4 minutes reading time (805 words)

The Origins of Courage

Courage - the word itself comes from the old french word for heart; coer.(now coeur). So courage is literally belonging to the heart.

"I know that courage comes from the heart because the head would say 'no'."

Courage is not fearlessness. Quite the contrary. Courage feels the fear and acts anyway; it is strong enough to overcome our most basic neurological response to avoid danger or threat. Courage knows that failure will extract a very high price and yet still takes that risk. Sometimes it is a simple gamble based on the odds of failure versus the value of a higher prize; but that's a little "head" interference.

The head interference is a challenge because the brain is rational and articulate; as a result we pay it most attention. In contrast, the heart finds it hard to speak clearly; as a result it needs us to pay more attention.
Courage is an essential trait for developing leadership and one that is only potent when it comes from complete authenticity and a willingness to be vulnerable. It's ironic that such strength comes from our weakness; from our fear and vulnerability. But only when we also have a clear sense of who we are and what we stand for do we find true courage.

Finding your Courage

We find our own courage in many different ways and usually by accident. There are ways that we can begin to work on growing our courage.

1. Be Purposeful

When you are clear about your purpose and when it is deeply meaningful to you, you will find courage you could not believe possible.

Malala Yousafzai had campaigned for education for girls in Pakistan from the age of 11. She was 15 when she was shot in the head and nearly killed by the Taliban. In 2014 she won the Nobel Peace Prize. Now nearly 18, Malala has co-founded the Malala Fund, which invests in early stage girls' education in countries like Pakistan, Nigeria, Kenya and Jordan. Her purpose, and her courage, are beyond question.


2. Connect with your Core Values

Be clear about what you truly value in life; what is most significant and important to you. When you have acted with courage in the past, what was driving your behaviour? These are your Core Values. Write them down in words that speak from your heart and keep them close and visible.

"I respect myself and insist upon it from everybody. And because I do it, I then respect everybody, too." Maya Angelou Author and Civil Rights Activist


3. Find your "Kernel of Power"

Kaleel Jamison (The Nibble Theory and the Kernal of Power) said "When everybody grows, there isn't less of anybody; there is more of- and for – everybody". Finding your "kernel of power" is grounded in your self-awareness and appreciation of yourself.
Start with questions: "What is unique about me? What do I bring to the world that only I can?"
Ignore the skills you have learnt and anything that you feel you need to qualify (I am a fairly good cook). Work with these questions over a long time – it could take years. Go deep and deeper until you connect with the reason you are here.

4. Be your own "Work in Progress"

None of us is perfect, we are all work in progress and will be until the end of our lives. Accepting ourselves as imperfect allows us to be vulnerable. It is also what allows us to respect, and not judge, the imperfections of others.


Brene Brown, author of "Daring Greatly" said that healthy striving is self-focused: "How can I improve?" Perfectionism is other-focused: "What will they think?
When we are focused on what other people will think, we are at our least courageous.

5. Build Secure Bases

George Kohlrieser (Hostage at the Table and Dare to Care) uses the analogy of the belayer to explain secure bases. In rock climbing, the job of the belayer is to act as a secure base to the climber. The belayer watches closely, allowing the climber enough rope to make free choices about where to go and what risks to take. The climber can have courage and security because she knows that the belayer has just enough control; not to stop her making a mistake, but certainly to stop her falling.

We all need secure bases in our lives; people, places and things that sustain and renew us and give us the courage to be who we are and the best we can become.


Courage is in You

Since your courage comes from the heart, it is in you already. Notice that, of the five ways to find your courage, four are about finding it inside yourself. Only building secure bases may need other people's collaboration. So you are already courageous – what can you bring your courage to today?

Are You Holding Back?
Lessons from a Three Legged Stool


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