12 Ways To Unleash The Courage Within
What you are about to learn are very powerful ways to help you get from where you are to where you want to go. When you consistently apply the principles below, you will notice a dramatic and positive change in your life.
Before we move on, though, I’d like to explain why I use the word “unleash.”
I am convinced that courage is already within us all and only needs to be “unleashed.” There’s a part of us that knows this—whether or not we readily admit it. We only need to accept this fact.
For many years, we have been taught by society, and sadly, even by our well-meaning relatives or friends, why we should not do something, or why we should not pursue a particular goal. They try to discourage us in a number of ways. Sometimes, it may not be that they don’t believe in us or our ideas, but that they feel that if they were to pursue the idea/goal themselves, they wouldn’t have the courage to do it—they would be too afraid.
In other words, they pass on their fears to us unconsciously (and unintentionally). Unfortunately, we end up making fewer attempts as a result. And the less we attempt to do something because of fear (the fears others programmed into us) the less our minds believe that courage is already within us. And the less our minds believe that courage is already within us, the more it becomes true (a reality) for us.
In my first article, Run Freely (A Lesson About Courage), I shared with you an important lesson I learned, through observation, many years ago—and that is: Courage has always been inside of us from the time we were children. (And since we were all children at one time, courage is inside “all” of us. )
Courage is not something that comes from outside of us (although external factors or influences can help in drawing that courage out, or can help in getting us to be more in touch with that courage—and that’s what I would like to share with you in the principles below), because absolute courage (or fearlessness) is the very nature of our “spirit” (at least here in the physical world—I say “physical” because in the physical world, nothing can harm a spirit…and another reason I stress “physical” is because others may say, “The devil is a spirit. Why, then, does the devil fear God?”).
I love the quote I read in one of Wayne Dyer’s books years ago. (Wayne Dyer, by the way, is a highly recognized best-selling author and motivational speaker.) The quote was actually by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin…and it goes like this:
We are not human beings
having a spiritual experience.
We are spiritual beings
having a human experience.
I figured, that’s probably why kids (especially those at an early age) are so courageous (and less self-conscious). They are more in touch with that “spirit” part of themselves.
In fact, I believe that through the years, as people grow up towards adulthood, they have gotten less and less in touch with that “spirit” part of themselves due to the many self-created (or imaginary) fears—or due to fears that have been passed on to them by others (or society). These fears started to gradually cover up their fearless nature—their very essence or core—just like mold gradually covers up a piece of fresh bread left out in the open.
Keeping the above in mind, here, then, are 12 ways (I’ll cover more in future articles) to unleash the courage within:
1. Reinforce in your being the conviction that you are a “fearless” spirit in a physical body. It’s your true nature. It’s your very essence. Accept this fact and your life will change in positive ways.
Detach yourself from the fear of the body, and the mind,
clinging instead to the fearlessness of the spirit.
~ Chin-Ning Chu ~
It is in your power to discover that who you really are has nothing to fear, but that you make yourself fearful each time you look outside of yourself for some power to make you feel fearless.
~ Vernon Howard ~
2. Simply attempt. JUST DO IT. Avoid overanalyzing (which usually results in procrastination). Once you’ve decided to do something, just do it (avoid delaying unnecessarily).
Over time, this reinforces the feeling of courage in your nervous system. You’ll be more and more in touch with the courageous part of yourself. And as a result, taking action (without hesitating) will feel more natural to you.
It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare,
it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.
~ Seneca ~
Do it like there’s no one watching,
do it like you don’t need the money,
do it like you just can’t lose,
JUST DO IT.
~ Nike Ad ~
In other words, do your best not to give fear (or excuses) a chance to creep in. Why? Because when that happens, the following is what normally results (as Seneca’s quote explains):
A man who suffers before it is necessary
suffers more than is necessary.
Also, as Publilius Syrus’s quote explains:
Valor grows by daring, fear by holding back.
3. Give yourself permission to be courageous (avoid allowing yourself to be cowardly). And avoid giving others (or anything) permission to make you feel fearful. The key word here is “permission.”
Understanding this principle and applying it in your daily life will empower you in ways you may not have imagined before. It puts you in a powerful position because it gives you control (in other words, you won’t be just a mindless punching bag to others). You are able to “consciously” decide whether or not someone will influence you in a negative way. As a result, you’ll be more at ease in dealing with others, no matter who they are.
You see, the reason some people are bullied is because “they permit it.” They give permission to the bully to bully them. But the moment they no longer give permission to the bully to mistreat them, the bully loses his/her power.
