Bravery, by definition, is the courage to face danger, fear or difficulty. It only kicks into action when those obstacles are there. So it stands to reason that the more of it you have in you, the more likely you’ll be able to brush aside the fears that hold you back.
The problem, of course, is that your in-built factory model life coach is you. And the little voice inside, as Susan Jeffers pointed out in Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway, simply loves to pipe up:
“You’d better not change your situation. There’s nothing else out there for you. You’ll never make it on your own. Don’t take a chance. You might make a mistake. Boy, will you be sorry!”
Lesson one: answer that voice. Explain to it why it’s wrong. So when someone asks ‘have you thought this through?’ You can say, absolutely. You know the pitfalls, the obstacles, how that little voice has a point and why you shouldn’t do it. Which means when you do go ahead with it, you’re doing so with your eyes wide open.
But where does that courage come from? Instead of seeing it as something owned by others, think of it as a tool that’s already installed inside you – you just need to learn how to unlock it.
Where’s the manual? Motivational books and podcasts aside, there are plenty of areas in life to learn and draw inspiration from. Here are a few unexpected sources of courage that you can apply to upgrade your own bravery level.
Learn from... animals
The bravest animal, they say, is the lion. But being in a strong position doesn’t necessarily mean they are the wisest. Their arrogance and opportunism often leads them to take on larger predators such as rhinos and elephants, battles that inevitably end badly for the king of the jungle. There’s a fine line between courage and recklessness, and between self-belief and foolishness.
Tools to upload: Caution, humility.
Learn from... our ancestors
For the fearless Sioux tribe, facing the grizzly bear was deemed the ultimate act of courage. They learned very early on that to run towards one with a spear meant certain defeat, so instead they plotted ways to get to it from a different angle, took advice from their elders and discussed with their peers, bided their time and struck only when they felt fully prepared.
Tools to upload: Effective planning, listen and learn.
Learn from... babies
Babies aren’t born with self-doubt. They don’t feel embarrassed if they try something new and everything spills everywhere. There may be tears, but they’ll learn to approach it differently next time. Their inquisitive nature means they’ll brave anything, but that’s driven by an ignorance of the dangers. They get to know the difference between what’s safe, what’s harmful and what’s worth trying their luck at by staying alert to their senses and to the guidance of those who came before them.
Tools to upload: Information, trial and error.
Learn from... angry people
When you see an elderly gentleman lash out at a gang of youths, he’s gone beyond fear and past caring. Crying ‘I won’t stand for it’ appears to be bold, but really, these are instances of people mistaking rage for confidence. To fly off the handle is a callous way of approaching a threat and likely to make matters worse. Bravery requires a calm demeanour. The definition of cool isn’t measured by how one dresses, but through the ability to not lose it in confrontations.
Tools to upload: Composure, awareness of consequences.
Learn from... superheroes
This may sound ridiculous – who has fear issues when they can fly? But the best heroes are the reluctant ones, who want to hang up their masks every three comics strips. It takes courage to commit to doing selfless acts (while remaining anonymous and not fearing being taken advantage of). Remember, all super villains do bad things because they are ultimately afraid the world sees them as weak. The fearful seek respect by threatening to destroy things, the brave strive to fix them.
Tools to upload: Perseverance, how to deal with lack of recognition, the battle between good and evil.
Learn from... traffic wardens
Seriously. They get abused practically by everyone, yet put on a brave face every day to go to work. The teacher at a tough secondary school who can easily be overpowered by the pupils yet never topples from the position of authority, the celebrity whose timeline is jammed with character assassinations yet logs on to Twitter to carry on courting controversy – these people have thickened their skin and hardwired their brains to never let the fear of being disliked or physically threatened prevent them from doing what they’ve set out to do.
Tools to upload: Stick by guns, unshakable resolve.