“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently.”
― Maya Angelou
As the world prepares to open up, and there are glimmers of hope on the horizon, I find myself reflecting on all that has transpired over the past 18 months of living mostly in some degree of lock-down.
Often, the more questions I had, the more answers I did not have. Uncertainty crept closer and closer. Fear can be paralyzing. Fear can be demoralizing. Fear can show up in all sorts of ways that cause us not to be our best selves.
One of the ways we can face fear is to use effective coping skills for dealing with it.
Courage is a coping skill that I used to combat fear all the time. Recognize that I've said to combat fear. Meaning courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the tool I use to slay my fears and keep my demons at bay.
As Nelson Mandela once said: "I learned that… the brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers fear."
As leaders, we often think of courage as big, heroic actions. Happenstance opportunities where we act or react quickly. But perhaps, like self-confidence, courage is actually a skill that we can practice, learn and improve upon.
Like anything else you practice, you can build the muscle of courage.
Courage is not about being fearless—but rather the ability to feel that fear, and not let it paralyze you. To act in spite of fear, not in the absence of fear.
Just like fear, courage can be contagious—the first person to apologize, the person on the dance floor, the first to raise their hand in a classroom…
Some ways that you can practice your courage today:
1) Foster connections.
Community matters: I have often relied on the strength and love of those around me to help me during my tough times. We know that emotion is contagious, and while we can feel the fear of others, we can also do the opposite, which is to feel the love of those around us.
A supportive community can infuse us with the courage we need to tackle the difficult challenges that might lay ahead. A text message of love and support. A phone call to say you got this and I’m thinking of you. Take the time to make people feel like they matter.
2) Persistence is the key.
Courage does not always bellow with ferocity that you have arrived. We all have setbacks, We may not achieve our goals. But having staying power despite failures or setbacks is what builds the courage in all of us.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A hero is no braver than an ordinary person they are just braver five minutes longer.”
3. Get comfortable with the discomfort.
Just like any new endeavor or situation, you will fumble. Be patient with yourself and others. Don’t let this fear of failure keep you from addressing a tough task. In fact, being uncomfortable is fundamental to building courage.
When we are experiencing discomfort, we might be tempted to quit.
And lastly, be intentional about what you choose to tell yourselves. Focus on the positive. We know that our thoughts influence our beliefs which influence our actions. Practicing positive self-talk can help you conquer your fears and build your courage.