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  • Writer's pictureNed Shakir

Finding Courage

The word courage conjures up an image of heroism and leadership. Someone that saves lives, like fire fighters, paramedics and the police. Someone who has put themselves at the forefront of a cause to help others like Martin Luthor King, Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa. More recent examples could be young people like Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai stepping up to support big issues.

All of them are courageous.

It may be that you or someone you’re close to has experienced adversity through the misfortune of illness or an accident. We can all agree it takes certainly takes courage to overcome the toughest challenges of life and death.

When we talk about courageousness it can seem like a distant realm reserved only for heroes and leaders. However, that’s not the case. There are opportunities for us to be courageous every day, where you don’t need a global cause or life-threatening incident.

In fact, without realising it, you could be the sort of person that lives courageously every single day.

Let me explain…

Courage is described as the quality of mind or spirit enabling one to meet danger or opposition with fearlessness.

According to Atticus Finch in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird,

“courage is when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway, and you see it through, no matter what.

There is danger and opposition in our every day lives when we build a family, forge a career or build a business. Every day there are moments of vulnerability where we can choose to define and accept what hurts us and walk toward it or look the other way and ignore the pain.

Anyone who is or knows a single parent will understand what it is to be courageous.

In our relationships with people we love, there are opportunities to be courageous in the face of fear. Consider your partner, or best friend and imagine how it feels when you know you’re wrong. Perhaps you made a choice that didn’t work out, like double booking your date night with a work appointment (yes, I did). As that feeling of dread hits your stomach, knowing full well you made a mistake, just for a second your head spins and there’s a physical pain. It hurts. It’s confusing.

You could argue that your work is too important, and your partner should understand. You could even blame someone or something else for creating the situation. Whatever the case, you can’t change what’s happened.

Or, you could accept your mistake and admit that you feel unprofessional in the eyes of your client and foolish in front of your partner, but, despite the discomfort, you’ll change work plans rather than miss the date.

Lao Zu, the Chinese philosopher, and contemporary of Confucius said,

“being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

Courage is a confident response to fear.

It’s worth pointing out that there are limitations to a confident response, as Aristotle pointed out,

“Too little courage is cowardice. Too much is recklessness.” We all know someone who likes to trip themselves up through misadventure.

So then, with courageousness being so valuable, how can we mere mortals find our courageousness?

Surprisingly, it’s simple. When you have clarity on what is most important to you, taking the courageous path, even when that could be potentially damaging for you, is second nature.

To be courageous we need clarity on our values, those deeply entrenched feelings of what is intrinsically right and what is wrong.

To be truly courageous we must be clear about our intentions, our mission and our purpose in life. Even though what we propose to do creates a sense of fear for our own well-being, when it fits within your vision, mission and values, it’s incredible what we humans can achieve.

Consider frontline NHS staff or community leaders or perhaps closer to home, and not necessarily in adulthood, when siblings protect each other from a bully. Have you ever seen a little brother or sister try to stand up for an older sibling? That motivation comes from deep within our subconscious. Standing up for the rights of others, that takes courage.

There are young people who must show courage every single day, as my Mum did as a child. Knowing full well she would get hurt in the process, she stood in front of her father, and told him to stop hurting her brother.

Her values as a child (and still to this day) were based on kindness and justice. Despite the risk, it was more important for that little girl to support her brother and bring a halt to the injustice.

Courage is not reserved solely for heroes and leaders.

As adults we can choose to be courageous. We can all become aware of what is good and what is not. We can all become completely responsible for our actions. When we see an opportunity to change the lives of the people around us, we can choose to ignore it, or connect with our values, accept our vulnerability and do what must be done. Despite the fear.

The next time someone needs your help, give to them courageously.

But what if it’s you that is in need? To start a new project or speak to the new person. To overcome whichever challenge is creating pain for you. It’s so much easier to turn away and avoid the challenge, despite knowing the opportunity is right there in front of you.

Is it possible to be the benefactor of your own courageous spirit?

Countless times I’ve either procrastinated over a new idea or avoided it completely despite knowing that by acting, chances are, I’ll get the result I really need. The fear of failure was too much. The thought of ridicule too heavy to bear.

To choose to be courageous for your own cause is a tougher proposition. To face our own fears or demons, regardless of the pain…

So how do we find our courage? Consider this…. Trust is to be in a position of vulnerability but still feel safe.

A child presented with a moving monster (Micky Mouse at Disney Land) will jump into their parent’s arms before growing in confidence and facing the behemoth-like rodent!

As an adult, we don’t have those welcoming arms to jump in to. And most of us avoid turning to our spouse to cry “don’t like it” when a new opportunity presents itself.

The answer is to trust in ourselves. To have the self-belief that, what we are capable of is far more than we already achieved. Knowing that our intrinsic values are stronger than our limiting beliefs. When you know you can step into a place of vulnerability, and back yourself to succeed regardless of the fear, it will be your courage that wins the day.

Anyone who has ever been courageous, must first have been vulnerable.

If there is something you would love to do, or a challenge you need to overcome, that has the potential to change your life, or the life of someone you love. Accept your vulnerability and create the power of courageousness.

Vulnerability is not winning or losing, it’s having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome. – Brene Brown


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