Cultivate Courage

Written by Violaine Guéritault, Ph.D.

What is courage? Some of the most famous philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle referred to courage as being a virtue, a quality of the soul, an inner attitude that can be cultivated and shaped at will. It’s very important, however, to understand that courage doesn’t mean being fearless, not even remotely. Courage is about finding within yourself the motivation to take action despite the fear you may feel. It’s about facing and understanding what you’re afraid of, and then choosing to not let that fear dictate what you can or cannot do.

Being courageous is about taking chances, stepping outside your comfort zone, achieving your dreams in spite of obstacles, and creating the life you want for yourself.

Courage is a state of mind crucial to building a fulfilling and successful life for yourself. Yet, like any other positive emotion, it will require work, effort and determination to cultivate to make it a part of your life because it will demand of you to conquer one of your most dreaded emotions – fear.

Simple Ways to Cultivate it!
Identify your strengths and talents.

Cultivating courage requires you to be aware of your strengths and talents as these will prove to be very useful when you decide to take chances and overcome obstacles in order to achieve your goals and dreams. Identify, acknowledge and be proud of your strengths. If you need a little bit of help to identify your talents, make a list of them. Think of what you love and are good at doing. Think of your achievements and your successes and recognize those skills and strengths of yours that made those accomplishments possible. Once you’ve identified your strengths, make sure to capitalize on them by using them as often as possible in order to help them grow and develop.

Do something that scares you every day.

Some of our greatest leaders certainly knew a thing or two about courage, and their advice on the subject can prove to be valuable. Eleanor Roosevelt once said “Do one thing that scares you each day.” There is great value and wisdom in this quote when it comes to cultivating courage. Courage is about facing and overcoming your fears and what better way to do this than by taking on the challenge of doing one thing that scares you every day. If you’re not quite sure how to make this happen, just follow those simple steps:

Come up with a list of things that scare you.

It can be anything from trying a new food, talking to someone new you’d like to know better, asking that person on a date, applying for a summer job, to accepting doing a challenging solo at your dance competition, and so much more.

Start with small fears.

Make sure to begin with things that cause you low levels of fear and anxiety. If you start too big you might not get the results you’re hoping for and, as a result, you may become discouraged. Facing small fears to begin with will lead to small wins which will build your confidence to keep going. With time, your courage will grow and bring you the motivation you need to tackle bigger fears.

Make a list of specific daily actions.

Come up with a list of daily things you can do that will force you out of your comfort zone. Assign to each action a specific date and time, and plan as many details as possible of how you will carry out this action. Such planning will help you stay on track and focused on the task at hand in case you become overly anxious or afraid.

  • Keep a daily journal in which you will write about what you did that day that scared you, how you handled it, managed it, how you felt about the experience and, most importantly, what you learned from it about courage.
Don’t give up when the going gets tough.

Stepping out of your comfort zone is never easy. It takes courage, for sure, but it doesn’t mean your efforts will necessarily be rewarded with success. Courage is also about accepting the possibility that you might fail or make mistakes. If you are constantly afraid of making mistakes, you will end up not wanting to even try. Your way out of this bind is to change the way you may be looking at failure and mistakes. Have you ever tried to see failure as a unique opportunity to learn about yourself and about a situation? Have you ever considered that failure can be a powerful teacher that shows you how to grow better and stronger as a human being? Such a novel perspective on life will give you the determination to persevere in the face of adversity, and that is true courage.