“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage” – Anais Nin
Success should be measured not by the goals we achieve, but by the challenges we have overcome. Acting in the face of fear is an achievement in itself, and the more it’s practiced, the easier it becomes. Just like the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz, learning how to leap head-first into challenges towards new, or fearful acts leads to invaluable personal development and growth, strengthening our emotional and mental resilience.
“We can either stay in bed where it’s comfortable, warm and there are no critics to judge us, or we can face the world and push beyond our limits”
Part of why we struggle to face fear head on, is that are constantly fighting our reptilian brain that likes to keep us all cosy and safe. This is not necessarily a bad thing, sometimes fear is valid, sometimes it helps us, and it made sense when we were cavemen/women hiding from lions, tigers and bears. But more often than not these fears are completely imagined. For example, 85% of what humans worry about never eventuates into reality. Especially in relation to perceived thoughts of others (which we should ditch caring about regardless!)
So what is courage?
According to the Oxford Dictionary the noun “Courage Is “The ability to do something that frightens one; bravery” and “Strength in the face of pain or grief”.
So courage is not about the absence of fear like fearlessness… but the ability to still complete an act despite experiencing fear.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear”— Nelson Mandela
Can courage be learnt?
100% it can! It may feel like others were just born with it – but anyone can develop it through small habits. Think of it like a muscle and regularly work it out. Repetition over time commits it to muscle memory, and suddenly over time it becomes easier and less daunting to try new things or attempt something you were previously afraid of. The key is in small daily/weekly challenges. Like any habit over time it actually rewires our minds, right down to the gene level, by creating new neural pathways in our brain. So start challenging yourself and harness your own neural plasticity. Run towards fear as if it’s inviting you to be courageous!
How do we start being courageous?
Life is best lived outside of your comfort zone. Humans are wired for growth and even small challenges and discomfort help us to grow and develop. Start small… You don’t have to leap out of a plane straight away.. (although if you want to, jump to it. Nothing like a good dose of adrenalin to get motivated!).. But you can start small. Maybe walk a different way to work, wear that slightly-out-there dress you were too shy to wear, speak up in your work meeting, try a new restaurant instead of the same go-to, book a solo travel trip, do a new activity on the weekend you always wanted to try but doubted yourself with, dance like no one is watching – and if they are, stop caring!
Failure = Learning
Without meaning to sound like an inspirational quote cliché, you really only fail at the things you never attempt! Attempt plus Failure, equals a learning experience. After all, how else do you learn and grow?! Society may need to rethink it’s view of failure in adults. When a toddler falls down while learning to walk, do we tell them they failed.. just give up now? No, we clap, cheer and praise the little one for trying. We celebrate their seemingly small moments of progress, and after falling over countless times they have eventually trained their brain and body on what to do (and not do) to stay up. Courage means taking action without being attached to the result, so begin with small steps that make up your goal.
If anything we should be ‘trying and failing’ as much as possible! It’s the quickest way to learn. Put courage in action to become your bravest self. Step to it!