The word “courage” derives from Latin, and it means “strength of heart.” Courage is inner strength. It is not something that automatically happens; it is something you must cultivate and build within yourself.
It is important to understand that having courage does not mean you are not afraid. What it means is the inner strength to take action despite your anxiety or fear. It is accurate to say that courage doesn’t eliminate the presence of fear; rather, it minimizes the influence of fear.
Courage is a character attribute that is developed by practice. Aristotle said that a person develops courage by repeatedly doing courageous acts. “You are what you repeatedly do,” he wrote.
When you are faced with a challenging situation and you are feeling anxious and apprehensive, you have a choice to make. Do you surrender to the fear and do nothing, or do you tap into your inner strength and take action despite how you feel? When the commitment within you is stronger than the apprehension or anxiety you feel about a challenge you are facing — and you take action — that is courage.
Courage is not about the external circumstances you face; it is about the inner strength you build to respond to those circumstances. Fear is a feeling. Courage is a choice. When you give in to fear, it grows stronger in your life. When you act with courage, it grows stronger in your life.
C.S. Lewis said it well: “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” The reality is that life will test your courage. It will test your inner strength. Indeed, an effective life requires courage. Here are ten things that require courage:
- Doing the difficult right rather than the easy wrong.
- Changing a habit.
- Saying no to emotional impulse.
- Overcoming adversity.
- Apologizing to someone you have hurt.
- Forgiving someone who has hurt you.
- Having an important but difficult conversation.
- Holding someone accountable … and being held accountable.
- Admitting when you are wrong.
- Maintaining a lifelong passion for personal excellence.
Build strength of heart.
Do the work to cultivate your courage.