Tell me have you ever thought about what it is to have courage or to be brave ‘in life’?
A man wrestling a crocodile to save his dog – is brave, the US teacher who put herself in front of her class when the school was being attacked by a gunman – was brave. Bravery is easy to recognise in one off events of pure courage, however being brave or having courage in life, though slightly different, is just as significant.
Being brave or having courage in life means something different for everyone, it really depends on what you fear. I fear public speaking – the mere thought of having to speak in front of an audience about myself, what I do, who I am or even how nutrients affect the life cycle of seagrass makes my hands perspire, my heart beat like an African drum and my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth so any intelligent sounds heard in the near vicinity are certainly not coming from me. It doesn’t matter how I think of the audience – as being naked or a patch of cabbages – I need a brown paper bag just thinking about speaking to any more than 5 people at any one time (slight exaggeration but I am sure you get my point). And forget the questions – that is absolutely the end!!
I know I am not alone, even the most “seemingly” confident people feel distressed when faced with an impending threat, a threat that is personal, can be real or imagined, is frequently well hidden and often battled alone. My friend at work loves public speaking – she looks confused when I tell her of my dread when I need to give an address in the boardroom, she knows she has a story to tell and sees no difficulty in telling it BUT the mere thought of failure, of her getting something wrong, in any way shape or form sends her body into panic and her mind into a spin.
So when we face our own personal fears, for me attempting public speaking, for my friend, admitting she is wrong or has made a mistake, that is being brave in life, it is facing the fear, FEELING IT, taking a deep breath and then doing ‘whatever it is’, ANYWAY.
Makes sense, but why bother, I hear you ask. We all know what it is to feel fear, we have all felt it at one time or another, but there aren’t too many of us (except the odd base jumper) who like it enough to want to go there. So why then should we put ourselves in distressing situations just so we conquer, or at least temper our fears? Why can’t we just behave in the way inherent to human nature when faced with a situation that makes us feel discomfort and avoid, duck, dodge and weave…
In reality, for the most part, we can very easily survive and do whatever it takes to avoid our fears leading an average, comfortable life doing a job because it pays our wage once a month so we can play on the weekends, consider anyone who rubs us up the wrong way as them having the problem not us, staying in relationships because it’s easier that way or staying single because it is too much work to put ourselves out there.
I actually do think it is ok to avoid suffering, I don’t believe that we should think of life as being hard, or that we should make life hard for ourselves, I see this as pointless. I don’t believe in self punishment or that anything was ever achieved by the monks whipping themselves. But what I do believe, is that limiting ourselves in life is making life hard and that it is a form of self punishment…
Lets go back to my example of public speaking. It is my dream to develop Left of Centre Therapies into a full time business, inspiring others to embark on the journey of healing and to be able to live juicy lives unlimited by negative perception or past experience. This is fine, the therapy sessions are one on one but there is going to be a time (actually right now) where I need to nail telling my story to groups of people so I can inspire them to join the healing journey too. I want to expand, get bigger, tell my story some more, be more and not be limited simply because I suck at presenting myself publically.
In fact I am absolutely sure that anyone following their dreams, will be presented with uncomfortable situations and at those very points in time they will need to make a choice, face them or risk restricting growth.
Put in a more visual way, I stood overlooking a very, wild and stormy ocean the other day and noticed just a couple of rays of sun poking through the grey sky onto the waves – the word that sprang to mind was bravery – no I don’t mean that I was brave being down at the ocean in the middle of a storm, but that bravery was depicted by the sun’s rays shining on a little patch of ocean, illuminating it, filling it with warmth and light, while the surrounding sea remained dark. When we are brave, when we face our fears, we light up an area of our life that has been previously kept in the dark and give it a chance to be filled with warmth and light. When we are brave we light up our lives while others around us remain in the dark – and life favours the brave.
Having the courage to open up and shed light on our fears, is to realise that while they may never totally disappear, we can be the master of things that are trying to enslave us.
So make a start – look at problems as opportunities, I have an opportunity now to get some help with my fear through attending a public speaking course. Its exciting and confidence building to think I may in time be able to handle situations that I would, at the moment, shy away from as well as the chance of meeting and learning from people who are in the same situation as me.
Share your dreams and visions with others and learn to admit your fears too, showing vulnerability is both therapeutic (except in the case of the man wrestling the crocodile), and relationship building. Open communication enables you to attract like minded people and a chance to learn from their experiences and their coping mechanisms too.
Hang out with others around you who lead courageous lives, see these people as your “courage people”, spend time with them to help inspire you to get through the rough patches and not give up.
Aspire to BE and believe in yourself as part of your own ‘bigger picture’ destiny. Having aspiration helps to fuel perseverance, persistence and determination.
Ignore any flak you may get in your journey, accept that some people will try to influence you, and many will not understand you. Never compromise yourself by trying to influence these people or force your ideas onto them. Stand on your own if you have to.
And finally, in these days of the internet and facebook there is never ending stream of advice and motivational quotes, so notice those which speak of bravery and be inspired…
Winston S. Churchill: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Nelson Mandela: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Ambrose Redmoon: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.”
“The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all”