It takes very little courage to be frustrated, to complain and moan, to despair at the state of the world and our own situation. It takes very little courage to blame and even less courage to just accept the “way things are”.
It takes courage to dream, courage to believe our dreams could even possibly be made real and even more courage to take those steps to make those dreams happen.
Anything you want that isn’t already a part of your life is by definition outside of your current reality. Your reality – good, bad or indifferent is your comfort zone. This means that the thing you don’t yet have are outside of the place you feel comfortable and safe and in order to have it or experience it means you’ve got to step outside and risk being gobbled up by a sabre-tooth tiger or at least the emotional equivalent! This is scary and it takes courage to take that step.
“Courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible”
In today’s world, courage is one of the more neglected areas of positive psychology, crowded out by manifesting, visualisation and living in flow. We’ve become a society who wants it to all “be easy”, obsessed with “living in balance” and how to get as much as we can for the least input and preferable with no pain!
Admiring people around the world achieving great things, building businesses, creating wealth, contributing to positive change in the environment and nature, in the elimination of poverty, in women’s empowerment and human rights and a plethora of other successes – it is easy to say “Oh I wish I had their courage”, believing that courage is something some people are just born with.
THE GOOD NEWS – COURAGE IS A LEARNT SKILL!!
Recent research is giving us an understanding of what courage is and how we might be able to learn how to face our fear and make decisions with greater fortitude.
Neuroscientists recently determined just how courage works in the brain, finding that a region in our brains called the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sgACC) is the driving force behind courageous acts…concluding that each of us have it within ourselves to bring forth great courage if we can just learn how to use this area better.
So how can we train our minds to act more courageously in everyday life?
Research on courage has shown that it’s not just about facing fear, but also about coping with risk and uncertainty. What if the stock market crashes the day after I invest? If I speak my truth will everyone I care about disown me? If I take this leap will I lose everything I have? How can I be sure this will work?
The more courageous things I do the more comfortable I get at being courageous and the more I read about, and speak to amazing people doing amazingly courageous things around the world the more I realise we can all learn to be courageous with practice and effort.
Here are seven ways I’ve discovered to loosen the grip of fear and become more than you ever imagined.
Try them out and get ready to ROAR 🙂
1. HAVE A HUGE WHY
We humans find it much easier to do things for others than for ourselves. It’s much easier to pick up the phone and ask for support for a cause or charity we believe in than to ask for help for ourselves. If your child needs help you’d do almost anything to get it.
It’s much easier to take a stand and take action for something we feel passionate about – stopping the slaughter of the rhino’s, protecting the mountain gorillas, stopping child abuse, research and support for cancer cures, raising funds to educate a child, or paying off a parents mortgage – than it is to do the things we need to do for ourselves. I think it’s awesome that at the core humans are more driven by the greater good than their own needs and we can use this to muster courage.
When you have a big purpose or why outside of yourself you trigger the courage needed to take those brave steps.
When you realise that the only way you can achieve your big why and make an impact in the areas you are passionate about is by you taking actions that feel scary you will take those steps if your why is big enough. A big why keeps you focused on the things you’ll be able to do and achieve by doing the scary things and less on the scary thing itself.
2. BE VULNERABLE
The groundbreaking work of Brene Brown, author of the best-selling “Daring Greatly”, has found that the belief in our own unworthiness drives us to live fear-based lives. We are afraid of letting people see who we really are and potentially exposing ourselves, so we avoid the one thing that can make us more courageous: vulnerability. Brene explains that courage and vulnerability are closely aligned and the two qualities can greatly improve our lives.
Brene tells us to conquer our fear by “daring greatly”. Go out into the arena and expose ourselves to failure and criticism.
The first thing we have to do is figure out what’s keeping us out of the arena. What’s the fear? Where and why do we want to be braver? Then we have to figure out how we’re currently protecting ourselves from vulnerability. What is our armour? It is perfectionism? Intellectualizing? Cynicism? Numbing? Control?
That’s where I started. It’s not an easy walk into that arena, but it’s where we come alive.
3. ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR FEARS
It’s difficult to conquer your fears if you’re unable to be honest with yourself in the first place about what exactly those fears are.
Denial of fear does not support courageous action and it most definitely does not make the fear go away. Get out a big touch and shine a light on what is going on in your mind. What is it you are believing might happen if you do the thing that is triggering fear?
Run a worst case scenario and when I say worst case – be honest with yourself.
