Research Paper By Héctor Jiménez Cortés
(Personal Growth Coach & Leadership Coach, SPAIN)
What is courage
Courage is recognized as the quality shown by someone who decides to do something difficult or dangerous, even though they may be afraid (1). It can also be referred to as the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty (2). This virtue is commonly found thorough history in people that are worldwide known for historic achievements and valuable contribution to societies. Courageous personalities such as Jesus Christ, Galileo Galilei, Nelson Mandela, Marthin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Mahatma Gandhi among others have something in common. This common thing they all share is a value: Courage. Despite extreme adversities, they all found the strength to keep driving their action. They did share the common value of Courage as per they attitudes and willingness to help others, even though this would imply sacrificing their own comfort, freedom and even lives to stand up for their principles (3).
These people had aspirations and dreams and took action to bring them into life despite the risk and uncertainty this implied. Courage is this common ingredient, the specific value we all bring into our lives at some extent and under different forms to achieve our aspirations. Courage is needed to overcome feelings of doubt or fear that could keep us away from achieving our goals in life.
4 common courage killers
Most of the people are conscious about their aspirations, ambitions and dreams. However, only some of them actually decide to take action and do what it takes to bring them into reality. Eventually, since the beginning or upon a time, some people drop out pursuing their goals and lack the courage to keep on trying. And the truth is that it takes many forms of courage to develop during the journey until achieving great and highly demanding aspirations. So, if courage is key to success for many people and others lack it to keep pursuing their goals, what can be getting on the way for these last ones? What can hold us back from the courage of taking action?
These are4 common courage killers:
A scapegoat can be defined as a person or thing taking the blame for others (4). In this context, the scapegoat represents the excuse that kills any willingness or courage to undertake action. The typical scapegoats that get in the way of people usually sound like “It´s too hard”, “It takes time”, “It only can happen on my dreams”, “It´s not worth my time and effort”, and such other disempowering thoughts. These unhelpful excuses that we create have the goal of serving our minds as a scapegoat to justify lack of courage. As humans we feel the need of building scapegoats, excuses to believe in, so we can justify lack of courageous choices. Before admitting “I now lack the courage to go for it” we rush into making all kind of scapegoats to feel relieved for our choices. We bring our mind to believe in the scapegoat to escape from our responsibility and thus evading a feeling of guilt. A good example of these scapegoat behaviours is a smoker who wants to stop smoking and after a few trials he uses the scapegoat “after all we all will die for some reason”. This is the scapegoat to justify lacking the courage of committing to quit smoking.
A values conflict occurs when we have got two things that are important to us, they are conflicting with each other and potentially reducing the amount of fulfilment in one or both of those areas (5). Some examples of conflicting values can look like:
- “I really value my health and being on a good physical shape, however, I love eating a lot of junk food every day”
- “I would love to start and run my own business, on the other hand, I am not eager to give up anything from my current comfort zone”
- “I want to go for a run early before I go to work, but I also want to sleep as much as possible”
- “I want to make decisions solely based on my self-advantage, but also want to please everyone else”
These examples show how conflicted values that do not support the same outcome can create friction in between them, holding us back from developing the courage of taking action. As a result, conflicting values not well managed can keep us away for achieving great results.
Trapped emotions are emotional states of the past, whose energy of emotion is trapped in us. We may recreate these emotional states unconsciously in the present and as a result, they would stop us when it comes to developing an attitude of courage. Here some examples:
- “Something did go wrong in my past relationship and I felt a failure, hence I now feel stressed about my current relationship, I am afraid it will not work out again”
- “Some event happened that made me feel guilty and now I tend to feel guilty for some other similar events”
- “My last boss made feel bad when nagging me so now every time my new boss gives me feedback I feel anxious”
- “When I was a child I was on a school recital and the teacher told me I did it wrongly and now I feel worthless when giving speeches”.
Most of the trapped emotions people may have been feeling anxious, disgusted, grief-stricken, criticized, unsupported, unsafe, overwhelmed, worthless, helpless or conflicted (6).
Limiting beliefs are something we believe to be true that limit us in some way. These are things we have absolutely anchored in our conscious or subconscious mind, which draw the reality we perceive and that instead of being useful, they limit us. That is: if I think this is “too big for me”, or “I’m not worth it”, or “I’m not good enough”, as a consequence I may don’t allow myself to take any action because I don’t think it will work. Limiting beliefs hold us back from making a different choice in our lives, keeping us from seeing a whole universe of opportunities around us. This could prevent us from seeing own gifts or accepting these gifts offered to us, and may hold us stuck only focusing on one single perspective (7).
These 4 common courage killers are obstacles that may prevent us from achieving aspirations or dreams. To truly achieve great dreams, it is absolutely necessary to take action but prior to taking action, we need the ability to develop an attitude of courage.
The distance between your dreams and your reality is called Action
If action is necessary to achieve our ambitions or dreams and some obstacles can get in the way (scapegoats in form of excuses, trapped emotions, conflicted values and limiting beliefs), what can help us to take the first step?
