Courage is the Tool of the Fearless: How to Leverage Courage as Your Backbone

All hands on deck for this meeting, there is an issue with two of the deliverables, so the team is brainstorming solutions. As the ideas are flowing, and sticky notes are going up on the whiteboard, there is one idea that catches your attention as particularly risky.

You whisper, “That won’t work.” Then to your surprise, the executive director asks, “Why won’t it work?” Terrified, you stumble for an intelligent supporting argument but what spills out is an embarrassing mess of “Uh, um, like, you know it’s risky.” The conference room falls quiet for what seems like an eternity; then someone breaks the silence by shouting out another possible solution.

Grateful for the distraction you sink into the mesh chair and ask yourself, “Why am I not more confident at this stage of my career?”

Regrettably, you are not born with confidence. In all honesty, biologically your brain is designed to keep you safe. Author Seth Godin notes, “The lizard is a physical part of your brain, the pre-historic lump near the brain stem that is responsible for fear and rage and reproductive drive.” So when your lizard brain senses danger it does what it’s programmed to do, fight or flight.

In the case of today’s meeting, your lizard brain executed the flight algorithm.

I intimately understand your reaction at the meeting. It’s not that you couldn’t add value to the conversation. It’s just that you lacked the courage to say what you wanted to say. Why, because you didn’t want to blurt out something so stupid that your team will look at you and agree, “That is so stupid.”

Unfortunately, left unchecked the lack of confidence becomes cancer, metastasizing into all areas of your professional and personal life.

I found there is one inoculation to the lack of courage; it’s courage. The ability to understand your fear and then create an audacious plan to manage the fear. I say manage because you can’t defeat fear, you must take action to define how you and fear will co-exist.

Brendon Burchard explains, “The more experience they had in facing their fear, the less fear and stress they felt.” Burchard continues, “That’s why it’s so important for you to start living a more courageous life now. The more actions you take facing fear, expressing yourself, and helping others, the easier and less stressful these actions become.”

You can, either do nothing and be a victim of your inaction, or you can plan to live better. Burchard notes, “ People know what they were afraid of, and so they prepared themselves. They studied. They got mentors. Then they faced their fears. Only when our fears become our growth plan have we stepped onto the path of mastery.”

From my experience mastery is significantly a better growth plan.

The Power of Clarity: The Lack of Clarity Makes You Feel Unfulfilled

Over the past few months, you have been experiencing pain. Not physical pain but mental distress. At first, you give the little pain attention but as the weeks and months pass the mental pain turns into anguish. It starts affecting your work and the ability to enjoy your personal life.

You convince yourself that it’s the stress from the reorganization, it’s the new guy who is smarter than you, or it’s your sexless marriage. Your solution is to take a few days off from work, but regrettably, the mental pain only gets worse, so you begin to seek answers.

Mental pain is good. It’s your body’s natural alarm system that something is wrong. As you start investigating the source of your pain questions, begin to surface. Brendon Burchard, the author of “High-Performance Habits,” explains, “When these questions go unanswered for too long, an unraveling begins:”

  1. Is all the complexity I’ve created in my life even worth it?
  2. Is this the right direction for my family and me at this stage of our lives?
  3. Why am I starting to feel so distracted?
  4. Why am I not more confident at this point in my life?

As you answer the questions you begin to see the pattern: lack of clarity. Burchard continues, “Soon, day-to-day motivation wanes. They begin feeling restricted or unfulfilled. They start focussing on protecting their successes versus progressing. Nothing seems thrilling anymore.”

You have lost clarity in your life, and you want it back.

Clarity is not a skill that you are born with, it must be developed and sometimes re-developed. Here are three strategies that you can use to connect with your clarity:

  1. Ask questions designed to tease out your values, strengths, and weaknesses.
  2. Set end goals that will pull you to achieve them, these are goals that will stretch your strengths and expose your weaknesses.
  3. Set deadlines for the end goals, build in checkpoints so you can assess your progress and shift course if necessary.

As you run through the exercise, you should begin to understand what you want at this season of your life.