Living more courageously requires us to live as fearlessly as possible and appropriate. We should be willing to try pretty much anything and everything. Unfortunately, most of us let a variety of fears run our lives for us. We all have fears. We are all afraid of something. And it is okay because this is part of what makes us human. However, letting our fears totally control our lives can create limitations and barriers to fulfilment and enhanced well-being and hold us back from our potential. It can lead to stagnation, negatively affecting your personal, emotional, and professional growth.
On the other hand, being courageous allows us to respond to risks and threats effectively and achieve positive things in life. It enables us to see past our fear, work with it or overcome it, and accomplish more of the most important things for us. It also boosts our self-confidence and pushes us to step out of our comfort zone.
Contrary to what most of us believe, being courageous doesn’t necessarily mean being totally fearless. Courage knows that there is something to be afraid of and responds appropriately despite the fear. According to Plato, courage is “the virtue of the spirited part [of the soul] .” There are many instances in our life where we have to be brave and face our fears.
In this article, I’m sharing eight ways to help you embrace courage and move forward.
- Address your fears:
Not addressing your fears can make them scarier. If you want to live courageously, then the first thing you need to do is audit them, and then choose to face your fears. Seek out the underlying reasons for your fears, and don’t just avoid them. Don’t be ashamed of your fears and do your best to accept them. Identifying the situations or people that trigger your fears can help you identify the source or the root cause of your fears.
Merely identifying your fears is no help if you do not choose to deal with them in some way. An important part of addressing your fears can be confronting them. Avoiding your fears reinforces them or gives them more power. However, once you face it, you’ll notice they can begin to fade without doing much more.
Much of the time, the major hindrance in our professional and personal growth is our fear of failure. We don’t ask for the promotion because we fear being turned down, thinking it will hurt our ego and our reputation. Fear of failure or Atychiphobia can develop into self-sabotage, demotivation, and feelings of worthlessness. Failure is a normal aspect of life, yet it can hold you back. It is not uncommon to find people who are afraid of failure. According to Harvard Business Review, fear of failure was found in many CEOs.
Perfectionist tendencies might help this cause. Most people with Atychiphobia are only willing to try things they know they will be able to do successfully, hiding from new experiences and new learning. In order to lead a more courageous life, you must embrace failure as an inevitable part of life. Bonnie Marcus, a contributor at Forbes women, says, “when you fear failure, you stay small”. Don’t let anything pull you down. In order to grow and prosper, it is crucial that you never stop trying, thinking that not trying would save you from disappointment, shame, and judgment. Don’t let your fears control you. Try to understand that when you let your fears control you, you rob yourself of freedom and let your fears dictate your actions. So don’t let your fears immobilize you. Address them so that you can live your life freely and courageously.
- Positive Self-talk:
“We are our own worst enemy”. We have all heard this quote at least once in our lives. It is often true. Many of us constantly criticise ourselves, fail to acknowledge and appreciate our achievements, doubt ourselves, judge ourselves too harshly, and find faults with each and everything we do. And most of the time, our such habits turn into moments of self-loathing and frustration. However, if we are our worst enemy, we can definitely be our own best friends.
Self-talk is an inner conversation that we tend to have with ourselves. These inner talks can be both positive and negative. If you want to be your own best friend and help yourself achieve your true potential, engage in positive self-talk more often. Positive conversations with yourself can not only help you be more confident and overcome your fears, but these can also improve your performance and your mental and physical well-being.
In addition to this, people with a more positive outlook on life also live longer than their pessimistic counterparts. Results of a recent study that investigated the effects of optimism on longevity concluded that “Optimistic individuals tend to have goals and the confidence to reach them; thus, optimism may foster health-promoting habits”.
So, if you want to live bravely, turn your negative self-talk into supportive and encouraging self-talk. For example, when you fail at something, appreciate yourself for trying and be proud of your efforts instead of criticising yourself.
- Practice mindfulness exercises:
Practising mindfulness can help you in your quest to live more courageously. The aim of mindfulness exercise is to focus and live in the present moment and understand your present feelings without any self-judgment. Mindfulness practices such as breathing exercises, meditation, and guided imagery are scientifically proven to fight anxiety, help reduce stress and relax the body and mind. Simple mindfulness practice can make a big difference in how you see yourself and your life. Meditating and trying breathing exercises on a regular basis can help you accept yourself and become more aware of yourself. When you spend time with yourself in solitude, you become more self-compassionate, which can help build up self-esteem and self-confidence. This self-confidence can help you conquer the fears that come in your way of being brave and standing up for yourself. If you feel that fear is holding you back and stunting your growth, try meditating and other relaxation techniques such as guided imagery to manage your stress and anxiety.
