The Essence of Courage and 6 Ways to Build It

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Have you ever witnessed someone do something and you thought to yourself, “man, I wish I had the courage to do that”?

The thing is you do have the courage to do that and a lot of other things.

For the past 10 years I have kept many journals, logs and notebooks of my goals, dreams and accomplishments of my life. I recently spent about 2 hours reading many of my entries. I came across one particular time in my life about 6 years ago that was particularly important to my growth and success. Going through those pages I found some lessons about courage that I will share in this post.


Before We Begin

I thought long and hard about how I should present this post. I thought about creating a list of things that may help you build courage but when I began writing it, I discovered list like those wouldn’t really work in this situation because courage goes deeper than that.

My goal in this article is give you lasting, practical steps to how to build sustainable courage in just about any situation.

Because this post goes a bit deeper than your average blog post, I highly recommend you bookmark, like and save this post for future reference.


What Type of Courage Do You Want To Build

While researching for this article I was amazed to find that there is not a lot of material on how to build different types of courage. Most post and articles that I found talked more about eliminating fear. Although eliminating fear is a great goal to have, it is significantly harder than building courage. Here are the most common types of courage.


Creative courage-Do you want to create new product, style of music, or work of art? If so, this is the type of courage you are looking to build. Innovators and inventors have learned how to create this type of courage. If you desire to build the next Apple or if you just have an idea for a new type of toothbrush, this is the type of courage to build.

Moral Courage-If you have strong convictions about what is right and wrong but feel as though the world or your peers are pulling you in the other direction, then moral courage is what you are looking to build. Moral courage is having the ability to act rightly in the face of popular opposition.

Physical Courage-This type of courage is being able to act in the face of possible physical harm or death. Fighter fights, soldiers, and stuntmen are just a few examples of having physical courage. Having physical courage can also apply to getting up and doing any physical activity that you fear such as skydiving.

Social Courage-Sometimes called “civil courage”, this type of courage is when a civilian acts against something that is deemed unjust or evil. Political activist are usually full of social courage.



6 Ways to Building Courage



Build Belief, Conviction, and Experience

Your amount courage will largely depend on three primary things. Your belief in yourself, convictions about what is really important in life, and your experiences.

Think about the area in which you want to build courage. Then think about the amount of belief you have in yourself to act courageously in that situation. The belief in your ability or the belief that a certain outcome is destined to happen has help many people face fear, failure, and danger in the face and has help them to keep going.

Your convictions are what you strongly believe about the world, life, and people. If you have a strong conviction of about the way life is and how it should be lived, you will be more likely to be courageous in the face of peer pressure. You will be more likely to stand up and fight for what you think is right. Some of the most courageous revolutionary figures in history were courageous because their strong convictions about what was right and what was wrong.

The more experiences you have in a situation the easier it will be act courageously in that situation. It is easier for Tom Brady to come through in the pressure situation a tight fourth quarter playoff game because he has been there several times before. Experiences create habits, instincts, and the ability to react with courage. Gain as much experience as you can and you will see your courage increase.

Building a healthy dose of these three things will create a braver, bolder, more courageous person.



Flex the Courage Muscle

As I mentioned in the beginning of the article, there was probably a time when you saw someone do something that you thought was extremely courageous and you may have thought to yourself that you would never be able to be so bold. Well, you may not know it, but there are probably things you do all the time that another person thinks that they do not have the courage to do.

Our amount of courage is heavily dependent upon our view of how courageous we are. That is why it is important to flex and stretch your courage muscles. By building and flexing those muscles, you are building a belief in your ability to become courageous and you will take that belief into other situations.


The “What If” Rule

As I mentioned in Develop Mental Toughness, courage doesn’t mean that fear isn’t present, it means having the ability to confront it.

There may be some situations when you will have time to think about whether or not to take action or what types of actions to take. In these situations, using the” what if” rule may be a good way to shrink the amount of influence fear has on you.

Using the “what if” rule means asking yourself what would happened if you confronted the fear and took the actions that you want to take. The secret to making the “what if” rule powerful is speculating good and bad results. If fear is present in our decisions, our minds tend to default of thinking the worst could happen.

Once you’ve got the worst things that could happen, think of ways to bounce back from those worst things. What you will discover is that the worst things that can happen, can usually be overcome. You will mostly likely realize that the worst thing that could happen are also not very likely to happen.



Use Fear As A Trigger

When trying to cultivate courage, most people begin to retreat when the feel fear. In reality, experiencing fear during certain situations is like feeling pain in your jaw when you try to eat an apple; your body is trying to tell you something; its time to see a dentist. In the case of fear, it means your mind has recognized that there is a dangerous situation. Or more accurate, a perceived dangerous situation.

Every time you feel fear, it is an opportunity to build courage. Instead of ignoring it and promising yourself you will deal with it later, examine why you are feeling the fear and what it is preventing you from doing. From there, you can move towards overcoming that fear.

If you want to leave your job and start your own business but every time you try to muster up the courage to write your letter of resignation, you can’t get past the “Dear…” introduction. This could mean many things. Perhaps you are afraid of failing or maybe you know deep down you really aren’t ready to go out on your own.

Discover the reason you feel the fear and use that as an indication that you have to take an action forward and not an action of retreat. Soon, you will make a habit of forward, courageous actions when you feel fear. That’s when the courageous feelings begin. Follow that feeling.


Discover the Other You

What if there was a better, more courage version of yourself? What would he or she look like, smell like and do? What kind of things would they do and how would they react to the situation that you in that you fear.

One of my very first jobs was working in the shoe department of a retail store. At first I enjoyed my jobs and the people I worked with. But after a year of working retail, I knew there was more for me out there, more that I was supposed to be doing with my life.

I was young and really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. One night I had a dream that I was working at my job. There I was picking up shoes and re-racking them when a man walked in the store.

He was well dressed and walked with confidence down the center isle of the store. His eyes were fixed on me and paid no attention to anyone else in the store as he came directly to where I was putting woman’s shoes into a cart.

When I looked at the man I realized that he was me but different, better. He was a little older than me but he beamed with confidence. He asked what I was still doing here. He said there are so many other things that I have to do. He said the that I had to quit this job and begin the life I was meant to live.

Whenever I feel like fear is taking over my life and sense that I may be losing sight of who I want to be I think of the future me. The person I want to be. I think about the situation that I am in, then I think about what the future me would react. It helps me make the right decisions because I am making those decisions based on the person I want to become.

Feel the Sting and Keep Going

The sting of failure, disappointment, and rejection are enough to scare most people. These things are sometimes the reason people do not have a hard time being courageous in certain situations. But no matter how much these things hurt, you must remember that they happen to just about everyone. And all of these things, if handled correctly, can be overcome. Once a rejection of failure happens, we all go through a healing process.

There was a time when I tried to tackle a bunch of goals that I was convinced would improve my life for the better. I went through disappointment after disappointment. Setback after setback. Failure after failure. Each one hurt and created thoughts of quitting.

What happened, instead was I began to become immune to some of the hurt that happened after a setback. I would feel the sting of hem but it became easier to move forward and push through until I began to not feel the little setbacks. I learned to swat them away like flies.

The sting you feel after a setback isn’t there to destroy you. It was designed to strengthen your resolve. The sooner you embrace that mindset, the sooner you can move forward courageously.

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