I collect quotes about courage. And I love to read stories about people facing down impossible odds to find victory. I used to think those people were different than me…that they had some special, solid core that helped them to be more courageous. Nope. They doubted just like I find myself doing from time to time. And they didn’t know they’d be victorious when they began, but they knew they wanted to try.
Courage in the face of rotten stuff seems impossible. But courage in the face of the next step is doable. No matter how it feels right now. You can do the next thing.
You can look at the lemons life tosses your way and start mashing them into lemonade. Sweet, sweet lemonade.
Mark Twain said, “Courage is resistance to fear, master of fear, not absence of fear.”
The Bible says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
But where do you start? How do you not ignore the fear, but choose courage so you can proceed and find victory? I cover eight different aspects of courage with my coaching clients, here are five good ones to start with:
1. Actively evaluate your choices.
Fear can make us do strange things and encourage choices that absolutely do not help. Are you trying to numb your fear with unhealthy choices? Do you avoid that which you fear you don’t have the courage to face?
And if so, where do you think that leads you? Mountains, and even molehills, don’t just disappear. And when we hike that mountain, sure our legs may feel shaky and our heart might pound a little extra hard, but we are stronger for the climb.
Take an honest look at your choices to be courageous.
Coach’s Tip: Pick two days this week and jot down what you choose to do with your time (maybe a workday and a weekend day). Record your time spent. Jot down meals and snacks. Really dig in and record your choices for those two days. Be honest with yourself about binge-watching Netflix, the chips or chocolate, any mindless social media scrolling, avoiding a neighbor, time spent complaining, alcohol consumption, or your time spent medicating with anything unhealthy.
After those two days evaluate where your time and efforts are going. Are you working toward a positive end or merely getting by? Are you making any choices that are unhealthy?
Turn off autopilot and evaluate the choices you make throughout the day and night. Don’t beat yourself up. But take an honest look to help yourself make a positive change.
2. Are you open to having a disagreement?
I’m not suggesting you go all Rocky Balboa on anyone and go looking for a fight, but are you willing to engage in a disagreement? This little test can show us whether we are standing up for our thoughts and opinions that have value or whether we are fading into the background of life.
Please be a peacemaker at every opportunity. But I encourage you to be aware of situations where your opinion, that may be different from another, matters! Be courageous.
Coach’s tip: Think back over the last few weeks. Have you felt the urge to speak up and didn’t do anything about it? If your spouse or close friend expresses an opinion that you find runs counter to the truth what do you do?
3. What “old tapes” stop you from being courageous?
Are you familiar with the concept of “old tapes”? Those statements, opinions, careless words said by someone in our past that seem to run through our minds as if on a tape-recorded loop.
I’d love for you to become aware of any “old tapes” running through your mind that may rob you of your courage. Did:
- A teacher tell you that you were no good at something?
- You take a risk and it didn’t work and you punish yourself for it?
- A sibling doubt your abilities or berate you?
- A parent, step-parent, or person in authority demean you?
- Someone ignore you that should have loved on you?
Coach’s Tip: This may not be a lot of fun, BUT it can prove to be very productive. I’d love for you to be gentle with yourself, but set aside time to think back over your past.
Take it in chunks: elementary school, awkward middle school, ahhh high school, your first job, etc. Think back through the influences in your life and write down any painful, hurtful, unhelpful words that were spoken to you that still seem to find their way into your present life. This can be weighty so it’s often good to get some impartial help in finding and fixing those “old tapes”.
4. What is the last new thing you tried?
It can be anything new. A new food, route home, technology, exercise, skill, recipe, or even a new hairstyle. It doesn’t have to be earth-shaking, but when is the last time you tried something new? How did it go?
Sometimes we are nudged out of our comfort zone to try something new and other times we are flat-out shoved into a new thing. And there are times we choose new. When is the last time you did something new? Assessing our willingness to try something new is a good gauge of our courage and willingness to fail.
Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
So, what if we agreed that “failure” really isn’t a thing. If we try and don’t reach the desired results that’s a “try” not a “fail”. We can try again.
Coach’s Tip: Try something new. ????
5. Are you successfully separating the truth from the lies?
There is a lot of talk about “fake news” these days. With everyone having a platform to share their every thought, we end up with a mess sometimes. Just because someone said it, doesn’t mean it’s true. And just because you think it, doesn’t mean it is based in truth. But there is a way to find the truth.
When is the last time you read the story in the bible about the angel visiting Mary to tell her of God’s plan for her life? Did she rely on her knowledge of the situation? Did she fear what others might think? Or did she know without a shadow of a doubt that God’s plan is her best plan? You may be thinking, “Sure if an angel visited me, I’d do whatever God said.” But I believe that God speaks to us in these present times too. If we will slow down and quiet down and lay open our hearts before Him.
The Bible is the best to go for truth. Start there. There are great online reading plans through the YouVersion app. Begin a purposeful effort to replace the lies in your life with truth. God promises us if we will ask He will respond. Keep going to Him.
Coach’s Tip: Listen for lies in your thoughts. For example, do you hear, “You can’t do that. You’ve failed in the past.” Jot that lie down on paper or on a note in your phone and then counter it with truth. Like this one, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13
Separate the truth from the lies. Reprogram your mind to tell you the truth.
Face Each Moment
Not everything that’s faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it’s faced.
Begin to look for ways to practice courage in your life. You are more courageous than you think. Little by little. Courage won’t fall into your lap, you will need to summon it. Work at it. Remind yourself of who you are in Christ and take some risks. Then congratulate yourself for those brave steps regardless of the perceived outcome.
I have made a lot of mistakes, experienced deep, deep loss, battled two cancers and a whole lot of surgeries but I learned how to add courage to my life. I don’t do everything right all of the time, but I have figured out practical ways to grow my courage. And you can too.
If you’d like help with the next steps to take, I’d be honored to talk with you about that. I offer a free coaching session to all new folks. Being brave doesn’t always feel brave. But learning new ways to approach this challenging thing called “life” is courageous.