Ask yourself – “If this thing I’m about to do goes wrong, what is the worst thing that could happen? Could I die? Could I lose all my money and if I did what is the worst case scenario? If I did this would I be pelted with rotten tomatoes and if so what would really happen to me?”
When we actually look into the face of our fears they very often melt away and we realise that they are like the monsters under our childhood beds – not real at all.
Write your fears out or ask a good friend to just listen to you spew your fears out. Often just saying them out loud and getting them out of our heads make them dissolve.
Courage does not always roar, sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow”
– Mary Ann Radmacher
4. EXPOSE YOURSELF TO WHAT YOU FEAR
I was blown away and incredibly inspired by one of my clients, Claire, who chose to come on a wealth retreat deep into the heart of the African bush despite being afraid of animals, a pathological fear of insects and a phobia of birds. Basically – every creepy, crawly, flying, roaring thing we were going to encounter, she was terrified of.
One of the most effective ways to banish fear is to repeatedly force yourself to face what you’re afraid of. Research has found that repeated exposure lowers the psychological fear response until it is more manageable or in some cases gone.
This amazing women realised that fear was holding her back in many areas of her life and realised that when it comes to fear the only way past it is through. And through it she most certainly went.
Sitting in an open game watching vehicle, we were watching a group of 15 lions gorging themselves on a buffalo kill, snarling and snapping to get the best bits. On the other side of the vehicle vultures were gathering and we were already surrounded by over 70 vultures squabbling and flapping their huge wings to get what they could. It was pretty intense even for me, who completely revels in this type of experience.
Claire was an inspiration, she faced her fear, acknowledged it and breathed through it. She didn’t deny the fear or suppress it, she felt it and let herself experience it. Laughing afterwards she explained how she had leaned closer towards the lions to move away from the vultures and in that moment realised how wild that was – that she felt safer with 15 snarling lions than the birds. When it got too overwhelming she pulled her hoody up and she also chose to do the experience with a group of people she felt safe with and who she knew wouldn’t ridicule her fear nor pander to it either.
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage” – Anais Nin
Afraid of investing in the stock market? Go onto stock market investing sites and read investing books and articles to get familiar with the language and the territory, take a course and get around people who are comfortable with investing. Start investing with small amounts and practice to boost your courage and see it isn’t so scary after all.
5. FOCUS ON WHAT YOU WANT
Energy flows where focus goes and one of the most powerful (and often difficult) skills we can and must develop is to consciously focus on what we want to have and experience in our lives and world rather than all the things we don’t want.
Notice the difference between these phrases. “Don’t fall” vs “Keep on your feet”? “Don’t forget” vs “Remember”
Our language is exceptionally powerful and the more aware we become of the words we use – to ourselves and others – and where our language is directing our focus the more we can create the things we want rather than the things we don’t.
Consciously train your mind to focus on the outcome you want. Visualise the result you are after not all the things that could go wrong.
An act of courage is always an act of love” – Paulo Coelho
6. MANAGE STRESS
Stress and fear often come together. Feelings of stress are generally rooted in a fear of an imagined physical or emotional threat (not being able to meet a deadline, or fear of failure, fear of losing the things you value), and stress can contribute to negative feelings like depression and anxiety that in turn can contribute to fear-based thinking and contracting courage.
Exercise, sleep, spending time in nature, meditation and consciously doing things that fill you up have enormous power to lower stress levels, reduce feelings of anxiety and significantly increase your courage.
Filling yourself up physically and emotionally will help you act more courageously.
7. PRACTICE COURAGE
According to Aristotle, practicing courage could make all the difference in life. As the he wrote, “You will never do anything in this world without courage.”
To build a courageous character, the muscle of courage must be continually strengthened and like any other muscle we build it by using it.
Recent psychological research also suggests that courage is an ethical habit that we develop by repeatedly practicing acts of bravery, according to psychologist Ben Dean.
8. BE INSPIRED
Be inspired by other ordinary people doing extraordinary things by mastering the art of courage.
Recently I had the privilege of interviewing Roz Savage and connecting her to my Gourmet Wealth Chef Mastermind group. If you don’t know Roz, she is an MBE, ocean rower, environmental advocate, fellow Hay House author and speaker. She holds four Guinness World Records for ocean rowing, including first woman to row solo across three oceans: the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian.
Roz is a seriously inspiring and courageous woman and during the interview we discussed courage and how vital courage is for each of us to create and live the lives we know deep in our hearts we can be living. I loved this interview and I know you will get huge value from it too.