“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
– Dale Carnegie
On February 7th, 2013, I was booked to hop on a plane headed to Southeast Asia.
At this point in my life, I had never lived out of my childhood home for longer than a month and I was absolutely terrified.
I was afraid that I would run out of money. I was afraid that my new business venture wouldn’t go anywhere. I was afraid that I would arrive in Thailand, it would turn out that I was absolutely useless as an adult, and I would spend the next few months sobbing in the fetal position.
And yet, despite feeling like my world was crumbling around me, I still got on the plane.
A few months after having made that decision, I had new friends, a greater sense of the world and other cultures, a thriving business, and a more deeply rooted sense of my ability to handle whatever life threw at me. I had a real, genuine, earned sense of higher self-esteem and self-efficacy.
Courage is the act of taking action in spite of your fear. Not tapping, rationalizing, or NLP’ing your way out of your fear… not pretending like your fear doesn’t exist… but rather being fully aware of your fear and taking necessary action regardless of how your emotions try to derail you.
People frequently question my choice to talk about my personal issues on the internet (for example, my anxiety, suicide attempts, and my love life). And while, yes, there are times where my finger shakes before I click the ‘Publish’ button on a new article, I know that my reasons for publicizing my life and helping people feel more normal outweigh my fear-based, egoic reasons for hiding and keeping my secrets to myself.
I feel the fear, and I post it anyways.
Why Should You Develop Courage?
If I’m going to sell you on the concept of developing courage, then it stands to reason that you might want to know what the potential benefits are of engaging in such an endeavour.
By developing your capacity for deploying courage in your life, you will be building a guaranteed pathway towards:
– Increased fulfillment and honesty in all of your personal and intimate relationships
– A greater sense of ease as you move through the world
– Greater earning potential and financial abundance (“Fortune favours the bold”)
– Increased opportunities for travel and an ability of exploring other cultures
– Greater self-confidence and self-esteem (an underlying sense that you will be able to handle anything and everything that life throws your way)
– Gaining the rewards that come along with having taken risks
– Being admired, respected, and people will want to tap into your energy, wisdom, and life experience
What Happens If You Don’t Develop Courage?
The funny thing about comfort zones is that they aren’t static concepts.
If you are consciously putting energy into growing your sense of courage, then it will grow. But if you aren’t growing it, then it’s default mode isn’t to remain the same… it’s default mode is to slowly shrink. And it will continue to shrink until it adheres to your skin like plastic wrap and it will suffocate you because your life will have become so limited.
Let me repeat… your comfort zone never stays the same. If left alone, it will shrink.
Put more tangibly, if you don’t socialize with anyone for an entire month your comfort zone with people will shrink. If you don’t utilize your creative energy for an extended period of time, your internal creative muscle will shrink. If you don’t challenge someone who has said something inappropriate in over a decade, it’ll be that much more challenging to do so when you wish to. You get the point.
Keep flexing those metaphorical muscles, and you’ll continue to have muscles. Ignore them entirely, and they will atrophy.
How To Develop Courage
So, now you know the importance and the benefits of developing courage… and you know why you can never become complacent in living your life consciously… so how exactly do you go about the act of developing courage? Here’s how.
1. Progressive desensitization
Whatever the thing is that you fear, you likely won’t be able to tackle it all in one go.
One of the best ways that you can overcome your fear of something is to expose yourself to small, incremental amounts of the thing that you fear and progressively become more comfortable with it at each stage.
For example, say that you’re afraid of spiders. What is the smallest dose of that thing that you can handle? A spider in a locked plastic box that is sitting across a large room from you? Does that make your heart race a little bit? Great. Start there. Have the spider sit in that box for the next twenty minutes until you notice your heart rate dropping significantly.
Then take the next step. Have the plastic box move closer to you and become comfortable with that. Then, move the box further away and have someone open the lid of the box, while monitoring that the spider stays put. And so on and so forth.
On a scale of 1 to 10, keep acclimating to things that are a 5 or 6 out of 10 on the anxiety scale and wait for them to drop down to a 2. As your anxiety drops, take a step further towards facing the stimulus that brings up the reaction in you.
The same process can be applied to anything. Crying in front of men/women. Learning to become comfortable with dancing in public. Putting your creative works out into the world. You can run the gauntlet of baby steps in any endeavour.
Take small steps towards your individual fears, and you will have progressively desensitized your way into more courage.
2. Increased education and awareness
Sometimes you fear the thing that you fear simply because you have a lack of understanding of it.
If you think that this may be the case, put some focused effort towards educating yourself on the subject of your fear.
– Afraid of flying because you don’t want to die in a fiery plane crash? Do some research until you feel more comfortable with it. It is statistically the safest way of travelling (safer than driving, walking, cycling, etc.). Plus, you are drastically more likely to die having a shower on the day that you fly than you are to lose your life in a fiery crash. So if you’re going to worry about something, worry intelligently.
– Afraid of spiders? Unless you live in the jungle, most of the spiders that you’ll come across are totally harmless.
– Afraid of clowns because they’re creepy as fuck? I don’t blame you. They weird me out too.
Demystify the thing that you fear, and you will have grown your capacity for courage simply by removing the false fear that stood between you and the thing that you were worried about.
3. Just start
Courage is the turning point from less productive feelings (sadness, anxiety, depression, shame, anger) to more productive, empowering feelings (happiness, confidence, joy, etc.).
Whatever you’re afraid of, it’s likely that your mind is making it a lot worse than it actually is.
The simplest thing that you can do is prove your mind wrong by taking action. Start doing the thing that you know that you need to do, and it will quickly become less intimidating.
Self-esteem and increased courage come from your ACTIONS. So do it.
How Should You Start Developing Courage?
Remember, fear is not the enemy, it is your guide. It’s pointing out where you must go next. Fear allows you to ride your edge by being aware of what your next edge is. Once you become aware of your next edge, take action against what your fear would have you do.
If you enjoyed reading this post, then I would also recommend checking out any or all of the following resources:
– The Hardest And Most Important Thing You Will Ever Do
– 4 Honest As Fuck Questions You Need To Ask Yourself Often
– 5 Steps To Cultivating Courage
– The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday
Dedicated to your success,