(There’s an excellent section on this concept of “permission” in Gerry Spence’s book, How To Argue And Win Every Time. )
No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.
~ Eleanor Roosevelt ~
Starting now, never again permit hard or disapproving
facial expressions to intimidate you.
~ Vernon Howard ~
4. Reinforce the belief that the only power others have is the power you give them. Their power comes from you. In fact, it is your gift to them. Their power is merely “your perception” of their power (in other words, the source of their power is in your mind). And you have a choice at any moment how much power you will give them.
This very powerful principle can be applied to fears/anxieties you may have when dealing with others. As you regularly apply this principle, you’ll be more at ease when dealing with anyone, even authority figures or influential people. Also, with this knowledge, it will be in your power to give “less” or “no” power to those who like to abuse it (ex. bullies or difficult people in general).
This empowers you, and reinforces your courage at the same time, because you are in a position to make a “conscious” decision (just like principle #3 above). People won’t be able to abuse power because their power comes from you in the first place. At any moment, you can easily take back any power you’ve already given them…“just by deciding.”
(Again, there’s an excellent section/chapter on this principle in Gerry Spence’s book, How To Argue And Win Every Time. )
No human being has any authority over you. Your life belongs
to you and to you alone. No scowling face or irritated manner,
no challenging posture or threatening tone has any power to make
you feel nervous or anxious, frightened or angry. This is a fact;
and anyone who is tired of letting someone else tell them how to
feel can use this self-liberating principle to win true and lasting independence. Your true nature answers to no man.
~ Vernon Howard ~
No one can make you happy or sad or excited or angry
unless you give them that power over your life.
Decide right now to only give your power to those
things, circumstances, and people that support you
in getting what you want.
~ Marshall Sylver ~
Don’t let the negativity given to you by the world disempower you. Instead give to yourself that which empowers you.
~ Les Brown ~
5. Reinforce the belief that the only power “anything” has is the power you give it. The power that events and experiences have over you will depend on the meaning you give them. (Two people can go through similar experiences but will respond in completely different ways, depending on what meaning they give those experiences. )
Again, just like principles 3 and 4 above, applying this principle will empower you because you will have the ability to make a “conscious” decision (it gives you the power of “choice”—you get to choose how you will perceive or interpret any event, experience, etc. ).
Nothing has any power over me other than that
which I give it through my conscious thoughts.
~ Anthony Robbins ~
If you are distressed by anything external,
the pain is not due to the thing itself but
to your own estimate of it; and this you have
the power to revoke at any moment.
~ Marcus Aurelius ~
Nothing has any power except the power that you give it.
~ Marshall Sylver ~
6. Apply the “calmness linked to fear” technique (a powerful technique that can help you remain calm in situations that would normally trigger fear/anxiety).
Imagine one of your biggest fears, whatever it is (a situation, a thing, a specific person, a type of person, etc.). Then imagine or visualize (in “associated” mode—meaning, you are seeing things in your surroundings from inside your own body…and not watching yourself as an actor on a movie screen) yourself being calm—being relaxed.
For example, if one of your biggest fears is having confrontations with certain types of people (ex. bullies or difficult people), imagine the bully in front of you (you can do this with your eyes open or closed—whatever is more comfortable for you), yelling at you—at the top of his/her voice, insulting you, putting you down, “commanding” you (like a dictator) to do things, etc. (imagine the worst case scenario). And while the bully is doing these things to you, “consciously” relax your body.
Be aware of any tension in your body, then think “relax.” Be aware of your breathing to make sure it’s not shallow or too fast. Breathe naturally…in a relaxed manner. Feel your body becoming more and more relaxed as you imagine the bully doing his/her all to shake your foundation.
You could even smile…and I mean “actually smile”…or smile inside…while you’re looking straight at him/her (as if you were saying to him/her, “Who are you trying to fool?”). Or even laugh inside…while you’re looking at him/her. Whatever it takes for you to reach an empowering state—a “calm” or “relaxed” state.
The goal of this exercise is to link/associate the feeling of “calmness” or “being relaxed” with that particular fear (in this case, the bully) you’re imagining.
If you do this exercise effectively (by the way, you can do it as many times as needed—although I’ve found that one or two sessions usually does the trick), when you are put in a situation where you have to face that particular fear (ex. the bully), you will feel calm or relaxed. Or, at the very least, the fear (or anxiety) you normally would have felt will have decreased dramatically to the point where it no longer bothers or paralyzes you.
7. Constantly work on increasing your self-awareness—your self-knowledge. As some would say: Know thyself.
The more you know about yourself (your strengths, weaknesses, fears, beliefs, goals, motives, etc. ), the calmer, more confident, and more courageous you’ll be.
