s a good start. However it doesn’t mean your fear is any less real.

We are quick to say “I can’t moan, my life is not as bad as X.” While in theory, that’s honorable your appreciation of Mr. or Mrs. X’s horrific life won’t change anything directly. So accept your fear is relative to you.

And here’s what can be done.

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3. Get Some Perspective

I found myself asking anyone that would answer “what is your worst fear”. The answer that intrigued me the most came from my daughter (15 years old and she usually has a copy of Fight the Fear – my book – in her school bag so she can help someone else be as positive and confident as her. No matter what life throws up.)

And her fear, surprised me — heights. I pointed out that we live in a sprawling bungalow (one storey) and the highest she goes is two storeys’ at school! She laughed but added, fear isn’t like that Mum. I know it’s not a real fear, but it’s like when you stand on a chair and feel unsafe.

That girl will go far. Because she truly gets fear.

We know something is scary and yet we still do it. Why? Because we have a perspective to the fear. When you lose perspective, it can feel too big, and too scary.

So look around you to get some perspective on your fear:

  • Are you really at risk?
  • Will this kill you?
  • Which leads us on to..
  • If the worse was to happen what would it be?

4. Hold a Hand

As a coach, it is my job to holds someone’s metaphorical hand and help them face a fear.

Like the child petrified of the thunder storm or the teen that can’t get back in a car again after failing their test, your job as a parent is to reassure, encourage, enable and motivate someone to face something that ideally they never would choose to again.

We know many of our fears aren’t real. However, it is only when someone guides us with love, respect, lack of judgement and safety are we able to get through fear. And trust me, you can get through your fears. I’ve seen it so many times.

Ask yourself:

  • If the worse were to happen, what would that be?
  • Could that really happen?
  • If the worse did happen, how would you recover?
  • If the worse were to happen, what would you need to do next?

By seeing fear as not the end destination but part of being human, you can see through it’s wily evil ways and move forward.

5. Know Whose Hand You Hold Either Physically or Emotionally

This helps with fears for the rest of your life.

Think of someone you can always rely on (and ideally you won’t just answer yourself because that adds a lot of pressure to your existence!) And you will find that you’ve already found a way to get through fear.

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The beauty of this is that it means that fear becomes part of life not something to be feared and shied away from.

It means you know you can turn to your friend, partner, colleague, parent, sibling and say “Right I need to deal with this, and I’m going to need you to help me.”

For one moment, think about it from the other person’s view point. When we get to help other people we feel valued, loved, respected and lots of other positive emotions and we get a good dose of positive chemicals setting off in our bodies too.

Your fear, and your determination to fight it, helped someone else too. Now that’s cool right?

6. Understand That There Are Some Things Fear Will Never Touch

I like to find role models in life — people who have faced heroism, history changing moments, war, atrocities, miracles, life saving inventions.

Not everyone was looking for greatness, however they all found it. And one of my favourite books to date is written about Alistair Urquhart, the forgotten highlander. If this doesn’t get turned into a film in the future, then no man’s story is likely to.

Alistair went through the most horrific experiences in the 2nd world war. If you think of one of the awful things that happened back then in our world, Alistair went through at least 3 of them! Asked afterwards how did you cope? He talked about how whatever they did to his body, no matter how they starved, tortured, threatened or mocked him, they couldn’t have his mind. In his mind he was free.

Of all the people’s voices I’ve heard in my head over the years, this is one of those statements that reminds me anything is possible if you have faith and hope.

Look for the things in life that fear can’t touch. They will create confidence and faith for the future, whatever you face. And they will give you a sense of why being you is awesome.

Of all the billions of people on this planet, no one will have an answer identical to yours!

7. Process Your Fears to Carry on with Life

Being brave is not about sticking your chest out and smiling regardless of what hell you endure. It is about finding a way to emotionally process your fears to be able to keep going.

I have a tool kit of things I can rely on – tools, strategies, techniques. They include people to hug or talk to, music. hobbies, walks on the beach and even my favourite food. It sounds mad but at the times where I have questioned “how will I get through this?” I’ve found immense joy in doing the most unlikely of thing that makes me smile.

