We are living in some extraordinary times. There is a lot for any of us to contemplate: climate change; political turmoil; an aging population; rising mental health challenges; poverty and homelessness; and the B word (Brexit of course) to mention just a snapshot of current issues.
Whatever your politics and beliefs, it can sometimes be a real struggle to dig deep and find the strength to keep going, and keep yourself afloat through troubled waters. It can feel like the world around you is constantly on the move, and changing quickly, whilst you aren’t, or it can feel the opposite, that you are constantly changing and the world around you is not, or not moving at the right pace for you. That’s when fear can set in. Fear of letting people down, fear of letting yourself down, fear of the unknown, fear of being stuck, fear of not knowing how you can contribute to making the world a better place to live in. Fear can stop you dead in your tracks, but it can also be the start of you being on the road to finding courage; courage to do what you believe in, what you feel is right, what you really want to do and sometimes what you need to do.
Finding the courage firstly to acknowledge your feelings and then take steps to conquer those feelings takes courage. But where does courage come from?
Over the years, I’ve found that courage is often released in me or seems to have just flooded over me when I’ve been involved in a crisis situation, or when I’ve reacted to something that is fundamentally wrong in my eyes. It has been my reaction to the external situation or circumstance that has prompted my courage to come out, so I believe that it (courage) must have been there within me all the time. It just needed something to stimulate it and tease it out. So clearly, I have been unable to unlock that courage myself in these situations, but the external event has enabled it reveal itself.
However, there have been times when I seem to have found my inner courage, albeit mostly over a period of time. Leaving a job that I was bored in for example, taking a few months off work with no immediate new job to go to so that I could re-energise, confronting some of my past demons by visiting a place of which I had bad experiences and therefore fearful memories. None of these were stimulated by external events as such and I was able to proactively give my permission for my courage to rise up. I think sometimes we look to external influences, situations or events in order to force a reaction that then leads to a courageous decision or way of moving on.
But courage isn’t really there to be locked away and saved for an occasional reaction to something. It is always within you, a bit like love I guess, and you don’t always seem to have a choice as to whether you can let it rise up. It’s the outside influences and events that seem to have the power to control the level of courage that you are able to find within yourself. Sometimes that level is at zero, and sometimes that level is wavering between zero and 100%.
Can you have too much courage? Potentially, as it can mean that you ignore the risks and dangers of what you might do, but that can also surely mean that you can push things a bit further than you maybe thought you could. And by doing so, you can radically change individuals, organisations, ideas and have a massive impact.
Nelson Mandela said: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” And that’s really what courage is…still acting whilst you are feeling fear, until that fear disappears.
I still struggle sometimes with facing my fears and finding courage, and it’s often the smaller things in life that can see my fear levels rising, but as one who has been able to be courageous at various stages of life, here are some thoughts on what has helped me along the way:
- Once you have experienced your courage, you will recognise it again like a friend you might not see that often, but when you meet again, it’s just like they never left you
- Recognise and mentally record the times you do something that you’re afraid to do—something your mind is telling you not to do, as it will help you to recall how good it feels
- If you concentrate on the people or cause you’re standing up for, rather than your fear of doing something, that will help to keep your fear level lower
- Courage can be found in numbers – if you are with other people who are/have been courageous, their positive energy will help you to find your own inner courage
- Tune into your positive mind signals and ignore the creeping negative thoughts
- There are loads of quietly courageous people around you, you just need to keep talking and you’ll find them