Courage is a necessary component for a satisfying life. That doesn’t mean you must jump out of airplanes, rush into burning buildings, or participate in death-defying stunts. It does mean that you must learn to lead a life that is not ruled by fear. If you do not cultivate your courage, you will make choices based on the least frightening choice rather than what you really want to do. Courage doesn’t refer to a lack of fear but means that you move forward despite your fear.
Why it Matters
Have you ever passed on an opportunity because you thought something like “I can’t do that” or “I’m not good enough”? Did you ever say no to something you really wanted to do because, among other things, you were scared? When you live your entire life based on what causes you the least discomfort, you make the default choices instead of the ones that make you happy.
You might have heard people talk about becoming more confident with a more positive mindset and wondered what they meant. With positive self-talk, you can pay attention to the fear messages that you tell yourself and revise them. When you catch yourself thinking something like, “If I volunteer to take that project on, I’ll probably do it all wrong,” you can change it to something like, “That seems like a big challenge, but I’m going to give it a try.” You can and should acknowledge your fear, but tell yourself that you can do it anyway. Remember that it’s okay to do something while you are afraid, and it’s okay to try something and not succeed.
Build On Your Risks
When you do something scary, it increases your confidence for the next thing. You can break down the frightening thing into a series of smaller risks that you build on. A career change can seem terrifying, but if you think of it as a process and focus on one step at a time, your courage will increase. Your first step might be applying to and getting accepted to college. You may also need funding, which could mean applying for student loans. You can review a guide explaining whether you need a cosigner, which may be necessary if you don’t have a strong credit history. Asking for people to write recommendations for your college applications or for someone to cosign on your student loans can be daunting, but just like working a physical muscle, working your risk muscle makes you braver and better able to face fear.
Like anything else in life, courage grows through practice. If you aren’t ready to take a big step yet, start with something low-stakes that scares you, like starting a conversation with a stranger or trying an unusual food. Make it a habit to regularly step outside your comfort zone. This will help it become second nature, and as you approach future risks, you will have less of a red alert reaction to the situation.
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