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The Suprisingly Underrated Virtue That Opens Doors To Infinite Possibilities

2012 September 27

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage. ~Anais Nin

CourageEverybody 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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25 Responses
  1. December 5, 2013

    Hi Marquita,
    great encouraging and inspirational words!

    The book ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ is a book I read a few times and even facilitated a small study group with it. I also like Susan Jeffers ‘Embracing Uncertainty’ book.
    Having said that I still have times when unpredictable circumstances activate terror in me.
    My early childhood was very, very unpredictable with 4 sets of foster parents and my parents in between and I am still learning how to sooth the little scared girl inside me at times.

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom.
    Love and Light
    Yorinda

    P.S. Congratulations for performing the Hula in front of such a prominent audience!
    Yorinda Wanner recently posted..Unlimited Possibilities and ImaginationMy Profile

  2. October 3, 2012

    Hi Marquita,
    I certainly lack courage in doing new things and even in some existing things which are a part and parcel of my life. I have an inherent fear of speaking in front of thousands which is taking a toll over my goals and aspirations.The tips shared for gaining courage are great and I am surely going to incorporate these tips into my life. Thanks for this valuable share.

  3. October 3, 2012

    I will not repeat what others before me have repeated thousand times over (and you know it very well too)-this is, simply put, an AMAZING post. I was discussing this very thing with my husband today and we precisely were thinking on how his job change would mean a drastic change for the entire family. I simply picked the link of this post and have sent it to him-he is reading it right now as we speak. Thank you for inspiring not one, but two people in my family! God bless!

  4. September 30, 2012

    Hi Marty, as I read this, I kept thinking about my fear when I was learning to scuba dive, that fear was very strong. And, yet, I was the one who wanted to learn in the first place, I wanted to do more adventurous and fun things, so I imposed that fear upon myself and my husband and daughter also (they learned at the same time).

    However, the 3 of us got over our fear, and after getting over that fear, I felt more confident about doing other things. You’re correct in that getting over a fear also brings a huge amount of self confidence.

    Thanks for a fantastic article as usual Marty!

  5. September 30, 2012

    Marty,I have understood to have a vision being first and then gain knowledge on how to manifest that vision. Then with hope your will gain courage and must keep have enthusiasm each step of the way.\\\’I have applied this knowledge with a daily exercise of sitting alone in total quiet with focusing my thoughts only on expanding that vision to the end result being seen. The hardest part for anyone is sitting in silence where we have our best results. Keeping your body still and blocking out every thought except what that one desire to accomplish is. The rest is for another visit.Marty, you have continue to give us quality and usable content week after week. I do appreciate your insight and always look forward getting encouragement from reading more post such as this.

  6. September 30, 2012

    This is an inspiring post Marty. I do remember the book about feeling the fear and doing it anyway..I had an audio version that I listened to often at one time….and like you it pops into my consciousness from time to time reminding me to move forward.

    I especially like your insight about fear keeping us from seeing opportunities that are right in front of us…very interesting thought. Thanks for sharing.
    Celeste Smucker recently posted..Your Life’s Purpose Keeps You YoungMy Profile

  7. September 29, 2012

    A great post as always, Marty! You are so right about fear. I was running a race today, and the negative talk started to creep in as my mind wondered during the second mile of a 5K (3.1 mile) race. It was almost like I was debating myself and then finally I reminded myself that I didn’t see anyone who looked like my age in front of me, so I kept going, and my third mile was actually the fastest (even though I was starting to run out of air a little and doing 2-1 [breathe in for two steps and out for one step] instead of my normal 2-2 for a race of this distance], and I won the age group! Imagine what would’ve happened if I had given in to the voices of fear.
    Steve Nicholas recently posted..John Ngugi and the Power of Mental ToughnessMy Profile

  8. September 29, 2012

    Hi Marty,

    This is excellent. Your views on building courage are inspiring. I know some people who could really learn from this. Thank you for sharing.
    Gary Young recently posted..China Sourcing: Setting Goals.My Profile

  9. September 29, 2012

    Love this post Marty! I am going to have to read, “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway.” I also grew up in a family that runs from fear. I think that I will really learn a lot from this b ook. That is pretty cool that you got to Hula in front of all those great people!!
    Angela recently posted..3 Ways to Never Run Out of Blog Post Ideas AgainMy Profile

  10. September 29, 2012

    Marquita,
    courage.. and infinite possibilities.. wow, what a combination..
    You must have gone through a hell of a life to truly grasp all this an dbe able to clearly and so people like me can understand and reflect back at al what life had offered so far and start thinking.. wow, I am a very corageous person?
    Going through life, I found that no matter what we say, sometime or I shoudl say most times.. courage is what make us get further, with out courage, we would not advance at all.
    Thanks so much of another wonderful post to use and refer to it from time to time.. your contributions (great tips) will be helpful along teh way.
    Thanks again Marquita.
    nickc
    Nick Catricala recently posted..The KISS PrincipleMy Profile

  11. September 29, 2012

    Hello Marty,

    I feel that we have to walk through or step over our comfort zone to find what life truly holds for us. Some of us may go through that several times and each time that we do we will evolve and reap the rewards. Now this does not come easy braveness is required!
    Sadie-Michaela Harris recently posted..Here in Europe Facebook’s Photo Recognition Tool is being removedMy Profile

  12. Nathalie Villeneuve
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    September 29, 2012

    I love this article. It’s very timely for me and I am sure for many people. The reason is simple: For life to change we need to change, and change does bring fear…so if we let fear win…we don’t change. A life without change can’t be a very exciting one. I am changing a ton of things about me, my business, my goals right now and fear creeps in using many forms. I recognize most of the shapes it takes but sometimes fear is sneaky and hides as something that actually seems good for you. That’s when fear can do most damage because often it has won without even the slightest fight!