ICF (International Coach Federation) defines Coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential (8). Coaching allows the client to:
- Empower himself
- Get clarity and insight
- Gain self-awareness about own thoughts, feelings, emotions, behaviours, perceptions, perspectives, situations
- Exploring new perspectives and expanded ways of thinking
- Discovering new roadmaps and limitless windows of opportunity
- Aligning purpose and values, thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, emotions, moods, behaviours
- Making use of resources and strengths
- Building on past successes
- Creating useful structures and methods of self-accountability
- Increasing his ability to take action and achieve what is important to him (9)
Coaching can be, as a consequence, the foundation and on-going support for developing a true attitude of courage. It is a powerful process to help to take relevant decisions and to do courageous actions. When talking about Coaching as a tool to bring courage to the coachee’s life, we can explore different areas in which it can help developing courage:
Courage to take ownership in life
Coaching can support the client on inspiring him to become aware of his own responsibility. This means the client can take full responsibility and ownership of his life, which is a powerful starting point to gain awareness about the freedom and capacity of changing his own reality. Coaching can help the client to take ownership of his goals and current reality, allowing the client to act upon his own choices and driving his own journey through life.
- How can you look at this situation as if you have the power of changing your circumstances?
- What would you do if you take total ownership of this?
- What would it look like if you choose to take responsibility here?
- What is a way you could contribute to addressing this situation in your life?
- What new perspective can help you to take action?
Courage to clarify and acknowledge our dreams
Powerful questions can inspire the client to get clarity about own purpose and values, which could help him to better clarify and make greater sense of goals and dreams. Coaching can also support the client in understanding the positive impact and relevance of own aspirations to have a better life. This allows the client to picture how achieving own aspirations can change his life for the best. This powerful step is the beginning of any great transformation. The first step is always to start with the burning desire of achieving a precise goal.
- If you close your eyes and you imagine the successful version of yourself: How does it look like?
- What is important for you to achieve now?
- Where exactly would you like to be in regards to this situation?
- What is it that needs to be changed in order to feel 100%accomplished?
- If success were guaranteed at anything you choose to go for, what would you dream to achieve?
Courage to acknowledge fears
Fear, according to Merriam-Webster, is an unpleasant, often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger (10). This emotion is common to all earth living creatures and what makes us unique as humans are that we have the freedom of choosing how to cope with it. While fear´s natural purpose is to keep us alive or safe, we have developed unnecessary fears about potential dangers that only exist in our minds and may never happen. While fear for immediate danger is useful and necessary, our fabricated fear of own visions of the future is often unhelpful and unfounded. This can be a potential barrier that prevents us to take the courage of acting, holding us back from achieving goals or dreams. Coaching can help the client to overcome unhelpful barriers such as subconscious fears stopping them to success.
- What is holding you back?
- What is the pattern that is getting in the way?
- What do you need to address here in order to take action?
- How would you see this challenge in 5 years time?
- What would say the successful courageous you from the future to the doubting you of today?
Courage to believe
The one who says I CAN and the one who says I CAN´T, are both right – Confucius (12)
The power of belief resides in its ability to do four things: Belief creates vision. Belief creates the strength of will. Belief creates resilience. Belief ignites and activates (13). The highest levels of achievement are fully backed by the deepest levels of belief. The client needs to develop the conviction that he will get his desired outcome.
What we believe drives how we think, and our thinking drives what we do, which lastly determines what we achieve. What we believe either empowers us or limits us. Empowering beliefs pull us up; limiting beliefs pull us down. As a consequence, believing in yourself and our inner ability to achieve great things is a crucial powerful step in the journey of growth. If we do have limiting beliefs or a negative inner dialogue, it can get very hard to get into the path of success. The need for faith and believing is the very foundation that backups the burning desire of achieving the transformation. Coaching can partner with the client to help him build a strong feeling of self-confidence and a sense of worth that will empower any though, behaviour or action.
- What strategies for past successes can support you now to achieve this?
- How believing in your abilities have helped you in the past?
- What are you most proud of?
- How can you take advantage of your strengths to get there?
- What will things look like after you have been successful?
- What empowering belief can support you on this?
Courage to take the first step
Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace and power in it. – Goethe (11)
Action creates motion and motion creates results. The courage to take the first step is a powerful start to building change. Even though the client may know what he wants to achieve, developing the courage of acting can be quite challenging. Even though dreaming, planning, visualizing a goal setting are powerful steps, nothing can bring results unless we take the courage of taking the first step. Life only rewards action. Coaching can support the client by inspiring him to build the courage to start taking action.
- How does it feel like when you are not taking action?
- What would you do if you were wearing your courageous hat on right now?
- What could be the first step you take to move forward?
- How starting today can help you get closer to your dream?
Courage to develop self-discipline
Most people think success comes from good luck or enormous talent, but many successful people achieve their accomplishments in a simpler way: through self-discipline– Brian Tracy
Sustainable success can only be achieved through the art of self-discipline. Only consistent action backed by useful structures can help us be on track over time.
