What is courage?
Courage is the will and the willingness
to embrace and fully feel your fear
as you take actions and risks
in service to your highest commitments
and deepest desires.
(see undoing fear)
Courage is created; it is chosen.
And it is chosen in the moment.
It is always available to you.
It is always an open door,
you can always walk through that door or not.
Courage cannot be stored or built up.
It’s inaccurate to say that you “have courage”
or you “don’t have courage.”
It’s accurate to say that you “choose courage”
or “choose to feel safe in the moment
rather than choose courage.”
Many of us appear to choose courage when,
in fact, the courage we choose
is only “standing on one leg.”
Almost all of us are masters
at suppressing, denying, camouflaging,
contracting against, and/or pushing away
or trying to argue away our fear (see dufear).
We do this for the deadening, anesthetic effect
we expect it to have on our fear.
Full courage includes
full acknowledgment, experience,
and illumination of our fear
while we are taking the appropriate actions.
It also includes
an acknowledgment and honoring
of ourselves for choosing the courage —
regardless of the outcome.
Courage exists independent of outcome.
Choosing courage (or not choosing courage)
is neither good nor bad, neither right nor wrong.
It is simply a choice,
with associated benefits and costs.
A life primarily oriented
toward the choice of courage
will give you one kind of life —
a life you will love.
A life primarily oriented
toward the choice of feeling safe and secure
will give you another kind of life —
a life of survival and withdrawal.
It’s okay to want to feel safe and secure.
We all want that.
But, when feeling safe and secure
becomes your primary orientation
(usually by default),
then you are living a life of avoidance
rather than a life of inspiration.
What are the “Four Cornerstones of Courage”?
Courage, to be fully exercised and empowered includes four interwoven, yet distinct expressions.
The first expression of courage
The first step of choosing courage is to embrace and embody your fear.
Because resistance to fear is automatic for all of us, here's one of the best ways to embrace your fear. Consciously take several breaths deep into your belly, visualizing the fear flowing through you without resistance. Then, while continuing to breathe deeply, shout, speak, or whisper several times, as loudly as the situation allows, using a silly and wacky voice, “Holy cats and jeepers creepers, I am so scared that...!” If you know what you're frightened about, shout it out at the end of the sentence, as in "...he'll reject me!"
Most of us do it the hard way
Many of us exercise courage at times, yet in omitting this first expression of courage,
we have adopted the stiff-upper-lip approach to courage. Without embracing the fear, allowing and encouraging the energy to flow through us, we disempower ourselves by using our resources to fight our fear rather than tap into its power to vitalize our commitments and deepest desires.
Choosing to embrace your fear is the first cornerstone of courage. Go to undoing fear for fuller instructions and demonstrations.
The second expression of courage
This step is about honoring yourself. before and after each act of courage.
This is most easily done, right after you have embraced your fear, by getting in touch with your “five-year-old” within.
Consider the idea that it’s not your Adult (Parent) who is frightened. It’s your five-year-old Child who is frightened. Your Adult knows that, if there's anything to be frightened of, it's not choosing the courage.
After getting in touch with your Child, use a photo of yourself around that age, if helpful, say to him or her,
"I admire you for choosing the courage just now to go through the undoing fear process. That was great!
“I can see and feel that you're still feeling some fear.
"It’s okay to feel frightened. Keep breathing into that.
"Now that you've gotten the energy of the fear flowing through us, are you willing to take the action, or non-action, as it may be, that we've been considering?
"If you're willing to choose courage to take that action while continuing to allow the fear to flow through us, that would be great. I'll be very appreciative and admiring of you for doing that for us. Can you feel how much I admire you!?
"And, if you're not willing to take that action now, that's okay too. Your choice."
As your Parent, express all this to your Child. Continue doing this until you can feel that your Child feels fully admired and appreciated by your Parent, no matter what she or he chooses. Of course, when your Child totally gets this, you, the full you, both Parent and Child, get it.
Choosing to honor yourself for exercising courage is the second cornerstone of courage.
The third expression of courage
This is the expression we usually associate with courage. It is choosing to act, or not act, in service to your commitments and deepest desires while still feeling the fear as it flows through you by taking the action before you. Examples are making a request, saying "no," deciding to get a divorce, or taking a stand for yourself that you are a non-drinker.
Special note: most choices of courage mean taking an action that stimulates you to feel frightened when you consider taking it. Some choices of courage, however, mean that you refrain from taking an action you would normally take and not taking that action stimulates fear. For example, as a parent of a ten-year-old girl, you may often feel you need to tell her to do something a certain way and you recognize your tendency to "over control" out of wanting to avoid your own fear of whether she would do the "right thing" if you didn't keep speaking up. In this case, keeping your mouth shut, a non-action, will be choosing courage for you.
Choosing to act while embracing your fear is the third cornerstone of courage.
The fourth expression of courage
This step is similar to the second one.
Regardless of whether or not you got the desired result from taking the action that you took, get back in touch with your five-year-old Child. As your Adult, express admiration and appreciation to him or her for the courage he or she just chose. Keep expressing that appreciation until you can feel that he or she fully gets it, which means the full you gets it.
Remember that courage exists independent of the results. Focus first on the fact that you chose courage, secondly on whether or not you got the desired result.
Most of us let our “courage muscles” wither and weaken by not consistently honoring ourselves each time that we choose courage. As you take yourself through the four steps of choosing courage again and again, your courage muscles will get stronger and stronger. Over time, what seemed difficult or even impossible before, will start to feel like child's play.
Honoring your Child for the courage, whether for just the first step or also for the third step, is the final cornerstone of choosing courage.
Opportunities for choosing courage are every hour and every day...
We most often think of courage as being needed for big things, like deciding to change your career or getting a divorce. Yes, those are quite important choices of courage. But the "smaller" choices of courage, that can present themselves several times a day or even every hour, are where the foundation of courage is built and maintained.
As an example: speaking up in a partnership way with your housemate regarding a small thing that bothered you about what they just said. Another example: asking a friend to discuss with you, as a listener, a rather small choice that you've been avoiding making a decision about.
Step by step: experiencing fear as a "good guy"
If you will look for opportunities to choose courage each day, if you will practice courage daily, including all four of its cornerstones, then you will transform your relationship to fear, and to yourself!
Important by-products of choosing courage consistently
You will become your most important fan. You will feel amazed by who you are and have become.
You will feel more confident about many areas of your life, but most importantly about your life in general. See Confidence.
Now go have some fun with the Courage EQ test!
This test will assess your current courage EQ. It will show you how much more of an amazing life is available to you.
Set a recurring reminder in your calendar, once a week, two weeks, monthly, to review these instructions to support this most crucial foundation of your life. There is not one single technique for creating a great life that is more important than choosing courage consistently. Related to this, see Kickstarting a mental habit.