On Being Courageous

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My daughter performed in her middle school production of The Wiz last week as part of the Yellow Brick Road, and I was inspired to write about the virtues of courage, heart, brains and home. They each deserve their own blog post, so let’s start with the Cowardly Lion. The King of the Forest was seeking courage.  
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Dictionary.com defines courage as the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.
(I’m going to argue with that one. Face change without fear? Not for most of us.)

We have different levels of tolerance for risk, based in our brain chemistry and life experiences and even how risk-averse or (risk-embracing) our parents were.

While there are some people who have the brain chemistry that says it’s awesome to jump out of a plane, most of the women I know like our comfort zones. Until Spirit whispers to us that our comfort zone has become more like a prison of our own making.


There are days when…
I realize that with my clients, I’m often coaching on Courage. To “en-courage.”

“I don’t know what to do,” they say.
So many times, they do. They’re just afraid to do it.
Afraid to hurt someone, make someone angry, fearful of judgment or rejection, or some other negative consequence.


What does courage look like?
The VIA signature strengths survey has courage as an entire category. It’s described as emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, external or internal. Subcategories include bravery, perseverance, honesty, and zest for life.
(Click here for more on the 24 Character Strengths – I love these!)

Courage is the most important of all virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.
                             — Maya Angelou

I’ve written before about Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Brown says, “We simply can’t learn to be more vulnerable and courageous on our own. Sometimes our first and greatest dare is asking for support.”

I could write pages & pages about coping with our fears.

3 Tips for Cultivating Courage

  1. Remember (or write, or ask a friend to suggest) a time that you felt afraid, but took action anyway and it had a positive outcome. What inner or outer resources did you use that helped you to manage your fear? (Examples might include centering or mediation, talking it through with someone you trusted, or just deciding you had nothing to lose.)
  2. A basic risk-benefit analysis (pros & cons) in your decision making can be useful. What are you REALLY afraid might happen? Let yourself go there & be honest. Then plan for how you will handle both worst- and best-case scenarios.
  3. Do you have a Courage Role Model?  Who do you know or admire (live or fictional) from whom you can gain inspiration and guidance?  It doesn’t hurt to ask for help when facing challenges; sometimes two heads really are better than one.


Jack Welch, the former CEO of G.E. has said, “I’ve learned that mistakes can often be as good a teacher as success.” Even if the outcome isn’t what you’d hoped, you learn from it and move on.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about Courage in the comments below.  
courage-to-grow-up.ee-cummings

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