Living Courageously Is Key to Succeeding in Life
What do you think is the most common thing that gets in the way of success? If you guessed “fear,” you hit the nail on the head. There’s a popular quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.” Many people let fear dictate their choices which impacts the quality of their lives.
All through the ages, courage has been considered an essential human trait. Aristotle believed courage is the first of human characteristics because it makes all others possible. Courage helps us embrace life—no matter what. It’s available to everyone. Here are some tips to help you live your daily life with less fear and more courage.
Repeated Exposure to Your Fear Desensitizes Your Anxiety
Most of us aren’t born naturally courageous. Courage is a habit, like a muscle that grows with exercise. Brene Brown summed it up nicely: “Courage is a habit, a virtue; you get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging.”
Everyone has fears. The fight-or-flight fear is necessary for our survival. But other fears are unhealthy and keep us from living up to our full potential. Avoiding and suppressing fear only makes it worse. That’s the surefire way to fuel and strengthen fear.
The goal is to free yourself from the paralyzing grip of fear. You move beyond your fear by retraining your brain through repeated exposure to whatever you’re afraid of. The popular self-improvement lecturer Dale Carnegie often advised to do the thing you fear as the quickest way to conquer that fear.
“Courage, like fear, is a habit. The more you do it, the more you do it,
and this habit—of stepping up, of taking action—more than anything else,
will move you in a different direction.” —Tony Robbins
Subjecting yourself to what you fear will desensitize your brain to that fear. Someone afraid of escalators will eradicate that fear by continually observing and riding on them. It’s done with consistent exposure in a safe manner. But it takes courage to get you near an escalator in the first place.
Being courageous doesn’t mean you’re not afraid. Courage means learning to do things despite your fear. You’re afraid but you step on that escalator anyway. The more you ride escalators, the faster you retrain your brain and become desensitized to them. Your focus shifts from the fear to the actual “doing.”
It’s easier to be courageous when you feel confident about yourself and your abilities. Becoming confident takes practice and is built up over time. “Fake it ‘til you make it” is an adage that definitely applies here.
Take Small Steps Outside Your Comfort Zone
What’s required is stepping outside your comfort zone. It sounds cliché but it’s true: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
Start small to begin to strengthen that “courage muscle.” Take baby steps if you need to. What small step can you take that creates the least amount of anxiety? Visit a new restaurant, enroll in a computer class, try speed dating, join Toastmasters. Try something you thought you wouldn’t like. Explore life!
Keep in mind, it’s important to know your limits. Maybe you’ll never get over your fear of dogs (cynophobia) because you were bitten as a child by a vicious dog. That’s fine. If it’s not negatively impacting your quality of life, then it may not be necessary to overcome that fear.
Use Mindfulness and Meditation to Overcome Your Fearful Thoughts
If you still can’t get a grip on your fear, keep your mind in the present moment, not trotting off into the past or the future. In fact, the more of a crisis, the more you’ve got to be totally engaged in the now. What sounds do you hear? Are there any subtle smells? How’s your breathing? Be completely immersed in the present moment, paying attention to every aspect of whatever you’re doing. That’s mindfulness. Mindfulness will always serve you well.
Meditation is extremely effective at developing mindfulness. During meditation, you practice consciously controlling your thoughts rather than your thoughts controlling you. When (not if) your mind wanders, bring the focus back to your breath, heartbeat or candle flame. That way your mind isn’t having its way with you—battering you around until you wind up like a limp ragdoll.
Meditation increases consciousness because you gain awareness of what’s going on beneath the surface. You actively feel your emotions. Don’t label those emotions “good” or “bad,” “positive” or “negative.” Simply feel them. Next, instead of thinking “I’m afraid,” you rephrase it to, “I’m having a thought that’s telling me I’m afraid.” The more mindful you become, the less likely you are to be on autopilot with your mind behind the wheel careening down those familiar dark alleys.
Courage Helps You Reach Far Beyond Your Grasp
“Courage is not the absence of fear but the mastery of it.”
Fearlessness is a learned behavior. Like any newly developing habit, it’s a little uncomfortable in the beginning but gets easier the more you do it. When life presents you with opportunities to be courageous, step up to the plate. Get in more batting practice.
Living courageously will significantly improve your life and help you achieve your dreams. If you don’t want to settle for less than your heart’s desire, allow courage to help you reach goals easier.