When two people meet, the prize always goes to the
one with the most self-insight. He will be calmer,
more confident, more at ease with the other.
~ Vernon Howard ~
He who knows much about others may be learned,
but he who understands himself is more intelligent.
He who controls others may be powerful,
but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.
~ Lao-Tzu ~
8. Make a list of the following, and review regularly, or once in a while (depending on the need), to serve as empowering reminders:
Your past successes/victories
Risks you’ve taken in the past
Your past courageous acts
By reminding yourself of past victories, courageous acts, etc., it helps empower you in the present moment. Basically, what you’re saying to yourself, as you face the present challenge, is, “I’ve succeeded many times before, therefore I can do it again.” Or, “I’ve been victorious many times in the past, therefore I can be victorious again.”
9. Surround yourself with others who help uplift your spirit. Avoid associating with those who like to bring you down or belittle your ideas (either because they don’t believe in you or your ideas—or because they know they would be fearful in the same situation…and they want you to feel the same way so they won’t be alone in feeling that way). In other words, choose your environment (which includes the people who surround you on a regular basis) wisely.
Remember: Courage is contagious. And so is cowardice.
We need to find the courage to say NO to the things and
people that are not serving us if we want to rediscover
ourselves and live our lives with authenticity.
~ Barbara De Angelis ~
To succeed in life, you have to forget about most people.
If you want to rise to the top, you have to disregard the
opinions, reactions, and warnings of others.
~ Ken Roberts ~
10. Get used to dealing with the unexpected (or uncertainty). In other words, don’t wait until you have all the answers, or until you know it all, before taking any action. Don’t wait until all conditions are perfect before taking the necessary steps you know you should take.
By mastering this skill, you’ll be able to go out there in the world with courage and confidence, taking one action after another, no matter what the conditions may be. You’ll be so used to dealing with the unexpected (having the ability to handle anything that comes your way) that even during times when you are not quite 100% prepared, you’ll feel confident in taking action.
The number one characteristic of students who later become
heads of companies is the ability to withstand uncertainty.
~ David A. Thomas, Dean, Cornell Business School ~
It is the individual’s ability to deal with the unexpected that characterizes the difference between success and failure.
~ Ross Perot ~
The following quotes explain why it’s usually not a good idea to wait until “all conditions are perfect” before taking action:
If you wait until the wind and the weather are just right,
you will never plant anything and never harvest anything.
~ Ecclesiastes 11:4 (Good News Bible) ~
Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections
must be first overcome.
~ Samuel Johnson ~
11. Simply decide that fear will not get in your way no matter what. If you happen to feel fear, for whatever reason, do what you have to do anyway. Act in spite of fear. You don’t have to wait until the fear is gone. Like Susan Jeffers’s book suggests: Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway.
In spite of fear, do what you have to do.
~ Chin-Ning Chu ~
Courage is acting in spite of fear.
~ Howard W. Hunter ~
12. Apply the “I have nothing to prove” or “I don’t have to prove anything” attitude. Avoid feeling the need to prove yourself to anyone. Just be your natural self. Express your true self.
In fact, always make it your goal to “express,” not “impress.” When you’re focused on “expressing,” you’ll be more at ease.
Your true nature never needs to anxiously prove itself
to others, but lives in calm command, like a popular king.
~ Vernon Howard ~
The real acid test of courage is to be just your honest self
when everybody is trying to be like somebody else.
~ Andrew Jensen ~
The time men spend in trying to impress others, they could
spend in doing the things by which others would be impressed.
~ Frank Romer ~
Naturalness is the easiest thing in the world to acquire,
if you will forget yourself—forget about the impression
you are trying to make.
~ Dale Carnegie ~
This above all: to thine own self be true.
~ William Shakespeare ~
[In addition to the 12 principles above, read my article, How To Be Confident And Relaxed When Speaking Before A Group Of People (Powerful Tips To Help You Become A Highly Effective Speaker/Presenter), if you haven’t done so already. You’ll find that many of the principles in that article can be applied to life in general. ]
I would like to end this article with a beautiful story I read many years ago.
Michaelangelo, the world famous painter, sculptor, and architect was once asked how he could carve such magnificent statues. And he answered, “The perfect statue is already there within the block of marble. I simply chip away the excess.”
And so it is with courage. It’s already there within you. You only need to create or devise ways (like the ones I shared with you above) to chip away—or get rid of—any unnecessary fears, worries, apprehensions, etc., so that the courage within you will be unleashed more fully.