- Don’t be a perfectionist:
You need to be a perfectionist can paralyse you. The ironic thing about perfectionism is that, more often than not, your tendency to achieve perfection can do you more harm than good. One of the biggest drawbacks of being a perfectionist is that people who strive for flawlessness are afraid of learning new things and exposing themselves to new situations. While aiming for the highest standard of work is not wrong, people with perfectionism are too scared to make mistakes and learn from them.
Professor Tracey Ward of Flinders University says, “They [perfectionists] take longer to do a task and won’t just give things a go”. Perfectionists are used to doing things in a particular way. They only undertake tasks that they know for sure that they would be able to perform with perfection. Although people with perfectionist tendencies produce high-quality output, their growth and learning suffer, leading to stagnation. If you are an avoider who puts off tasks when it comes to doing something new and strives for perfection, try being a little imperfect from time to time. You can do this by changing your mindset. Lower your exceptionally high standards and try to understand your need to be a perfectionist. Doing so might help you deal with this tendency and make you less fearful of trying out new things.
- Celebrate your bravery:
An important step that will help you become more courageous is acknowledging and appreciating your bold actions. Don’t let any brave action go unrecognised and unappreciated. Building your courage muscles is not easy as it sounds. Speaking up or stepping out of your comfort zone despite being fearful requires a lot of courage. So don’t take your courageous acts for granted. Celebrate these small wins and make a mental note of them or write them down on a piece of paper. For example, appreciate yourself for participating in the class discussion despite fearing that your answer might be wrong. Referencing your list of courageous actions whenever you feel down or can’t muster up the courage to go after what you really want. Doing so will encourage you and keep your negative thoughts at bay.
- Recognise your Strengths:
Identifying your own strengths is a critical asset when it comes to self-awareness and self-confidence. It gives you a better understanding of yourself and allows you to further excel at the things you are good at. Knowing the thing you are good at bolsters your confidence and enables you to take greater risks, giving you more strength and courage. It allows you to believe in your abilities and makes you more willing to try new opportunities that life provides you. Finding out your strengths also gives you a better understanding of how you work best and is truly important for personal growth and development. Moreover, your strengths can become a source of inspiration and example for others to follow. In this way, identifying your strengths not only helps you by adding courage into your life, but it also helps your peers and colleagues, who can learn from your strengths.
- Make Courage a habit.
Courage doesn’t come easy to everyone. But the good news is that courage is not something you inherit or that has been built in you since the day you were born. It is a skill that can be acquired with practice. In his book The Courage Quotient, Robert Biswas-Diener says that “Courage is a habit, a practice, and a skill that can be learned”. This means if you lack courage, there is absolutely nothing to worry about because, with practice, you can ace courage just like you can ace your math test. Acting bravely in the face of overwhelming odds once or twice shouldn’t be your goal. Your aim should be to build up your courage muscle and consistently practice courage in your life. The more you act with courage, the stronger your courage will get. After all, courage is a muscle. Practice courage on a regular basis to make it your habit. For example, do something scary, something you are afraid of every week. Host a dinner or talk to your neighbours you have never spoken to before. These little actions of courage can go a long way in developing this habit.
- Less thinking and more doing:
Most people often spend a lot of time thinking, analyzing, and planning things instead of actually doing them. Doing so not only makes you a procrastinator but also makes you lose out on many things because others get the first-mover benefit. More thinking can also make you welcome self-doubt and decrease your confidence. So the question you might be wondering is, what does this have to do with courage. An example can help you explain this connection with courage. Thinking over and over about jumping into the swimming pool can only make you rethink your decision and give way to uncertainty. Just jumping into the water, on the other hand, can help you overcome your fear and make your heart braver. So, try doing things instead of constantly thinking about them for a change.
Courage is one of the most admired qualities. We require courage for almost everything, it seems. For raising our voice, chasing after what we really want, standing up for our beliefs, and even for trusting our own gut. Yet it can be very challenging to build up the courage. If you desire to be valiant and lionhearted, try out the eight ways of doing so we have summarised for you. According to our experience, practising mindfulness, positive self-talk, and confronting your fears are the most effective ways to overcome your fears and become a brave person. Remember, courage isn’t being fearless; it is taking action despite being afraid. Don’t let your fears come in your way of enjoying an adventurous and daring life. We will end the article by quoting the great wartime prime minister, Winston Churchill: “Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision“.
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