GUEST POST: Courage from Within

Our second article on Courage from Christina Sestan follows beautifully from her previous post on Fear. Read on!

Courage is the currency of growth and change. If you want to pursue a new goal or stimulate more personal development in your life, you can always use more courage in your bank.

We won’t journey far without courage. We need it to change, to stand up for what we believe in, to push through our fears and to go for our dreams. It takes courage to pursue the life we passionately want to be living. Why are so many of us standing on the riverbank gazing longingly across at the other side? Maybe it’s because we’re still trying to find the courage to jump in.

Remember the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz? He tearfully acknowledges his cowardice and shame to Dorothy and the others, “Wouldn’t you feel degraded to be seen in the company of a cowardly lion? My life has been simply unbearable.” Life would be fulfilled, he thinks, “If I only had the nerve!” He joins the group destined for Emerald City, hoping that the great and powerful Oz will give him what he’s looking for.

But rather than receiving courage, the lion learns that he has possessed courage all along—it was simply a matter of perception. “As for you my fine friend,” the wizard says to him, “you are a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate delusion that simply because you run away from danger, you have no courage. You’re confusing courage with wisdom.”

What the lion had spent his life searching for was his all along. Are we holding on to a limiting belief about our own lack of courage?

Ask a Courage Expert

Q: What is courage? What builds it and what prevents it?
A: Courage is the capacity to both experience fear and to carry on in the face of that fear (see Mark Twain quotation). Our fears often seem unceasing and insurmountable; courage is essential if we don’t want to stay stuck.

The root of courage varies. It may be born from survival through extraordinary circumstances – like war or disaster. Or it may emerge when there’s no burning building in sight. Some people describe their courageous responses as instinctive; they don’t stop to think. Other people believe their courage comes from a non-negotiable commitment to a value or belief – like freedom, equality or truth.

What is clear is that in order to draw on courage, we need to practice it. We need to face the challenges and adversity of our lives and place ourselves in situations where we have responsibility, some fear, and a need to extend ourselves.

Nothing will undermine courage more effectively than someone else bulldozing all hazards out of our path. Parents take note. Adversity and mistakes are essential for developing courage.

Ordinary Acts of Courage

We easily recognize courage when it takes form as heroic action: firefighters rush into a burning building, a lone protester blocks a column of tanks, a black woman refuses to move to the back of the bus.

Extraordinary acts of courage like these may be difficult to imagine in your own lives. But what about the everyday courage needed to live an authentic life? If burning buildings aren’t your thing, try some of these on for size:

  1. Take a stand against the dominant thinking of your friends and family when your heart-felt beliefs differ from theirs.
  2. Dare to forgive even when everyone around you believes you were wronged and are justified in your anger.
  3. Take a moment of “quiet time” to ground and reflect on what is important even when your phone is ringing off the hook and everyone needs something from you RIGHT NOW!
  4. Risk becoming a target of criticism by speaking up against racist or sexist jokes around the water cooler.

“When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Courage is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it.” Mark Twain

Article courtesy of the awesome Christina Sestan. (c) Citrus Coaching Solutions 2010. Please do not duplicate this article without the author’s permission.

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