Simply making it through the day feels like enough of a challenge these days. To have courage seems like something you need extra energy for, or a quality to admire in others…but not something that is convenient for you today.
Yet we need courage in these times. Why? Courage is ‘the quality of mind that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, without fear’.
Courage is the spirit that enables us to rise above and shift the course of events so we create a new possibility. Everything good you have in your life today started with an act of courage – the courage to open up to a loving relationship, the courage to birth a child, the courage to start a business. It’s the first step to a new future.
If you want to get unstuck and feel less frustrated and burdened with where you are now, here are 5 forms of courage to uplevel your life:
1. The courage to pursue a big dream
Every business that you interact with each day –your morning coffee, the local vegetable farmer, your phone device– they all started as only a picture in a courageous person’s mind. What’s a childhood dream that you’ve always wanted for your life? Have the courage to pursue your big dream!
Even while you are still in your current situation, visit a picture of your dream in your mind every day. Feel it in your body as if it is already happening. Take inspired action. Courage comes from having faith and trust that it will happen – even if you don’t see the results yet.
Once you get started on your dream, share it with other people you can trust. They can remind you of your dream when you hit stumbling blocks, so you’ll keep the courage to make your dream a reality.
2. The courage to turn an Adversary into an Advocate
Do you have someone in your life, (a Manager or a spouse), who doesn’t support you? Have the courage to interact with that person in a new way so they become your biggest supporter.
For example, my coaching client Lauren felt stuck at mid-career. Her boss micro-managed her, keeping her from having interesting assignments or presenting in front of senior leaders. Frustrated, she started to doubt her abilities. Her boss wasn’t going to make this relationship better, Lauren had to grow her courage and be the one to make it better.
But she didn’t know what to say (though she knew not to blurt out ‘you’re micromanaging me stop it!’)
Lauren developed more courage when we discussed that her boss would want her to have more responsibility too – it would free up her boss and make her Manager feel she was doing a good job of developing her team.
When Lauren had the courage to ask for what she wanted, her boss acted on her request and started giving her chances to shine – and even promoted her 4 months later. (Always align your requests with how it will also help the other person, it will turn them into your biggest supporter!)
3. The courage to start to make the world around you a culture you want to live in
Every person deserves to feel a sense of fairness and belonging (whether in their company, the community, or their family). You might know situations where that’s not happening… and want the courage to be someone who helps change the culture.
To help you have the courage to speak up and ask for change, don’t “go into the conversation alone.” In your mind, take with you all the people who love and support you. Take with you all the people that will benefit from you taking confident action.
My client Ruth works at a University where the students are from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures, while the leadership is mostly older white men. She felt intimidated by them but grew her courage to ask for a meeting in which she would propose initiatives to give students and faculty more of a voice.
On the day of the meeting, she imagined bringing students she knows ‘in the room’ with her and advocates on their behalf. She also imagined bringing her daughter into the room, which gave her the courage to show up as a role model.
Sometimes we show more courage to uplift others than we will advocate for ourselves.
4. The courage to become a better version of yourself
We’re so busy worrying about what other people think about us that we use it to deflect the ultimate emotional courage: to face ourselves.
It takes courage to look truthfully at how you might have personally contributed to every situation that doesn’t feel comfortable. The good news is that your own self is the thing you can control the best of any of the hardships ‘out there’ today.
For example, recently I hired someone to help me with a project and I was very dissatisfied with the quality of the work I received. I was SO mad at the person and blamed them repeatedly in my mind. I wanted to end our ongoing work right there!
But then I asked myself what my part might have been in the interaction? I saw how I set expectations that were so high it would be unlikely anyone could live up to it. And my directions could have been more clear. And I could have gotten them the materials sooner if I hadn’t been so busy, etc.
I had the courage to face myself and connect the dots…maybe the disappointments I had faced on this project and others were in part because of what I brought to the situation.
The first time I had this realization, it was an ‘ouch’! But having the courage to really accept the idea that I play some part in my frustrations has helped me a lot more aware and thus prevent a lot of headaches!
When things are challenging in your life, you can also ask yourself a courageous question that will determine if you will come out of the situation better than you went into it.
My favorite question in these times is “How might this have happened FOR you not TO you?” When you have the courage to see this time as an opportunity for you to develop strengths, you will become a better version of yourself. You will be able to look back on that moment and thank yourself for the future life you set in motion because of your courageous question.
5. The courage to live with an open heart
The word courage comes from the French word “coeur” which means ‘heart’.
It requires courage to not have to be perfect every day, and instead tell yourself ‘It’s ok if you are not ok’ these days. Courage enables you to have more compassion for yourself.
And Compassion for others.
If you have to live or work in close connection with other people, you might get to know more about them than you ever have. You might see all their sides. It might be a constant negotiation around needs.
An open heart asks: How can we bring more love and more light into this situation? How can I assume positive intent? If I were approaching this situation with an open heart, what would I do?”
An open heart has access to wisdom: “They are not their best self today, I’m not going to take it personally.”
Courage enables you to go the extra mile to give social support and love others – these are the fastest ways to overcome your own feelings of depression.
Courage creates moments of grace that feel good for you and the other person. Courage lifts you up from feeling stuck. It helps you create a new future.
What is a small act of courage you can do today?