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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 July 3, 2020

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life. To control your thoughts means to influence the way you live your life.

Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affects your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality)

I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive, and just a general waste of energy.

You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Be someone who can control your thoughts—become the master of your mind.

When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

I currently have a few thoughts that are not of my choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in control of your thoughts.

If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create unhealthy and unproductive thoughts.

1. The Inner Critic

This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

  • Other people’s words—many times your parents
  • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples’ expectations
  • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media
  • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance, and lack of self-love.

Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is youwhy else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

2. The Worrier

This person lives in the future—in the world of “what ifs.”

The Worrier is motivated by fear, which is often irrational and has no basis. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

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3. The Reactor or Troublemaker

This is the one that triggers anger, frustration, and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

This person can be set off by words or feelings and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control. He is run by past programming that no longer serves you—if it ever did.

4. The Sleep Depriver

This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

  • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
  • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
  • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity, and generalized anxiety
  • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

How can you control these squatters?

How to Master Your Mind

You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You can control your thoughts, but you must pay attention to them so you can identify “who” is running the show—this will determine which technique you will want to use.

Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

There are two ways to control your thoughts:

  • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
  • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

This second option is what is known as peace of mind.

The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go-to” thoughts in applicable situations.

Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

1. For the Inner Critic

When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

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You can also have a dialogue with yourself to discredit the ‘voice’ that created the thought—if you know whose voice it is:

“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready.

This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

  • They rile up the Worrier.
  • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
  • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
  • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
  • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

2. For the Worrier

Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally, and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind, and creates anxiety in the body. This may make it more difficult for you to control your thoughts effectively.

You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tense

Use the above-stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time, you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense. Both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

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Now, take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like! Do it until you feel that you’re close to being in control of your thoughts.

Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

For example: If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place.

Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

3. For the Troublemaker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers. But until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain.

I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds—just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

Breathe in through your nose:

  • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
  • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
  • Focus on your belly rising.

Breathe out through your nose:

  • Feel your lungs emptying.
  • Focus on your belly falling.
  • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize. Now, you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior, and you’ll be more in control of your thoughts.

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One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

4. For the Sleep Depriver

(They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher, and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

  1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
  2. Then I came up with a replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and thoughts, and I choose quiet.

From the first time I tried this method, I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (closed, of course). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

You can also use this technique any time you want to:

  • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon
  • Shut down your thinking
  • Calm your feelings
  • Simply focus on the present moment

The Bottom Line

Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or destructive purposes.

You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable, and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. You can be in control of your thoughts. The choice is yours!

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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