Today’s blog is inspired by a topic Gitanjali Trevorrow Seymour aka the High Definition Coach has explored that really resonates with me. And that’s the C word. When we think of the C word in relation to personal development, what most people immediately imagine is confidence. Why we need it, how we get more of it, why we might be lacking it. There are endless articles on the subject and many of us see acquiring it as the key to unlocking the potential in our lives. And it’s true – confidence often seems to breed success. Many high achievers seem to ooze it – so why wouldn’t we want a piece of what they have?
But it’s not the whole story. If you dig a bit deeper – confidence is actually just the superficial, attention-seeking child of another, more useful and profound C word.
And that’s Courage.
Because there can be no real confidence without courage. We see confidence all the time in others’ actions – but it’s in their minds that the real battles and triumphs are taking place. How do confident public speakers exist? Are they born with a natural confidence that the rest of us can only covet? Or are they tapping into another internal strength in order to overcome their fears and ‘become’ confident? Well, in my experience it’s the latter.
Whatever we do in life that means stepping up, doing something different or new, or thinking bigger – requires courage. The primitive part of our brains is hard-wired to avoid novel or potentially threatening circumstances so caution and fear are the most natural responses to new situations. It’s the strong thought processes required to overcome these feelings that is ‘courage’ – and it’s this, that in turn, leads to confidence.
Being courageous allows us to face our fears and do the things that we are naturally afraid to do. It allows us to risk failure and to make mistakes. To stand out from the crowd and forge our own paths. It allows us to live our best lives.
So how can we find our ‘courage’?
- Recall past courageous actions.
You may not feel like a courageous person but there will have been times in your life when you managed to do something you were terrified of doing. Did you get through a daunting interview or successfully complete a stretch project? Did you stick to your guns and say no to something, or turn up to present at a meeting when you wanted to run away? Don’t belittle your achievements when you look back – give yourself the credit you deserve and tap into that feeling when you need to boost your courage in the future.
- Learn from your past courageous ‘failures’.
There are bound to have been times when you courageously tried something but didn’t achieve the desired outcomes. How did you feel? Think about what you learned and how the event has shaped you and helped you to grow in wisdom and experience. Take courage from that knowledge.
- Develop a growth mindset.
Psychologist Carol Dweck in “The Growth Mindset” says that what matters in life is the effort of trying and what you learn along the way. If you follow this way of thinking it will stop you from becoming overly discouraged by mistakes or events that don’t go as planned. Learn by doing! Get better. Be curious. That’s how you achieve excellence and extraordinary results. Knowing that you can do, try, fail, learn and try again gives you the courage to keep going.
- Look elsewhere for inspiration.
Courage is around us, everywhere. Look outside of yourself and be inspired by friends, colleagues, role models, celebrities. Even at home! My sons inspire me every day – Noah is doing a talk at school, and Dylan is preparing for his GCSEs. If they can show courage and resilience when they’re so young, then so can I!
- Remember your why.
It helps to have a reason for doing what you’re about to do. You will have heard me talk before about the importance of your why, i.e. your real reason for doing something or your inner purpose which is the most powerful motivator of all. Use this to channel your strength. If you know exactly what you want and why you want it, you are much more likely to find the courage to go for it.
- Have a mantra.
Create a mantra or affirmation, any statement that you repeat to yourself that lifts you up and gives you hope. Even if you don’t believe it at first, repeating it aloud and internalising its message so it becomes part of who you are is incredibly powerful. If you’re not sure which mantra to use – here are a few of mine:
- From the Labi Siffre song Something Inside So Strong : “ The higher you build your barriers. The taller I become.” This is a record I’ve been playing in my head for 30 years. It has given me the courage to persevere when I wanted to give up and to reach for the highest, brightest star, even when failure seemed inevitable.
- “There goes Caroline, she dared greatly”. Another favourite, this reminds me that what matters is to have tried, to have given it everything I have, and that my life is all the richer for it.
- “You’ve got this”. So simple. And so effective.
- Dare greatly.
As I touched on in the last point, we are not here forever so we need to make every day count. We want to be able to look back on our lives with wonder and amazement at the risks we took, the things we tried and the courage we showed, not with regret at the things we could have tried but didn’t. I remind myself of this regularly. I want my story to be one of courage, of triumph over adversity, of conquering the odds and of “daring greatly”. This brilliant phrase was coined by Brene Brown – see her TED talk on vulnerability and read the book Daring Greatly for inspiration. As Theodore Roosevelt once said:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly. …”
Practise these steps to make courageous thinking a habit. And for more tips, tune in to this week’s podcast: