By: Jessie Denney, Student Development Intern for The Georgia Way
“If we have our own why, we should get along with almost any how.”
When I first heard that statement, the word courage came to mind. Without a doubt, courage matters– and goodness do we need more of it.
Yet, what really is Courage? How does one define it? Each of us are unique in our own, authentic ways, making the definition of courage extremely fluid. Courage is a “heart word”; a single, two syllable word, that defines us and every action we take over the course of our lifetime. According to Nelson Goud, author of Psychology and Personal Growth, courage is the ability to do something difficult even when there is risk. That ability, however, is something we learn and create over the course of our lifetime.
The definition of courage leads back to three fundamental dimensions: purpose, fear, and action. That statement, “if we have our own why, we should get along with almost any how,” is manufactured from these three dimensions. How we cultivate the courage within us begins by defining our why, managing our fears, and taking action to expand our strength inventory.
Understanding our purpose in greater depth allows us to have our own why. When we decipher what ‘our why’ is, we are able to perceive a worthy purpose for ourselves, ensuring a self of belonging and self worth in all of our ‘hows’. The more we recognize our sense of vitality and purpose, our courage is strengthened. Actively arousing helpful emotions to confront fears and stimulate courage– and the reason to continue on– include those of: laughing, singing, dancing, listening to music, and other stimulating activities that increase serotonin levels.
Courage makes its presence known under conditions of threat, risk or danger. Fears vary in their intensity and may have a tangible or intangible source. We often don’t take the time to sit and unpack our fears; yet, there are psychological origins to most of our fears– the most popular origin being: one’s eventual nonexistence is the core fear of most. Basic fears result from realizing one’s finitude, and among all the possible consequences of this fact are alienation, meaningless, and despair. As a result, we are generally afraid to become that which we can glimpse in our most perfect moments, under the most perfect conditions, of greatest courage. At the same time, our fears also function as guardians, warning signs, that allow courage to surface as readiness for the anticipated fear. We must learn to confront and control our fears and commit to gradually build up courage to help summon courage in the places that don’t feel as safe.
The primary force in countering fears is believing and trusting in your actions and capabilities. First, focus on your successes and strengths. Without a conscious reminder of strengths, they tend to slip from one’s awareness. Strength categories to consider: career, interpersonal, academic, physical, emotional, and special abilities. As one grows in their awareness to face fears and to show courage/fortitude, they often need some help in maintaining or increasing a willingness to continue. This help comes in the form of an action known as encouragement. Encouragement shows another person that one is not alone in a challenging endeavor. On account of one’s personal growth, courage and encouragement sit at the core. Therefore, we can all help one another:
- Recognize strengths
- Create a sense of belonging
- Contribute to a greater community
- Be willing to be imperfect
- Commit to behavioral changes
Goud, Nelson H. “Courage: Its Nature And Development”. The Journal Of Humanistic Counseling, Education And Development, vol 44, no. 1, 2005, pp. 102-116. Wiley, doi:10.1002/j.2164-490x.2005.tb00060.x. Woodard, Cooper & Pury, Cynthia. (2007). The Construct of Courage: Categorization and Measurement. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research. 59. 135-147. 10.1037/1065-92220.127.116.11.