“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
Courage – it’s that mythical characteristic that we all want more of. It seems to come like a lightning bolt out of the heavens when and where it pleases. Courage is one of the reasons we love watching superhero movies, why we like to talk about the determination of guys like Thomas Edison, and why we idolize those that overcome adversity in order to grow. Having courage is one of the most common themes when we fantasize about the lives we wish we had.
What would it be like if you were courageous? Not the kind of courage where you sit in front of a roaring lion without backing down, but the kind where you aren’t afraid to do what is best for you? What if you had the courage to take that next big step in whatever your important plan was? What if you KNEW that nothing was going to stop you, no matter how scary it was? Isn’t that the feeling you want and deserve?
So what holds us back from that feeling? Lots of things, most of which have to do with some kind of fear. Some of the most common things holding us back are:
- Fear of the unknown. You just don’t know if you’ll be happy ‘on the other side’. You think you might, deep down something is telling you it’s time to find out, but you want to do some more research before deciding.
- Fear that we aren’t good enough / big enough to create what we want. Most of us have decided that we aren’t nearly as awesome as we actually are. We use self deprecating humor, we tell ourselves that “that’s all well and good for somebody else, but it’s just not for me,” and we continue to wish we would do something about it.
- Fear that the having won’t live up to the wanting. This is an interesting one that I see a lot. We get wrapped up in imagining how great the dream would be, and we do it so well that we believe (sometimes rightly so) that if we actually got what we wanted it wouldn’t live up to our expectations.
- Hanging onto to negative past experiences. Maybe you’ve failed before when it was really important to you, or maybe some experience made you believe that you’ll never get what you want. Maybe seemingly random emotions overwhelm you when you do something. It’s all just too much to bother trying to get what you want.
- Not knowing what to do next. It’s easy to say what we want to accomplish, but it is often harder to say how to do it, and what our next move should be. Lot of us have gotten ‘stuck‘ when it comes to actually making the plan and taking the first step.
- How easy it is to stay where we are. There is no getting around the fact that change is hard, and staying where we are is easy, even if our current life doesn’t make us feel fulfilled.
- Fear that we’ll let others down. It requires dedication to step into your courage, which means choosing to say no to some things. If you are the type that is always giving of yourself or putting others’ needs first, saying no can be a huge challenge.
What can you do to overcome those fears? What can help you triumph and make your dreams come true?
- Surround yourself with a team. This is one of the biggest tools for building courage. Recognize that you aren’t any less courageous if you do it with help. Get a coach to help plan for the future, hire a therapist to help deal with the past, join a mastermind group to get ideas and feedback, tell your close friends about what you want to do so they can support you. Studies show that how likely you are to achieve your goal is correlated to how much accountability you have to others for that goal: You have an idea or a goal: 10%, You consciously decide you will do it: 25%, You decide when you will do it: 40%, You plan how you will do it: 50%, You commit to someone you will do it: 65%,You have a specific accountability appointment with a person you’ve committed to: 95%. If you stop reading here and just take this step you will see a HUGE difference.
- Fear setting exercise. I find this one really useful when the fear of the unknown or the ‘not good enough’ thoughts are present. Basically you ask yourself questions around ‘how badly could it really go?’ which usually turns out to be not so bad. Great post on it is found here (with instructions at the bottom). Give it a whirl and let me know how it goes.
- Come up with a plan. Some people can lead their lives based on nothing more than their gut instincts and the knowledge that it will all work out. Most of us are not like that. Some of us (ME!) are the opposite, and absolutely need a plan to move forward. Write down all the big pieces that would need to happen to get what you want. Then break those big chunks into smaller action steps.
- Affirmations. I’ve not personally had a whole lot of luck with affirmations, but plenty of people I know have, so they make the list. The idea is that many of us get stuck in loops of negative self talk. We find the voice in our head telling us that it will never work, I’m not good enough, it hasn’t worked before why would it now, etc etc etc. Affirmations help to break that cycle by injecting a more positive voice into the situation. Here is a great resource for creating affirmations.
Whatever you do, decide that courage is not some mythical trait that is outside of your reach. Courage is not about getting rid of your fear (fear is actually healthy). Courage is about creating action towards your dreams in spite of fear. Roar at a lion if you dare, save the world if you can, and start creating the life you want right now!