What is Courage?

Courage is for superheroes.

We hear the term “courage,” but what does it mean? Does it merely describe someone who is overzealous and likes to take major risks? Definitions imply that courageous souls face fears and overcome adversity while possessing specific traits like having a lot of nerve or brimming with excessive confidence. What are courageous individuals like on a day-to-day basis?

“And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” — Steve Jobs

“And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” — Steve Jobs

“I’m not weak, just over my head.”

Halle grew up with over-protective parents. As an adult she panics when making choices, regardless of type. The overwhelm creeps in at odd times. When she starts her day, Halle tries to tame fears about the decisions which await her. She avoids spending time with co-workers fearing they may ask her to do "the impossible." At night, she is restless and repeatedly convinces herself every choice leads to crushing consequences. She brands herself a loser.

Halle notices how her friends effortlessly check off lists. She feels pangs of jealousy toward their stress-free lifestyles. What skills do they have and I don’t, she says to herself. How will I ever meet someone and have a family if I can’t decide which route is best to drive to the store?

With no scheduled time to recover from another anguishing day, Halle forgets to eat and heads to the shelf to drink a bottle of wine. It’s the only way to turn off the mental noise and sleep in peace. After several weeks of this pattern, Halle is concerned and wants help.

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”
-Anais Nin

An inside look at courage

Inside us all lives a spark called courage. When the light is on, we face life with strength and a willingness to manage incoming experiences without judgment. When the light is off, life becomes daunting and dull. Each day we practice the idea of expanding or shrinking to what lies in front of us. Sometimes we need to hit the pause button and tackle just one thing. The struggle lies in how long we pause. It’s just a matter of time before the ego tells us to hurry up or we will miss out on something good.

An outside view of courage

Courage wears a radar called opportunity when it interacts with the outer world. The inner self has enough spark to light up more of ourselves. We end our cycle of torment and seize enough energy to take us somewhere else. With adequate courage, we can seek answers and experience natural relief.

It is difficult living or working without courage. If dominated by self-criticism and doubt we are miserable. Halle's experience teaches us the following: Courage brings out our best and inspires others to take their own leap of faith. We reclaim self-respect, freedom and inner peace. We restore our breath and no longer choke under the weight of indecision.

Light at the end of the tunnel

Halle asks herself, “What can I do to feel better? How can I stop drinking and find my inner voice?” With the support of a coach, she starts incorporating techniques to structure a fresh approach to decision-making. A key practice is courage-building.

Want to know Halle’s favorite teaching?

From Closed to Courageous

Halle sees how the cycle of anxiety (crazy) gets in the way of her courage. She longs to feel the sense of contentment demonstrated by others. In a journal, Halle breaks down a work scenario that has been driving her crazy.

Halle’s supervisor, Larry, regularly drops work off on her desk at the end of the day. Instead of experiencing satisfaction at the completion of her day's work, dread sets in about returning to work and finding a new stack of awaiting tasks. She feels angry and frustrated. Why does Larry do this? Halle takes this “dumping” personally, and believes Larry is setting her up. Halle takes pride in her work, yet now struggles with an endless, revolving workload which challenges her performing her personal best.

Using her imagination, Halle distances herself from Larry. This helps her to see that the risk of speaking up is better than suffering. She imagines herself as her favorite superhero, Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman embodies determination, inner power and bravery. Once she assumes the Wonder Woman image, Halle is ready to take on her challenge.

The self-talk unfolds:

“Larry you no longer have power over me. I am free to speak my mind.”

“Larry, you may think the extra work is a way of expressing how valuable I am, but it's overwhelming."

“Larry can we meet and revisit my job responsibilities? “

Along with self-talk Halle incorporates these nonverbal gestures to convey strength:

  • Sitting upright, not rigid or slumping

  • Making eye contact, not looking down or away

  • Mirroring some of Larry’s movements to display connection

During coaching sessions Halle rehearses these sentences out loud along with nonverbal gestures. She finds it useful to brainstorm possible responses from her boss. She uses a Wonder Woman tone of voice. When she has gathered enough courage, Halle schedules an appointment with Larry. No longer consumed by nervousness, Halle has built courage and will stand tall.

It’s my turn to be courageous.

Human beings can build and exercise courage. We can change how we think, feel, and behave. With hope and self-love, there awaits great potential to improve and attain freedom. And the best way to increase courage is to work smarter—not harder—by giving up the unhealthy habits holding back the mind, body and spirit.

What wants to emerge in your life right now?