The Source of Courage
Recently I wrote about Do You Need Confidence, or Courage? It seemed to the hit the mark with plenty of readers. It’s a topic worth exploring more.
A quick rewind: Confidence comes from courage. Courage is what you have when you face something scary, and you do it anyway. Confidence is what you have after you’ve done it.
Confidence not earned from courageous deeds is a fragile shell that’s easily shattered. I suspect we all yearn for a deep, grounded inner confidence, and we want to see it in those who lead us.
So where does courage come from? What allows some people to take bold action in the face of the unknown, while others shrink back and stay safe?
The answer is conviction. How much do you want it? Why would you even bother? What makes it worth the risk? You’ve got to be able to answer those questions with conviction if you’re ever going to be able to muster the courage to act decisively.
To illustrate, another mountain biking story. There’s a local trail I started riding earlier this year that has one section that scared the crap out of me. A series of steep, swooshing drops that you can’t do half-heartedly. It’s an all-or-nothing affair. The first few times I approached that section I’d get off my bike and walk it. And quietly wonder how anyone could ride it. I eventually convinced myself to ‘man up’ and stay on the bike. So I’d approach it tentatively, with the brakes on full. What do you think happened? I fell off every time. Oh, the frustration…
Fast-forward a few weeks. I was riding with a friend in front of me. We approached the gnarly section. He didn’t slow down, went straight into it, and flew through unscathed. Wow, it’s possible! Without thinking too much, and with my heart in my mouth, I followed his line, and all of a sudden I was out the other end with no broken bones. Yee ha! The switch had been flicked. Now I ride that section at full speed, minimal brakes. I actually look forward to it. It’s the best part of the trail. I love it.
My courage to tackle that section full-on came from my conviction to do it. I wanted it. Partly it was about my ego and The Social Effect: not wanting to look like a wimp in front of my mate. But, at a much deeper level, it was also about living up to something I stand for, which is to keep pushing my own comfort zone to see what I’m capable of. Knowing the territory of the scary and unfamiliar allows me to do good work with the organisations and people I work with, and keeps me growing too.
If we want to call ourselves leaders, our behaviour has to be aligned with our convictions. Convictions are ‘want to’s’, not ‘have to’s’: the things we most deeply stand for and believe in. Otherwise, we’re a leaf in the wind that doesn’t stand a much of a chance in life’s next big storm.
Here are three questions for you to try on:
What are you holding back from doing?
If you took decisive action, what would that say about who you are and what you stand for?
By not taking decisive action, what is it costing to you?
Gosh, by writing that, I’ve stirred myself up. I’m off to have a conversation I need to have…
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