It takes courage to break out of your own comfort zone, but your best life is on the other side of those comfortable walls you’ve built for yourself.
Courage is a topic we could talk about every single week. For now, though, I just want to share a few thoughts (including some I’ve borrowed from great thinkers) about how you can get more of it.
If you want more courage, the first thing to do is to identify exactly what’s holding you back. If you can name the fear, you can begin to deal with it.
In the words of the late Thich Nhat Hanh, “Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.”
Thich Nhat Hanh’s quote also gets at the 2nd step in becoming more courageous: reframe the fear. While he points out the value of focusing on the present, here are a few other thought exercises to help you reframe.
Think about what you want. The cost of your inaction is not getting that thing. Is it worth it, or is your fear costing you too much?
Do the worst case/best case/most likely case exercise.
- What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen if you took the action you’re avoiding? Once you’ve thought about it you may realize it’s not all that bad. Either way, though, now you can come up with some contingency plans in case it does go badly. Having a plan will help you feel a lot more in control.
- What’s the best thing that could possibly happen? Spend at least a little time thinking through what things will be like for you if you’re wildly successful. Visualize it and really try it on. This is like the pro golfer envisioning the ball dropping into the cup as they take the shot – it can be really powerful.
- You’ve imagined the best and worst case scenarios. What about the one that falls somewhere in between? Since that’s actually the most likely outcome, maybe it makes sense to have a plan for it.
Reflect on what failure means to you, and question your thoughts. A person who succeeds at everything on the first try would never learn why they are successful. Failures are powerful lessons we can use to great advantage as we go forward. And failure is only permanent if it keeps us from trying again.
The final step in growing your courage is to tame the fear. That requires action.
As Dale Carnegie said, “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
If you can break the big courageous thing into smaller steps, consider doing that. Every tiny action will build your courage a little more.
Or consider just taking the big leap. Like jumping out of an airplane, it might be huge but over with in the blink of an eye. I love this quote, from the movie We Bought a Zoo: “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”
Fear is an intrinsic part of the human condition. Rest assured, with every fear you conquer, a new one will show up. But courage is an intrinsic part of the human condition as well. Get used to following these steps. If you’re passionate about living your best life you’ll use them over and over again.