Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The things that give you courage

courage by knezeves
courage, a photo by knezeves on Flickr.

“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

When have you exhibited courage?  When have you looked fear in the face and then took action anyway?  These incidents don't have to be as dramatic as sitting on the edge of a precipice.  The threats you faced might not even have been physical ones.

There are reasons why you did it anyway despite your fears, and if you look your reasons carefully you'll reveal your values.  Perhaps it's love that drives you, or patriotism, or altruism, or the desire for achievement.  When these values are engaged you press forward in the face of fear.  That's courage.

You might have gone through exercises where you write down your priorities and your values.  But if you're like a lot of people, the things that go down on paper, especially when you're in a group setting, can be the things that sound good - the things that you think you should say.  Shoulds don't inspire courage.  Courage comes from "want to".  And in the most threatening situations, courage to move forward despite the obstacles is driven by "HAVE to".  In this context "have to" means that the drive comes from inside you, not from an outside individual or institution telling you so.  It's an internal imperative.

How do you find more courage, more often?  Reflection helps you to find the sources of your courage.  Consideration of those things that you have already done despite the odds against you helps you to find the origins of your courage.

Once you know the things, the drivers, that help you act despite your fear, you can summon your courage by connecting the challenges in front of you to those things.  Your drivers - your values and priorities - can become the common denominators that enable you to be courageous time after time.

Once you prevail as a result of your willingness to act in spite of your fear, the internal rewards of having prevailed will drive you to act courageously again.  And again.  Until courage becomes one of your defining traits.

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