Where Your Courage Stops Is Where YOU Stop
If you are to claim the best life possible, you will need to be able to access and exercise courage as long as you live. Where your courage stops is where your effectiveness stops; where your courage stops is where your power stops; where your courage stops is where you stop.
The word courage has its root in the Latin cor, heart. Finding and accessing courage is when you have awakened to the deeper strengths and character of your heart of hearts, the seat of your innermost feelings.
Why is courage so essential to living fully, completely and wholeheartedly?
What does courage have to do with your day-to-day life?
Why would you wish to be able to access different forms or acts of courage in your work place and at home?
As a human being you are an emotional creature.
You use your intellect to problem solve, plan for the future, learn new things and create solutions. Yet your logic and best intentions may easily be compromised by those messy things called “feelings.”
One of the most powerful emotions you have to deal with is that of fear. Fear can take many forms such as the fear of loss; of being shamed, hurt, or judged; of failing, not measuring up, dying, getting too close or intimate. Fear can (and does) paralyze action; it blocks being open to change, pursuing dreams and making the best of your life.
Courage, however, is not the absence of fear.
Instead, it is the willingness and ability to face into the fear and move forward to do what you want, and what is right, in spite of fear.
A powerful image and a metaphor you may find helpful is that of the Bison on the Great Plains. When a blizzard blows in with sub-zero freezing wind and snow, European cattle run before it and freeze to death. The Bison face into the storm and walk through it, coming out the other side of the storm.
Are you being driven, running from some “storms” in your life?
What do you need to face into to move on your dreams, to take the required action to be your best self?
Having served as a therapist, executive coach, organizational and leadership consultant for four decades, I have too many times seen the terrible cost of letting fear run unchecked. This impacts careers, families, and all manner of relationships. It prevents healthy solutions for problem behaviors and issues in self and others.
Fear limits workplace effectiveness, wise decision-making, the ability to learn from critical feedback, and the capacity to speak truth to power. People suffer far more than necessary due to a failure of nerve when they don’t access the form of courage required in any particular moment.
The good thing about fear is that it calls up the very thing needed to deal with it.
Fear calls up courage.
If you reflect on those you most admire, one of the things you will see is that courage is present and demonstrated.
If you think about the times in your life when you felt most accomplished and really good about yourself, it was probably because you found the courage to go after what you wanted, or did the right thing in spite of intimidation, or stepped forward despite fear. You accessed and utilized courage. You found and moved from your deeper heart, not from the surface waves of fear.
There are several distinct acts of courage. Each has a unique quality and gift. To be effective, you will need to be able to find the Courage to…
- Dream and express that dream – in spite of critics, nay-sayers and your own self-doubt
- See current reality – not what you wish to see, but what is in front of you, what you have to work with that is good, as well as what is limiting you
- Confront – to be able to “tell truth to power” as the Quaker’s put it, to speak up, to find your voice, to share your “truth” and your story
- To be confronted – to listen non-defensively to input, criticism, challenging perspectives – this will help keep you from being blind-sided if you can keep from trying to defend yourself, instead focusing on being curious and listening to learn
- To learn and grow – to step into the unknown, to be open to ambiguity, to try out new ways of thinking, acting and being – beyond your customary comfort zone
- To be vulnerable – to be open to life, to let others in, to admit you don’t know, to be able to receive from others and to ask for help
- To act – to act on your insights, to follow up on the forms of courage above, to get traction in life and at work
- To let go – to be able to recognize what you need to release and when to let it go; to be able to move forward without carrying all of the old “baggage” from the past; to let go of the old identity as you step up, grow and mature
Courage is essential, but not enough.
You also need insight, strategy, expertise and skills. However, the greatest wisdom, the deepest insight, the most effective strategy will never reach fruition without accessing and utilizing courage, both within yourself and also by inspiring it and calling it forth from others.
Without courage, everything grinds to a halt, no storyline can be complete and the best-laid plans end up being, as Shakespeare’s King Lear proclaims, “All sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
Calls to Action:
- Contemplate. What storm do you need to face into in your life? Are you ready to access your deepest heart and to move forward informed and guided by courage? Outline the actions you will take and the specific act of courage you will be developing in the coming weeks and months.
- Watch. In October of last year, I was invited to deliver a TEDx talk about the power of daily acts of courage. In the talk, I share a very personal story of how courage impacted my relationship with my father, a person for which I had built a wall of resistance founded in fear of disappointment. If you haven’t watched this yet, I invite you to do so.