From an early age, we’re taught about courage and bravery, but we’re rarely taught about choosing courage over fear. If questioned, most of us would find it difficult to distinguish between courage vs bravery and how this relates to fear. It makes it difficult to act.
When you’re depressed or anxious, making small decisions can be very difficult. Like whether you should have tea or coffee. Toast or a smoothie? Whether you want to go for a walk, and whether you should. Or maybe you’ll go out later or after lunch, go to gym or have a run before dinner.
It can get really complicated when it comes to life choices.
Should you have a kid? Adopt one?
Should you stay with your partner, because maybe there’s someone out there who’s better for you?
Should you try your hand at freelancing, study something different? Live in a different country?
Courage over fear: A subtle distinction
I’ve been thinking about fear. Our society is so mired in fear that it’s become paralyzing. It makes us scared and indecisive. It keeps us in a constant state of anxiety. But any decision, whether it’s right or wrong, is better than staying in a state of indecisiveness. Rather be wrong than staying in a rut or cage of your own imagining.
Most fear (apart from that physical fear that’s part of survival) is self-created. Such as the fear of failure, fear of being out of control, fear of being different or being lonely. We fear the future, we fear death. Someone could fear being in love because they fear being rejected. You can fear sharing your opinions, thoughts or feelings because you fear being wrong or laughed at. Whatever you fear, it generally shows up as reluctance to face a situation. If you’re indecisive about something to the point that you can’t make a decision, you’ll find a fear lurking around if you closely examine your feelings.
But life is filled with unknowns and uncertainties.
Fear restricts you.
It keeps you in your comfort zone, it stops you from moving forward or reaching your potential. Worst of all, it restricts your freedom.
Making a decision becomes easier when you choose courage over fear
Some coaches will tell you that flipping a coin will help you make a decision when you’re feeling trapped in your own indecisiveness. Choose heads or tails and whatever option you land on, weigh your feelings about it. Are you relieved? Happy or sad? This can work, but not always and not often.
Most of the time you’ll still feel like maybe you made the wrong choice. Or maybe you don’t even know how you feel about an outcome. You’re straddling the fence so hard it’s impossible to say if you’re leaning to any side. So, what do you do?
Courage vs bravery
Courage is the ability to confront something difficult, painful or dangerous despite any fear. It is the ability to act despite the fear that you may feel. It’s not a quality that you’re born with, but a choice. You still feel the fear or danger, but you choose to face it anyway.
Bravery is when you confront something painful, difficult or dangerous without experiencing any fear. Bravery doesn’t require courage, because it’s effortless. Some people are naturally brave. They leap into the unknown without feeling any fear (lucky them).
Courage is something that you can develop
I was recently watching a show about firefighters in Chicago which sparked this train of thought. I imagined what it must be like to face fire every day and get past that fear. I also observed how some of the children I work with feared facing certain things, things that scared them or ones they didn’t know to deal with.
For example, a cousin who said something mean, or a wave that knocked them down in the ocean. Instead of confronting it, or persevering until they became stronger, they avoided the situation. And it made me take a long hard look at myself and how I might avoid facing my own fears.
Because fear is the norm. Our society is fearful. Our world is fearful. And we’re not taught to confront that. NY Times author and personal development coach Brendon Burchard, states that fear has become a crutch for emotional weakness. And, as with all crutches, we become a slave if we use it too often, unless we condition ourselves. The more you face your fear, the less fear you feel.
The yang to the ying
So, what is the opposite of fear?
Courage comes from doing something despite the fear.
Courage comes from taking action when you know what the right thing to do is, and go ahead and do it.
Courage comes from listening to your gut, even when it’s hard.
Courage comes when helping others, even when you don’t have much to give.
Courage is the opposite of fear.
Choosing courage over fear isn’t easy, but it’s worth it
I disagree with Churchill, who said that fear is a reaction and courage is a decision. Yes, we can choose to be courageous, but we also choose fear. We don’t only react with fear, we anticipate and fear the worst.
Blue-Footed Booby Success formula: How to choose courage over fear
When you need to make a decision, to choose a path or a way to act, there’s a simple exercise that will help you choose courage over fear.
- Ask whether your state of indecisiveness is coming from courage or fear. Try and identify the fears.
- Ask what a courageous person would do (someone you look up to, a role model, or your best, most courageous version of yourself).
- Take a deep breath. Imagine you are breathing in courage and breathing out fear. Do this with every inhale and exhale, as many times as you need to in order to feel calm and clear. Once you feel that you’ve reached a place of courage, you’ll know what to do.
If you do this exercise frequently, you’ll find that it will become easier to choose courage over fear. You’ll make decisions more easily. And you’ll train yourself to become more courageous.
If you have tried this and it worked for you, please share your experience in the comments below or shoot us an email.