    Let’s be aware of the different faces of fear …I like the writing exercises you recommend ;)

    Thank you, ~ Nathalie

  13. September 29, 2012

    We all make assumptions as to the confidence and courage of others and ourselves. Great post. A good reminder to check what I need to be courageous about today.
    lynneinpborough recently posted..#coffeemorningMy Profile

  14. September 28, 2012

    Marty, The comparison between courage and confidence is very enlightening. Wasn’t it one of our American presidents that said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
    You know, most of our fears play out to be unfounded. And one fearful thought plays on another. If I was facing a fearful situation, I would have to power up myself with a great affirming self talk and prayer.
    Another quote I remember is “Face the fear and do it anyway”. ~Unknown
    Have a courageous, confident, fearless day,
    Lynn
    Lynn Jones recently posted..What is Your Daring Adventure?My Profile

  15. September 28, 2012

    Marty,

    Wow, how to dissect fear in one easy article. Your story so resonates with us all, I’m sure. Whether we’re willing to admit our fear or not, we all know it’s there.

    It may never leave us, it may chatter on like an atomic powered Chatty Cathy, but it is certainly controllable. Pushing through our fear, doing what needs to be done anyway usually results in a broad grin our a face and a deep wondering about what was so hard to do. If you’ve ever pushed through the fear you know the feeling of success and pride.

    Wonderful piece, Marty. Many thanks!

    RICK
    Rick Lelchuk recently posted..Flexibility – Moving with the FlowMy Profile

  16. September 28, 2012

    Great post! I’m in complete agreement that courage is more important than confidence. If you are self confident without courage then that certainty could leave you stuck. Certain that you are doing everything you need to do. Courage is the thing that will take you out of your comfort zone and make that big leap!

    Louise Edington
    Louise Edington recently posted..Why Love: Unsolicited?My Profile

  17. September 28, 2012

    Great artice and will definately have to add it to my favorites so I can come back often. If you wouldn’t have posted you blog before mine, I would have thought this was in response to mine.

    Thanks for sharring these tips with us.

    Jean
    Gratitude Coach
    Jean recently posted..Its a MarathonMy Profile

  18. September 28, 2012

    “Peel away labels.” Oh this is so good!
    Even the very words we unwittingly use cause us to label ourselves (and others!). Marianne Williamson wrote something the other day about the time to come when we no longer see ourselves or others as a label. The inherent judgment, inward or outward, in labeling makes it very difficult to be courageous.
    I choose COURAGE!

  19. September 28, 2012

    Oh how I love the topic of Courage. We were brought up to think it only means bravery, alas, so much more than bravery! Anyone can be brave, but it takes Heart to be courageous. When my heart is open to possibilities, courage is the wings that takes me to where my heart wants to go.
    Suzanne recently posted..CoachingMy Profile

  20. September 28, 2012

    You’ve said it beautifully, Marty. Fear is perhaps the one thing stopping us from achieving our full potential.

    Courage is not the absence of fear. It’s the ability and the mind-set to work through it and in spite of it. I work towards having courage each day. I know it will happen for me and that I’ll come out the other end much stronger.

    Thanks for the inspiration today.
    Anne recently posted..Confidence To Take RisksMy Profile

    • September 28, 2012

      So glad you enjoyed the article Anne – always appreciate your thoughtful comments. For me the biggest take away on this subject is that for better or worse fear will always be a part of life, but you can feel it and yet refuse to let it sidetrack or cripple you. Important message, because I’m feeling a little shakey in the knees myself this morning ;-)

  21. September 27, 2012

    I think that if you are confident, it does take courage to take action. I see so many “confident” people, but there is a missing link….they talk themselves out of taking that leap. That’s where I think courage comes in.

    Thanks for another awesome post.
    Donna
    Donna Merrill recently posted..Google+ Hangout With Patricia GozlanMy Profile

    • September 28, 2012

      Welcome back Donna, and thanks for taking the time to contribute to the conversation. Always appreciate your valuable insight :-)

  22. Ben Wolfgramm permalink
    September 27, 2012

    I’ve never thought of the difference between courage and confidence. It makes quite a bit of sense!

    My job as an airline pilot brings home the bacon. My career and day-to-day duties are very proceduralized and leave little room for right-brain thinking and exercise. I know I have good stick and rudder skills and my confidence is high within my airline skill set.

    A few years ago I decided to start up my own business. Little did I know how much courage I would have to muster!

    One of the reasons I decided to start my own business is to get out of my comfort zone. I wanted to push myself despite fearing I would fall flat on my face, fail miserably and lose a ton of money in the process! I quickly learned that fear of failure was an everyday thing for me. But, if I wanted to take command of my career instead of leaving it to the discretion of airline management, I had to take a risk and persevere.

    Perseverance has been a major part of courage for me and perhaps for others. It’s amazing how much courage it take can to put words to paper, make decisions with imperfect information or follow one’s gut.

    I don’t know if perseverance comes before, after or at the same time as courage. But it seems to go hand-in-hand with courage.

    Thanks Marty!
    Ben Wolfgramm recently posted..Sep 1, Instant Upper Back Pain ReliefMy Profile

    • September 28, 2012

      Welcome Ben and thank you so much for sharing your inspiring story! You are so right about the value of perseverance … we may need to muster all the courage at hand to take that first step, but the journey has only just begun at that point and there are many more rewards and adventures awaiting those who persevere to achieve their dreams. I wish you all the best :-)

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