As John C. Maxwell said
The secret to success is determined by your daily agenda
which means that our daily structures/habits are the ones that over time can bring us to achieve our goals or, in the worse of the cases, preventing us to achieve them. Our daily routine backed by self-discipline in the following effective habits is the foundation of later rewards. In other words, achieving an aspiration comes from actions that are successful in its nature, repeated.
As the ICF core competencies define, through Coaching, we can help coachees to design actions, planning and goal setting and managing progress and accountability.
- How will you keep yourself accountable?
- What resources might you want to research or use in order to follow through on your commitment?
- What has been successful for you in the past in fulfilling the commitments you make for yourself?
- What is the mindset you truly need to stick to in order to accomplish this?
- If you lose track at some point, what will ensure you will keep taking action?
4 Key Courage builders to take full action
When something is getting in the way such as a scapegoat, conflicting values, trapped emotions, fears or limiting beliefs, the client may be hooked on a cycle of procrastinating, where no action is taken and a disempowering belief can start growing. We did previously analysed 4 common courage killers that can get in the way by holding us back from taking courage. These 4 courage killers could potentially keep us in the comfort zone, where there is only stillness as a result of procrastinating.
Fortunately, coaching can help the client to get out of this looping of disempowerment due to inaction and bring him to a new place: a loop of rewards through momentum. Action creates motion, and motion creates momentum, which is the origin of transformation. The more you do, the more you want to achieve and the hungrier you become.
Let´s now analyse 4 key courage builders that could help us acting with courage and moving to a challenging zone, where there is growth as a result of taking action. The 4 key courage builders can empower the client to move:
- From the comfort zone to a challenging zone
- From stillness to progress
- From procrastination and as a result, shrinking to a place of action and growing
Identifying your Purpose (the WHY)
Coaching is a very powerful tool to help clients identify their WHY. Everyone has a WHY and this is the long-term major’s Purpose the client wants to walk towards. The WHY is the ultimate client´s reason that has to be supported through the Coaching process. To first develop the ability to take courage, it is essential for the client to gain self-awareness about what drives him to take action and move towards success. It all starts by having clarity in the WHY. Powerful questions can support us in learning about our WHY: What is that belief, idea or cause, to which we want to contribute that, gives us the courage to take action? Why do we do what we do? What is our last intention? What is our last purpose?
- What inspires you to achieve it?
- What is meaningful for you in this?
- Where will you get the energy, enthusiasm, discipline, consistency and courage to take massive action and reaching your goal?
- How will this support a major´s purpose in your life?
- What is the source of motivation behind it?
Aligning with your values (the HOW)
Every short or long-term goal has to be backed by a clear alignment Purpose-Values. The client´s values are the solid ground that will support the achievement of his goals during the journey. The client is the unique owner of his values, he needs to own them, understand them and give meaning to them. The client lives by its values and brings them into life as the driving forces that will guide his transformational journey. Coaching can also support the client´s growth by exploring what values are at play.
- What makes you a truly unique person?
- What do you value most in life?
- What is most important for you in achieving this goal?
- What are the driving factors that will constantly support your eagerness to achieve it?
- What are your key priorities behind reaching your goal?
Creating your mission (the WHAT)
Once the client has a clear Purpose (the WHY), he is aligned with his values (the HOW), Coaching can also support him in creating his mission (the WHAT). The mission refers to what the person wants to create in his life for himself or for others. This reality has to first exist in the client´s head and that ends up materializing later in a tangible form. It is essential to be able to visualize the goal accomplished, to see with absolute clarity what the client wish to achieve.
The client can visualize himself through Coaching developing his life mission, and as a result, making it more real.
- If you think about your ideal daily routine, what will bring to you a deeper sense of fulfilment?
- How can you make the most of your time so you would feel accomplished?
- If you had to imagine your ideal life, how would it look like?
- Imagine yourself in the death bed after a whole meaningful life; if you look back, what has been your mission?
Walking towards your vision (to WHERE?)
Through the support of Coaching, the client can find a clear sense of purpose with a powerful “WHY” reason, thanks to which everything makes sense for him/her. Coaching can definitely help the client during the journey by walking the path with his values, the “HOW” to take action. Coaching can also serve the client in creating or redefining his mission in life, the “WHAT” path to walk. And ultimately, the client can also find direction towards the horizon he will develop the courage of taking action. If the client was a ship sailing towards his vision, the vision would be the horizon that he would see upfront in the distance. And this horizon is somewhere always unattainable, but it guides him and gives him a clear vision of the future he is building.
- What would you like to create as a result of your mission in life?
- How do you see yourself in 5 years time?
- How does it look like the ideal horizon of future for you?
- If you imagine the place of fulfilment where you want to go, how does it look like?
The power of Courage: Success vs. Stagnation
Here I developed a visual tool to illustrate how the 4 common courage killers could hold us back keeping us on a place of stagnation whereas the 4 key courage builders to take full action can inspire and lead us to success:
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