The Suprisingly Underrated Virtue That Opens Doors To Infinite Possibilities
Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage. ~Anais Nin
Everybody wants more of it. Self-confidence is after all the key to doing more, being more and living the life of your dreams … right?
As important as self-confidence is, what if I were to tell you that there is actually a surprisingly overlooked and often undervalued virtue that may well be more valuable? In fact, it might just be the key to opening many more opportunities than confidence!
Let’s take a quick look at two definitions:
Confidence: A feeling of assurance, especially of self-assurance. The state or quality of being certain.
Courage: Keeping on even when you are scared. The ability to do something that you know is right or good, even though it means doing the very difficult or facing uncertainty about the outcome.
Confidence operates within the realm of safety; within the known. This is part of its attraction because it allows a definite outcome, by the very definition that imposes limitations. A person can be highly confident at a particular job, but at the same time avoid trying a new or very different type of work because they fear looking foolish or having to start over as a beginner.
Stepping into the unknown requires courage!
You can choose courage.
I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who was struggling with a decision about a new job that would require a cross country move. At one point she blurted out “you can’t possibly understand what I’m feeling because you’ve never faced fear like this, look at all the things you’ve done in your life!”
Hum. Let me share a secret with you … just between us okay? Here it is; fear runs in my family … no I take that back, it virtually gallops! I grew up watching the people closest to me in the world live their lives afraid of their own shadows.
I look back now and clearly see there was a time when I was well on my way to following the family tradition; but then I read a book. Maybe you’ve heard of it, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway … and it changed my life.
Let me be completely honest … not to take anything away from the author, but today I could not tell you a single word from that book, and I only read it that one time. But the title stuck with me and has become the mantra for my life.
Here’s a quick example. The first time I danced a solo hula was at a private reception for authors speaking at the Maui Writer’s Conference. In the audience was Jack Canfield, Mitch Albom, John Saul, Mark Victor Hanson and many other authors whose names you’d likely recognize. You think I didn’t feel sheer terror? I threw up twice before I ever found the courage to enter the room … but I did, I survived, had a blast and life goes on.
Long ago I made a choice … and that was to allow myself to fully feel the fear (and I’ve never stopped!) but then do whatever it takes to keep moving forward.
Your attention will naturally flow to whatever you focus on.
I’ve written quite a bit about change recently and not surprisingly the word ‘fear’ has repeatedly come up as an associated reference in the comments. The bottom line is if our primary association with change is that it creates fear, what do you think we will experience each and every time we think of change? Fear!
Learning to shift your focus away from what you stand to lose, and toward what you stand to gain, will completely change your perception of the situation. This simple shift can quickly leave you feeling more courageous and eager to take action instead of stuck in self-limiting beliefs.
A few more tips to help you become more courageous:
- Name your fear. To begin disassembling your fears put a name to them. Pick something you are afraid of doing or facing and in as much detail as possible write down how it makes you feel. What is the worst that could possibly happen if you choose to face your fear and do this thing? Then write down the benefits of facing the fear. Keep in mind that fear will naturally amplify your perception of the negative possibilities, so you may need to work a little harder at emphasizing the positive.
- Keep exercising your new courage muscles. Courage is a daily habit and the more you allow yourself to feel the fear and nudge yourself to face even small uncomfortable experiences, the more courageous you will become. And I’ll tell you another secret … because our fears often blind us to new experiences, as you become more courageous you’ll be amazed at how opportunities for growth will begin to appear that you may never have otherwise noticed!
- Peel away labels. Without even realizing it you may have labeled yourself in limiting roles such as, “I am afraid of change”, “I’m not happy, but this is the best I can do.” Only you can change your story to reflect a new reality … “Yes, it is scary but I owe it to myself to make the most of my life and I CAN do this!”
- Cultivate resilience. Resilience is not merely coping with adversity; it’s bouncing back stronger than ever. It’s having the courage to face whatever obstacles or unexpected detours may arise in your life, and look for the opportunities for growth.
Whatever you do, don’t try to talk yourself into believing that you have to be completely fearless before tackling a new goal or facing change! Courage is absolutely a choice, and fear does not have the power to rob you of your dreams, motivation, and strength unless you let it.
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