Courage is something that everybody wants — an attribute of good character that makes us worthy of respect. From the Bible to fairy tales; ancient myths to Hollywood movies,our culture is rich with exemplary tales of bravery and self-sacrifice for the greater good.
From the cowardly lion in The Wizard of Oz who finds the courage to face the witch, to David battling Goliath in the Bible, to Star Wars and Harry Potter, children are raised on a diet of heroic and inspirational tales.
Yet courage is not just physical bravery. History books tell colorful tales of social activists, such as Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, who chose to speak out against injustice at great personal risk. Entrepreneurs such as Steve Jobs and Walt Disney, who took financial risks to follow their dreams and innovate are like modern-day knights, exemplifying the rewards and public accolades that courage can bring. There are different types of courage, ranging from physical strength and endurance to mental stamina and innovation.
Here is a list of 6 ways we can show courage.
- 1. Feeling Fear Yet Choosing to Act
- 2. Following Your Heart
- 3. Persevering in the Face of Adversity
- 4. Standing Up For What Is Right
- 5. Expanding Your Horizons; Letting Go of the Familiar
- 6. Facing Suffering With Dignity
For this exercise, you will need a notebook and pen, as well as a quiet, uninterrupted space in which you can reflect.
Beginning with the first definition of courage, “Feeling Afraid Yet Choosing to Act,” answer the following questions: Think of a situation as an adult when you felt afraid, yet chose to face your fear?
(a) What did you observe, think, and feel at the time? (e.g., “I saw the rollercoaster and felt butterflies in my stomach”).
(b) What did you or the people around you say, think, and do to help you face your fear? (e.g., “I told myself that if little kids could go on it, so could I”).
(c) At what point did your fear start to go down? How did you feel afterwards?
(d) Now think back on a situation in childhood in which you faced your fear. How was it the same or different than the first situation?
(e) Finally, think of a situation you are currently facing that creates fear or anxiety. What are you most afraid of? (e.g., being fired if I ask my boss for a raise).
(f) Now, is there a way to apply the same skills you used in the two earlier situations to be more courageous this situation. Remind yourself that you have these skills and have used them successfully in the past. What mental or environmental barriers stand in the way of using these skills? How can you cope with or get rid of these barriers?
Repeat this exercise over the course of a week, using each definition of courage above. On Day 7, come up with your own definition of courage that is most meaningful to you and repeat the whole exercise using this definition.
Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D. is a Clinical Psychologist in Mill Valley, California, and expert on Mindfulness, Positive Psychology, and Mind-Body issues , who has published more than 50 scholarly works. Previously a Professor in a Graduate Psychology Program, she is now a practicing psychologist, executive and life coach, speaker, and media consultant.