Courage helps us choose new pathways during times of stress and difficulty. These days, we need courage to complete even the most basic tasks, like sending the kids to school or shopping for groceries, because they carry higher risks than before.
There are many ways to demonstrate everyday courage. You can stand up for yourself. Take a step in a new direction. Give a voice to the voiceless. The benefits of doing so are often memorable. When you act courageously, you might inspire others, feel a sense of accomplishment, or advance a meaningful endeavor.
In the scientific character strengths and virtues framework, there are four strengths that can expand your capacity to act more courageously each day. They include:
Deliberately engaging these strengths can be especially helpful when you feel discouraged, lack confidence, or don’t know what to do next. The practice below will help you identify a difficult situation and apply one of these strengths to help you move forward.
Courage typically begins with fear or anxiety, but a courageous person recognizes that getting to the other side is worth the risks. They do feel the fear, but it doesn’t prevent them from taking action.
Many of us think we’re either born courageous or not, but courage can be developed. Check out each of the strengths below to see how.
Courage is an approach to life, but bravery is about taking action. Brave actions can help you overcome fears like opening up in relationships, shifting away from work that feels stagnant, and accomplishing other daunting goals.
For instance, one of my coaching clients is creating an aspirational vision of her work and life. Like many of us, she can easily identify what she wants less of but struggles to imagine what she wants more of. She was concerned that difficulties in past relationships or situations might repeat and thwart her efforts to move forward.
A turning point in our work was when she was able to admit that she deserved the life she envisioned. Facing a feeling of unworthiness was possibly one of the bravest moments I’ve seen lately. It allows her to genuinely believe that her vision is possible to achieve. This, in turn, energizes her to keep going and feel confident she can navigate concerns that arise.
What brave action might you consider taking right now?
Perseverance is about finishing what you started, even when things get difficult or you feel like giving up. Persistent people tend to be dependable and trustworthy. They are the “go-to” people for getting things done. They build skills, resources, confidence, and achievements along the way.
As with many people in the general population, perseverance is one of my lowest strengths. It’s not that I don’t have it, just that I need to work at it. For instance, when I was writing my book 30 Days of Character Strengths: A Guided Practice to Ignite Your Best the thought of giving up crossed my mind many times.
Instead, I blocked out short periods of time in my daily schedule to establish a writing habit. I wrote most, but not all, days. It took a while, but I stuck with it. It wasn’t a perfect practice, but I was striving to finish my book, not have a perfect practice. Seeing my progress each week motivated me to continue.
My book is now published because I persevered. People around the world are now applying their character strengths in new ways in their personal and professional lives.
What helps you get things done when you feel like giving up?
Honesty is about truth and authenticity. Honest people act with integrity and own up to their feelings and actions to gain control of their lives. Honesty builds close relationships.
Another coaching client engaged honesty to own up to the unfair or unkind ways she treats herself, even as she is known for her kindness to others. This underuse of kindness to herself sapped her energy and kept her stuck in patterns that didn’t serve her well. This insight was eye-opening to her.
Ironically, kindness is one of her signature strengths. She has strong personal and professional relationships because of this kindness. She wanted to be kinder to herself, but it seemed selfish to do that. Being kind to herself became an act of bravery, one that she now allows herself regularly. As a result, she feels more confident and in control.
When does a lack of honesty hold you back in relationships or within yourself?
Zest is the vital energy and enthusiasm needed to get through stressful times. Zest allows you to live into your aspirations and provide the energy to step up or persist at something harder and longer. It is also linked with more happiness.
I love being around zesty people. They know how to make life engaging and meaningful for themselves and those around them. Their positive energy is contagious. One of the zestiest people I know is a caring mental health provider, a brilliant teacher, and an engaged parent and grandparent. Her zesty living inspires others to live more fully as they see her expressing all parts of herself.
When does zest help you create positive outcomes?
Where do you need to act courageously in your life?
- Think of an upcoming situation that you feel discouraged about, lack confidence in, or wish to avoid. This should be a situation in which you believe an added dose of courage could change how you approach it.
- Choose one of the courage strengths – bravery, perseverance, honesty, or zest – and identify one way to apply it as an act of courage. Perhaps acknowledging your feelings about something and elevating honesty will help get you on the right track. Perhaps it’s time to stand up and be brave publicly for something you believe in.
- Put this action into play. Be sure to notice the effects and how you feel.
When I responded to a difficult situation with courage, I noticed that _____________ and felt _______________.
Perhaps you noticed that the situation turned out much better than you thought it would, and you were elated. If not, perhaps you noticed why it didn’t or what you could do differently next time.
Feel free to journal about this reflection, letting your thoughts flow freely and without judgment. Or talk it through with someone you trust.
May you go forward courageously,