Many people tell me I’m courageous, because I’m an intrepid outdoor adventurer with a visual impairment. It’s true, courage is definitely one of my top character strengths, and it’s one of the reasons I’ve been able to accomplish so much in my life. But many people are courageous without recognising they have this strength.
Courage is a willingness to act in spite of fear, personal risk and an uncertain outcome. We mostly associate courage with physical acts of bravery, but courage can take many forms. People who are morally courageous take action to stand up for what’s right. Social courage is taking a personal risk in the context of a relationship or a group – public speaking or asking someone on a date is socially courageous for most people. You might show psychological courage (facing up to painful aspects of yourself), or even financial courage.
Courage is an important strength and it can be learnt. Being able to manage our fear, cope with uncertainty and take appropriate personal risks enables us to grow and learn and develop our talents and character strengths. Allowing our fear to hold us back may well keep us safely in our comfort zone, but is this where we really want to spend our lives? As Dr Russ Harris, author of The Happiness Trap, puts it, our comfort zone should be called our ‘missing out on life’ zone!
Courage at work is particularly important. We know that successful leaders show very high levels of courage. But for all of us who face increasing challenge and uncertainty at work, often combined with high levels of self-doubt, we can use our courage to tackle our fears, doubts and challenges, and maximise our potential.
So let’s tap into your courage. Think of a time when you’ve taken action despite fear, personal risk and an uncertain outcome? You may not have rescued your colleagues from a burning building, but have you spoken up when you have seen something unfair? Have you voiced your opinion even when it was unpopular or dissenting? Have you agreed to take on a project or a job when you felt deep down you weren’t up to it? Have you given someone some difficult feedback in order to preserve the relationship or help them move forward? All of these things take courage.
And remember, apart from a few obvious acts of bravery that everyone would find courageous, most courageous acts are very specific to you. So don’t compare yourself – an act of courage for me may be pretty straight forward for you, and vice versa.
So think back over the last week and write down the small things you’ve done that were personally courageous. Then think back over the last year and through your life, and write down the bigger, more memorable milestones where you showed courage. Once you start to recognise that courage exists within you, you gain strength and confidence to take courageous actions in the future.
Courage can be learnt, and people often seek coaching to help them overcome what most commonly holds them back – their fear. Fear of failing, fear of falling, and even fear of flying.
Coaching is a proven strategy which helps people identify what’s holding them back and develop personal strategies to overcome obstacles and move forward. So if fear is holding you back, or you want to develop your strength of courage, please contact me for a confidential discussion about how coaching can help you.