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It may be a short lived moment of happiness. However, it reminded that nothing stays the same and I can find away.

One client told me that it was crazy when it felt like their world was falling around their ears to run a bath to the brim (you don’t waste water) get the best bath oils, light too many candles, lock the door and drink a glass of bubbly (champagne is only for special occasions.)

Did that moment fix the disaster that my clients life felt? No, however it gave them a moment of calm and the brain is far quicker to find solutions, resolve and motivation to keep going when you do that.

It may feel like madness to do something you love, however it can be a powerful way to help you find solutions to the fears you face in life.

8. Assume the Worse

If you read the statement from the client above. Notice how they assumed it was wrong to fill the bath up to the top? How bubbly is only for special occasions?

Think how naughty they felt to be doing something that was not allowed?

  • Think about what age it may have made them feel?
  • Think about how they feel about champagne?
  • What special moments it’s been a part of in their lives?

And you can see how the assumptions they made about their “right” to have these things was not healthy.

When I drag the assumptions out of people’s words for them to see, they are often struck by how negative the words make them feel.

Don’t assume your words aren’t impacting on you. You can go through fear and actually enjoy the ride when you take the time to understand how you are letting words get to you.

9. Take a Fear That Feels Insurmountable Right Now.

If you were to repeat it to me out loud, what would you say?

Would you have blame on yourself in there? Would you assume others can do it and it’s just you? Would you feel small, unsuccessful, useless, unworthy?

Usually, when you do this exercise, you are able to spot the untruths that run wild in your head convincing you that you are doomed. And rarely when we are faced with our assumptions is there is a lot of evidence to them.

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10. You Are Not Defined by Your Fear

One fear does not define your life – be mindful of that. It is likely to lead you to thinking of all the times you’ve succeeded and bring a moment of calm, confidence and faith back to you.

11. Go with Fear

When you learn to go with fear, you could find yourself actually having fun, no seriously – having fun.

I have a few amazing clients I’m working with right now who would describe themselves as life long worriers, or pessimists. In the past that has served them well, enabling them to keep safe, steer clear of risks and even develop strategies in the event of disasters. However, now they find it’s becoming hard to break the cycle and they really want to because it’s holding them back.

Notice how they’ve found their hidden fears and want to face them?

One client said “I knew this was going to be tough, and I knew I couldn’t fight it alone and I knew you would be the one to help me.” Before I sat an incredibly successful, confident, capable business owner with a family and a social life to die for.

However, I’ve learned that the most successful looking lives can hide things that impact on life, success, love, happiness and business.

We didn’t start with the fear that they felt was holding them back, we broke the fear down, and found lots of little obstacles that had been deemed as “life” and “unchangeable” and “that’s just the way it is” by developing awareness to the little steps on the road to their obstacles to happiness and success they were able to tackle them in a different way.

12. Discover Great Skills in Your Scary Moments

And in that clients words “I came here to work with you to grow my company, and my own personal skills. I didn’t expect to get the children to be cleaning up after themselves and my partner being more attentive! It all feels a little magic.”

The moral is that out of the scariest of moments, we can find great skills we didn’t know we had. Find better, healthier, happier ways to live and find ways to enjoy life more. (And have a bit of magic!)

What a great place to be in ready for the next fear that thinks it’s going to get in the way of you, right?

13. Own Your Fear

Think back over these tips and come up with at least one example for each one. Write them down. Put them on your phone. Turn them into a piece of art. Turn them into a poem. Frame them. Go for a fast walk across the fields, beach, down town and repeat these things in your head to the sound of your feet on the ground.

We rarely take the time to appreciate how far we have come, how much we can achieve or what we are capable of – by really owning the tips in this article you will have given your brain a big fat dose of “Damn right I can do this!” and the motivation and accountability to say “Let’s find a way” through any fear.

You can’t help but feel good when you see that can you? And fear doesn’t stand a chance, does it?

More Resources About Fighting Fear

Featured photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com

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