Life takes finding courage. Especially navigating through the changes in life, entering new phases, unfamiliar territory, providing leadership, and persevering through all that life throws at us – it takes courage.
I find that looking at courageous people around me gives me my own courage to proceed on my own challenges.
To me, the greatest source of inspiration on courage is our own mighty US military and veterans.
These amazing individuals who train and serve to be rock-steady. To ‘find a way or make one’, where quitting is never an option — the epitome of courage and strength, and sacrifice.
Think about this: in Navy SEAL training, there is a ‘night swim’ exercise that must be passed in order to successfully complete training. It’s a 5.5-mile swim, that comes after 12-14 weeks of already rigorous training. And it also comes after the most punishing week known as Hell Week, which in and of itself would normally take weeks to recover from. But instead of recovery, the recruits take on this 5.5 mile night swim. 5.5 miles takes about 4 hours, it’s freezing cold water, you’re struggling against the current, cramps, and SHARKS. Yes, one of the many dangers and challenges of getting through the night swim is that the recruits may well encounter a shark during the swim. The advice given to them is to not to back down from a shark if one is encountered, but rather to punch it in the nose. I mean, really?!
Talk about courage and strength to the max. Huge respect. And Thank You, all of our amazing US military and veterans.
Elite military training and service has always been amazing and fascinating to me — the physical and mental strength to persevere through it all, and not just to persevere, but to constantly show courage, to be at the absolute top of their game every time, every day. The epitome of leadership strength and courage.
Fear vs Courage
What do the military elites have and do that makes this type of performance, leadership, and courage possible? It seems that fear and courage actually have a relationship. Mark Twain said it best:
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not the absence of fear.”
Courage only exists in the face of fear. Most of us think of fear as negative thing, that being scared means we are weak. But in actuality, fear is our opportunity to show courage and gain confidence.
Courage isn’t the lack of fear. It’s the choice to override the fear.
Recognize fear as a good thing – it means you’re doing something hard that you care about. Being a leader by definition means you will experience fear – you will be stepping out into unknown territory first!
We want to feed our courage in response to our fear, rather than feed our fears by giving in to them. To feed our courage, we must practice courage by doing the things we fear, a lot. The more we use our courage, the stronger it gets. Things that used to seem unattainable now seem within reach.
Two very practical things we can do as we practice finding courage, that will make us more and more successful, thus feeding our courage and starving our fear.
In moments of fear, in order to access your courage:
- Breathe. Breath is the link between the body, mind and spirit. When you breathe, you are fueling your body with oxygen — this is key to changing your mental patterns. Breathing is the bridge to controlling the mind. It’s your first step — if you can start controlling your breath pattern, you can control your mental pattern and your emotional state through your breathing.
- Positive self-talk. Those exhibiting courage and conquering their fear are able to create a positive mental dialogue and block out negativity. Negativity destroys performance and courage. It doesn’t have to be at all complicated: a simple phrase like, “I’ve got this” in moments of doubt and fear will trigger our mind to think in a state of positive action. Mark Divine, when he was in Navy SEAL training, used the mantra “I’m feeling good, I’m looking good, I ought to be in Hollywood.” I love this. He would say this to himself thousands of times a day to block out negativity, so he could focus on what’s next. Choose a positive mantra to help you move through your fear.
As you exercise your courage repeatedly, you’ll find it getting a bit easier each time — you’ll be feeding your courage and growing your leadership. And you’ll be giving those around you courage as well!
What’s your next courageous opportunity?