In times of change and crisis, we often find ourselves in the anxiety of uncertainty. Uncertainty often feels like a lack of control. I know for myself, I have reached for the Magic 8 ball a few times, looking for answers. This led me to consider how do we learn to live with uncertainty? What’s clear is that uncertainty and worry point towards our fears. So, how do we confidently move through fear despite not knowing? I think that fundamentally it has to do with developing a practice of daily courage.
“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because, without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.” – Maya Angelou
What is Courage?
Courage can be summed up as the inner strength to take action when all we really want to do is shrink away.
cour.age (n) ker-ij
- The mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. The ability to do something that frightens one.
- A willingness to confront pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation.
Courage might look like running into a building on fire to save others or fighting on the front line of a crisis to save lives. And these are heroic examples of courage.
Yet consistent courage shows up in many smaller ways all the time. Speaking up for yourself, asking the difficult question, saying “no” when you mean “no,” or creating a boundary that someone might not like, all of these are acts of personal bravery. Increasing your confidence to share your truth.
How you challenge yourself every day to push through your discomfort is essential to developing the muscle of daring. How you face conflict, how you push through discomfort, how you show love and empathy when angry, and a myriad of other small and meaningful ways that fearlessness shows up.
Courage Builds Confidence
Acts of courage often seem confident, yet feeling confident doesn’t necessarily require any courage.
Most of us have confidence that shows up in some regions of our lives. For example, I have confidence in my ability to do XYZ. These areas tend to be places where you have certainty in the outcome, your skills, or a situation.
Courage impacts confidence in the areas where we don’t know what the outcome will be, where your brain fires off in fear, and your fight, flight, freeze, or freak-out response gets triggered.
Simply stated, courage is acting in a contradictory way, to what your brain tells you to do. And, learning to respond differently and overcoming fear is a skill we can develop.
The Leap of Courage
If confidence is about certainty, then courage is a leap of faith. The leap you take, even when you are uncertain of the outcome. For example, putting yourself into a vulnerable situation, trying something new, facing a fear, challenging someone with a strong personality, even feeling worthy of being respected, or believing that we are loveable are acts of courage. Remember that for each of us, the areas will be different.
The more you build your courage muscle, and train your brain to stretch past fear, the more confidence you will feel.
3 Steps Daily Courage Practice
- Create a list of things that press your fear button or that you want to feel more courageous around. Think broadly, we all have something that makes us uncomfortable, or that sparks dis-ease. It could be mental, emotional, situational, physical, or spiritual.
- Choose the first thing you want to tackle off your list (choose something small, to begin with) and create baby steps that will help you to push through your discomfort.
- Practice your baby steps every day, until the fear no longer stops you.
Example of Daily Courage in Practice
Courage Focus: I want to speak up for myself.
Baby-steps for Speaking Up:
- Clarify what is important to say.
- Visualize yourself in different situations speaking up with confidence.
- Practice saying your truth out loud in a mirror.
- Breathe through the discomfort.
- Create a mantra about being able to confidently speak up (I am 100% capable of speaking my truth.)
- Make a recording of yourself saying your truth and listen for any tone that makes it less powerful or turns your statement into a question.
- Practice saying “no” or “let me think about this before I answer.”
You Got This!
Fear and uncertainty show up in many ways, and the challenge is to support yourself to bravely move forward regardless. The only Magic 8 ball you need is yourself. You have the full permission and capacity to confidently show up in your life. Choose one challenge to navigate: name it, make a plan, and practice your baby steps until your brain builds this powerful muscle. Then, go out and be courageous daily!
I would LOVE to hear from YOU!
- What act of bravery are you willing to do today?
- What will open up for you with this step?
Lyssa deHart, LICSW, MCC is a Leadership Confidence and Whole Life Coach, and the author of StoryJacking: Change Your Inner Dialogue, Transform Your Life. Lyssa works with confidence challenged high achievers who are ready to rewrite the internal narratives that slow them down. Her clients include executives, senior leadership, and managers at organizations such as Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft, the US Military, as well as with creative writers, actors, and artists.
What fires her up is working with smart people to trust their brilliance and develop the courage and confidence to believe in themselves and the work that is their purpose. If you are interested in meeting to see if you could benefit from working together, let's have a coffee and a chat.
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article originally posted on Dec 2, 2019. Updated Feb 16, 2023.
Informative article. Everything is clearly written. All recommendations are clear. But it’s hard for me to do this on my own. I have repeatedly set myself such goals and even more disappointed.
I really appreciate that this isn’t easy. It’s even harder when collectively there is so much stress. It really does help to look at the baby steps that will support you. What is one of the goals that you have set for yourself? If you are open to sharing, maybe we can look at possible baby steps. I would be happy to help you break it down a bit, so you could start to feel successful.