A Coaching Power Tool Created by Heather Howland
(Purposeful Living Coach, UNITED STATES)
Courage is not the opposite of fear, and courage is not possible without the presence of fear. The duality between the two reveals itself when one determines which will prevail in a course of action or direction.
That is not to say that someone must choose one or the other. Courage and fear must coexist for an act to be considered courageous. When you choose to be courageous, that doesn’t mean the fear is gone. Choosing to be courageous means that even though you feel the fear, you keep pushing past it. You say yes when you want to say no, you leap in rather than staying on the edge. You hold the hand of fear and pull it with you as you jump. You use fear as a stepping stone to what you want to achieve.
The fear I am referring to in this context is not the instinctual fear caused by impending danger. Fear certainly has a meaningful and positive place when it is experienced for your well-being and safety. The fear I am referring to is the illusion, the negative self-talk, the story of what “could happen”, which is usually a negative voice within us; an emotion or underlying belief which could be rooted in grief, uncertainty, shame, unworthiness or anger.
Fear is the inability to move forward, to remain stuck in uncertainty, doubt and struggle. Fear can feel like a gut punch, tension, and resistance. Fear is feeling defeated, accepting failure over trying, and stops you in your tracks. Fear can make you feel judged, insecure and vulnerable. Fear has the power to condemn, defeat, cause dis-ease, and spread ignorance.
Courage is the ability to embrace fear, walk alongside it, and to learn from it. Courage is being able to recognize how fear presents itself in your mind and body. Courage is feeling the fear, but not letting it stop you from taking the next step or action. Courage is facing the possibility of judgment, disapproval, being vulnerable, and perceived failure. Courage is the ability to move forward, through uncertainty, doubt, and struggle. Courage has the power to changes lives, circumstances, and outcomes.
Fear vs. Courage in a Coaching Context:
My niche is working with women on life purpose and fulfillment, and career direction or transition. On the path to discovering what brings someone purpose and fulfillment, or making a career change, it becomes necessary to try new things, learn new skills, make big decisions, and take many chances. Fear is one of the biggest roadblocks to obtaining the life you want and was meant to live. By learning to embrace the fear (over and over again), your dreams move from a place of being unreachable to obtainable; just a dream to reality, something you’ll do “someday” to something you’ll start today. Fears are often related to an underlying belief. Naming and understanding your fears are the first steps in besting them. When you can understand where fear is rooted in your body (both mentally and physically), you become better able to notice when it starts to rear its ugly head. At that point, actions can be taken to tame it before it can get out of control or hold you back.
- Close your eyes and bring to mind a situation where you felt fear. Sit with this for a while. What sensations do you feel? Do you notice heaviness or lightness in your body? A tension or tightening, a rush of blood, an increase in heart rate, a change in body temperature? Where do you feel this in your body? Do you feel it in your stomach, your heart, your head, your jaw?
- Allow yourself to sit with this feeling and the sensations that come up without judgment or trying to push them away. Try to step outside yourself and simply observe the situation. What comes up for you?
- Can you identify a thought associated with this fear? For example, “I’m unworthy of success”, “If I fail at this, it will prove I’m not smart enough”, “I will be judged if I make a mistake”, “If I try and fail, it will prove I am not meant to be successful”, or “How do I know what is on the other side of this will be any better than what I have now.”
- Our thoughts create our feelings which create our actions. When we can name the thought behind the fear, we are then able to dig deeper into the root cause. Fear becomes less of an overwhelming umbrella feeling, and more of a specific issue you can acknowledge and begin to work through. We can then choose to create new thoughts that will lead to the feelings and actions we desire.
- Now close your eyes and bring to mind a situation where you felt courageous. Sit with this for a while. What sensations do you feel? Do you notice a change in energy levels in your body? Do you notice a lightness or a heaviness? Do you notice a change in your breath, your posture, your comfort?
- Allow yourself to sit with this feeling and the sensations that come up, again, without judgment. How do you observe this situation? What comes up for you?
- Can you identify thoughts associated with this feeling of courage? For example, “I’m so proud of myself!”, “I am so relieved that worked out”, “Maybe I am more powerful than I thought I was”, “What do I want to accomplish next?”, “Maybe I deserve more credit than I have been giving myself”, or even, “That was terrifying, but I am so glad I did it!”
When we can sit with our emotions and truly feel them, we begin to realize that the power of our thoughts over our minds creates a direct reaction in our bodies. We realize that we have the choice between how we want to feel and what we want to create. And we realize that the power to create this change lies within us. We just have to be willing to show up for ourselves, to do the work, and to take the leap of faith.
Tough emotions are part of our contract with life. You don’t get to have a meaningful career or raise a family or leave the world a better place without stress and discomfort. Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life. Emotional agility is the ability to be with your emotions with curiosity, compassion, and especially the courage to take values-connected steps. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is fear walking. Susan David
I’ve learned that fear limits you and your vision. It serves as blinders to what may be just a few steps down the road for you. The journey is valuable, but believing in your talents, your abilities, and your self-worth can empower you to walk down an even brighter path. Transforming fear into freedom – how great is that? Soledad O’Brien
The fears you don’t face control you. The fears you face, you move beyond.Wayne Dyer