“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela
A quality sorely lacking in the majority of the population.
As Nelson Mandela pointed out, Courage is not the absence of fear, it is an acknowledgement, an awareness it’s there, but a commitment to yourself that you WILL NOT let it hold you back. That despite your inner turmoil, you will persist.
Fear is a force, a challenge to your will, a test of your nerves and your character.
Fear can never truly be defeated, it will continue to rear it’s head time and time again to ensure you’re up to the challenge of life and worthy of your dreams and goals. You can never kill it.
But to control it, to know it’s there, to greet it with a smile and continue your course of action.
That is courage.
Yet it is sadly lacking amongst the majority of people. We no longer have to deal with the threats we once had, we live relatively safe and comfortable lives. It’s highly unlikely you will ever be involved in a war. You’re not going to be captured and sold into slavery and your daily existence isn’t dependent on you hunting your evening meal.
Courage today comes in different forms. Having the balls to end that unproductive draining relationship, quitting your mind numbing job and life of “comfort” to travel the world or suffering rejection after rejection to pursue your dreams.
Courage is admitting you have an addiction and taking the first steps to beat it, courage is rejecting that offer for drinks down the pub to better yourself, courage is standing up for what you believe in, even if you find yourself standing alone.
Courage is quiet and persistent, it is that voice inside your head spurring you on, constantly reaffirming your abilities and pushing past your comfort zone.
Courage is action, it’s very easy to be a spectator in life, to comment and criticise, to talk about what you would have done, or what you could do. But will you ever achieve greatness just talking about it? Will people remember you for the things you “could have” done?
Unfortunately, as much as it pains me to say courage is no longer a required principle for life.
Possibly THE most important principle for you to develop is one that our western society has almost killed and deemed insignificant. Because our lives are safe, food is abundant, our homes are comfortable and everything we need to survive is readily available courage is going the way of the dodo.
Because of this it is actually harder to draw up and develop courage than it used to be. When your life depended on you being brave it was a no brainer. You either stepped up or you didn’t survive. Nowadays you can live a life devoid of courage and still survive.
It is the route many choose and is a fast lane to mediocrity.
Those of weak will and lack of courage will take this fast lane, the conventional route, the life that will be handed to you by others, they will smile and nod ensure they please who they need to and they will get by. It’s easy and it’s “comfortable” but they will never truly feel satisfied. Inside they will know they’re not living to their potential. It is a sad life, one that will be filled with regret and disappointment. One with no highs and no lows. A happy medium which is anything but.
How to Develop Courage
“Courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible,” – Aristotle
Courage is a precursor to all your other actions in life. You can have all the discipline and willpower in the world. But if you don’t have the courage to take that first step, to put it all on the line and commit then these qualities will go to waste.
Like your muscles your courage grows you more you use it, becoming a strong arm that has your back when you need it. Without exercising your courage your reserves will be empty and leave you on your own when you most need it.
This isn’t simply hyperbole, scientists have discovered the part of your brain that is the main drive behind your courage and have stated that with continual practise and effort you can expand your courage.
Developing courage is key to living life on YOUR terms. Here are some effective methods to work your courage muscle.
1 – Know Your Enemy
There is no way you’re going to be able to conquer your fears if you don;t what they are. You can’t beat an enemy you can’t see.
Self awareness is power and knowing in advance of a project, task or activity where you might fall down and the fears holding you back will put you in a stronger position to push through and overcome.
Time to ask yourself some potentially difficult questions
Where are you failing in life?
What activity are you doing or not doing that is preventing you from moving forward?
If you had the life of your dreams how would you act differently?
Sit down and work out your weaknesses, your insecurities, whether it’s your fear of being around people, potential failure or even success and how others will react to you.
2 – Flex your courage muscle.
Once you have this list of fears we can them systematically work through each point finding events and activities that stimulate those fears. Start small, if your fear is public speaking don’t go and book a world tour. Start speaking out in work meetings or family events when an idea crosses your mind, slowly build this up to the point where you’re giving presentations or holding talks to educate others on something.
Whatever your fear we need to desensitise yourself to it, the fear will still be there but it won’t be overwhelming, you’ll have some experience and the confidence of being through similar situations to back you up and help you succeed.
3 – Be Vulnerable
In Daring Greatly by Bene Brown, a researcher and academic, she states that feeling unworthy has led us to live fear based lives and instead of confronting these fears we try to hide and mask them. We are afraid to let others see what we perceive to be our weaknesses so we cover them up.
Whether it be the insecure college boy at the bar who needs to get smashed before he can talk to the girl he likes, or the overly flamboyant girl who wants to be loved but doesn’t believe she is enough so puts on a persona, we all have fear that we are masking and whilst sometimes faking it til you make has it value and can definitely conquer certain fears and behaviours, at other times it’s a band aid, a temporary fix and we’re ignoring the deeper issue.
Knowing your fears and being willing to admit to yourself there is an issue is the first step in winning.