Courage is defined as “the ability to control your fear in a dangerous or difficult situation” and “to be brave and confident enough to do what you believe in”. (http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/courage)
Personal Courage takes you to the boundaries of your comfort zone. As human beings we want to feel as though we can speak the truth in potentially dangerous, fearful situations where we want to get our message across. The possibility that this could elicit an adverse reaction and ultimately cause conflict, however, more often than not stops us from doing so.
As human beings we need to develop skills and learn to become more competent in how to deliver our message. In order to do this we need to understand ourselves better i.e. our beliefs, our behaviours and our values. We need to question who we are and understand the values of our honesty, bravery and authenticity. In understanding our behaviours we will be able to develop our skills in handling conflict – do I become defensive and exhibit attacking behaviour or do I avoid conflict at all costs? At the heart of this is our personal reaction to fear, and what we need to achieve in order to move from fear to freedom.
Personal, Physical and Moral Courage
Personal courage can be split down into physical courage and moral courage. Physical courage represents how we are on the outside which then inverts into the body, whereas moral courage represents how we are on the inside which then emanates out. They are interconnected. If, for example, you want to climb Mount Everest and you have the physical skills to do so, the only thing stopping you is your mind-set (external factors notwithstanding). You have the physical courage, but you also need the moral courage to live your dreams. Personal courage can be triggered by both internal (moral) and external (physical) influences.
By continually expanding our Personal Courage ‘muscle’, this will naturally take us down the path of becoming more authentic and speaking our truth. We are encouraged to explore and discover our truth. This will take us deep inside ourselves, where we get to know who we are, increase our self-awareness and honesty and help us to understand our limitations, which in turn fuels our passion and enables us to become more compassionate. If we are more honest with ourselves we will in turn become more honest with those around us. We will have a greater ability to inspire others, and be more flexible in leading others, as we have stretched our own boundaries and understand our own limits for compassion. If you can’t manage yourself, how could you hope to be able to manage and lead others?
A desire, as a human being, to continually strive to expand who you are is a fundamental aspect of being a great leader. Great leaders can make decisions, ask probing questions to understand issues and have the ability and personal courage to take responsibility for their actions. It is not enough, however, to just have personal courage. A great leader is open to continual development. Personal courage is a core ingredient, but they still require decision making and technical skills, vision and strategy. Personal courage helps to expand these components, taking a great leader deeper into themselves to know who they are. The more you understand who you are, the more powerful life you are able to live – ‘meaningful lives deliver powerful results’.
Shifting Your Fear Mind-Set
At the beginning of this article, courage was described as “the ability to control your fear in a dangerous or difficult situation”. Fear does not derail personal courage; in fact it is the key ingredient in developing personal courage. If you allow fear to dominate you it will keep you small. Shifting your fear mind-set is the key to developing your personal courage. This may appear to be counter-intuitive both intellectually and emotionally. We naturally run from fear, however fear is a fantastic ingredient to spur on personal courage. If you can learn what fear means to you, and how it impacts on you in respect of your thoughts, feelings and behaviours, you can control and celebrate it instead of falling back into the fight, flight or freeze response.
Personal Courage and the Next Level
There is always a next level in our pursuit of personal courage. It is in our psyche to keep developing ourselves. If we hold the mirror up to reflect on our behaviour, we build the desire to know ourselves better. This is a lifelong journey – once we have woken up to it we can continually empower ourselves and live more of our potential.