Reflect on a moment on what courage is. You could come up with a few meanings. Courage expert Sandra Ford Watson states that the word stems from the old French word corage, which means heart and spirit. This makes a lot of sense.
When you move forward with an action based on courage, you may be afraid (or terrified) but you do it anyway. When you do this you are committing to yourself by standing in your truth. Doing this connects you to your heart and spirit – the essence of who you are. When you succeed in your courageous action, your heart and spirit become more aligned and the by- product of this is confidence and increased self-esteem.
The more you follow through with courage you become stronger, more confident and move into the zone of fearlessness. A survey I designed based on Being Courageous in Times of Change has, so far, indicated three things of equal value when people step into their courage. In the survey 69.2% of participants discovered they were capable, resilient and/or their life had taken a turn for the better upon having moved through their fear or obstacle.
In a survey I designed for those people who have walked the Camino Pilgrimage has so far revealed that 57.9% of participants believed they were more courageous as a result. Like the results in the above survey, participants who walked the Camino discovered they were resilient (60.9%) and/or capable (56.52%). 
With such results being demonstrated you realise that courage is a powerful quality to cultivate. Positive psychologists Martin Seligman and (the late) Christopher Peterson were co-creators in the land mark Values in Action (VIA) Classification of Strengths system and included courage as one of the core virtues. They define it as having ‘the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition’.
Seeking courage may be for something that is externally or internally driven. It’s also personal and subjective. One person may find posting on Facebook a terrifying prospect, another asking for an overdue and well-deserved pay rise is daunting but they know they need to speak up, while another is preparing for a first time piano recital in front of 500 people.
Being courageous isn’t necessarily about undertaking actions that are monumental. They may be small and incremental such as stepping up and posting on Facebook – as a comment or writing a first time post. The initial opposition to posting could be psychological (internal critical dialogue) or fear (what if such and such happens). Once you have done it, reflect on how it went. If it went well, it may propel you to post again and more regularly.
The employee who wants to discuss an overdue pay rise with a manager may have both internal opposition (negative internal dialogue for example) and external opposition (being challenged or refused by the manager) but the courage comes from doing it anyway. If the urge to discuss this matter with the manager/employer has been a pressing issue for some time, when there is follow through, there is alignment with the heart and spirit. If you procrastinate or don’t speak up, there will be misalignment in this area. Overtime resentments may build up and your ability to be courageous and speak out may turn into an internal dialogue based on self-doubt and deserving.
How many of us have had the opportunity to play a piano recital? I have and as a first time performance it was pretty scary – especially as I had never performed in public before. However, I wanted to do so and built up the courage to perform in front of an audience. I am so glad to have achieved this. I have never played piano again in this way, but to say that I did it gave me the confidence to keep practicing and playing piano for some time afterward. It really boosted my confidence and without question connected me to heart and spirit.
As we move through fear we move into the space of courage and once we achieve our goal or break free from an obstacle or opposition there is a real sense of accomplishment and boost in confidence. How is this not a virtue to cultivate? If the word scares you, start small. Remember, incremental courage is something not to be shunned. These courageous stepping stones just may lead you to a monumental act of courage.
Sana Turnock is a courage mindset facilitator, keynote speaker and sharer of courage stories. Learn how Sana can enhance your business development or next conference by clicking on this link – Courage Facilitator| Mindset Speaker| Courage Stories (courageunravelled.com)
Peterson, C. (2006). A Primer in Positive Psychology. Oxford University Press: New York
Watson, S. 15 July 2018. ‘Why is the true definition of courage important to you?’ https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-true-definition-courage-important-you-the-courage-expert/
Note both surveys are now closed.