On being brave
Updated: Oct 19, 2022
Gulp. Deep breath. I know I can do this. And .... go!
I am not a cowardly lion. In fact, I pride myself on being able to make quick and determined decisions, and mindfully accept the outcome, regardless of if it is exactly what I was intending, and go with it. Being decisive is not the same thing as being courageous, but it helps.
Strength is a universally admired quality. But more than brute force, courage is often seen as a true marker of strength. Bravery comes in many forms. And while many of us will likely never need to use it to rush into a burning building, we will rely on our courage to push us out of our comfort zones. You need a certain amount of fearlessness to stand up for your beliefs, to spark up a conversation with someone new, to move to a new town or change careers. Or to simply speak up at work or ask for a raise. Bravery isn't something you're born with. Ironically, fear – the very feeling that can make us creep back from that proverbial ledge can also be the very motivation you need to push you forward, and awaken your bravery.
What else can help push you forward?
Embrace the Fear
Fear is wired into our psychological DNA to help us avoid situations that could cause us pain, injury, loss or death. Homo Sapiens have been as successful as a species due to their ability to have, understand and react to fear. The big secret, experts will tell you, is that courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the ability to metabolize it. Here’s the big secret: just because you are resisting the fear will not make it go away. In fact, (as the saying goes) “whatever you resist will persist.” Fear is like a shower: You have the desire to shower because you feel dirty. “The dirt is what really makes you want to clean up—similarly, fearlessness comes from fear.”
Get All the Information You Can
A simple fact about humanity is this: the less we know about something, the scarier it seems. Uncertainly is a breeding ground for fear. Reduce uncertainty and, as a result, so too will shrink the overwhelming sense of dread that's keeping you from pursuing what you want. Arm yourself with knowledge. Get as much information as you can. Do your research, practice, and visualize yourself in the situation that scares you the most. When you know what to expect, your confidence raises naturally.
Remember to Relax
A little healthy fear provides a shot of adrenaline but remember too much can shut you down. When we're feeling fearful, our breathing unconsciously becomes faster and more shallow. Our muscles tense up. Our blood flow changes, to support fight or flight response. Calm down by mindfully slowing your breathing, and, if you have the time and space, do some long stretches to calm down. Think of what comes next. When tackling something that scares us, we're rewarded with a rush of confidence and pride immediately thereafter. Focus on how good that will feel. And then move towards that.
Commit Yourself Ahead of Time
Fearlessness has a starting point, requiring discipline to get to that point. The surest way to stick to your plan is to commit yourself ahead of time. You want to make it nearly impossible to back out, so tell people what your plan is or make an official appointment. That way, you'll be likely to follow through and the declaration will also boost your determination and courage. And don't wait. Be public about your intentions and ask your key people to help keep you on track. Sadly, our emotional courage is prone to leaking, which means, the longer you wait, the less of it you'll have.
Repeat, repeat, repeat
Think of your courage like a muscle. The more you consistently show up for yourself and don't let discomfort deter you, the easier and more natural it becomes. Over time, those initial acts of courage become less difficult, and you'll find yourself doing bigger and braver things. And you'll notice they take less effort than you expected.
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