I propose that we, that includes you, demonstrate courage every day in many ways.
The meaning of courage is to feel anxious or scared but take positive action anyway. It’s easy to see courage in action from our esteemed role models. Mother Teresa tirelessly worked in the slums of Calcutta. Nelson Mandela spent years in prison followed by ending South Africa’s apartheid system. Oprah Winfrey created a media empire despite her dysfunctional childhood which included poverty and sexual abuse. When we notice these acts of courage, we say, ‘There is a courageous person!”
Indeed I often meet people who stun me with their acts of courage. Here is one story:
When I met petite, 21 one-year-old Cindy Christensen she told me, “I’m so excited to tell my story to help the United Way campaign.” My job was to help her tell her story in an impactful way.
Cindy was born in Vietnam to a single parent mom. For years they couch surfed at the homes of extended family and spent sunlight hours somewhere, anywhere. When Cindy was ten years old her mother married a Canadian and they moved to Calgary. They had moved from being in poverty to being in an abusive situation.
It took two years for Cindy to put a plan in place. The day came that she grabbed a bag with clothes, her savings of $200 and her fluorescent skateboard, and ran away. She ran to a United Way funded agency, Avenue 15, a shelter for youth.
At twelve years of age, she felt the fear, put a plan in place and took healthy and appropriate action. Eventually, with support from a youth worker, Cindy encouraged her mother to take a courageous act as well. Her mother joined her to find support at a women’s shelter and then upward and onward. Cindy is now a university graduate and a City of Calgary employee. You probably find Cindy’s story amazing and inspiring. I did!
But what about us ordinary folks?
We might compare ourselves and conclude we have never performed an act of courage. That is not so! As Arianna Huffington wrote in On Becoming Fearless…In Love, Work, and Life
Fearlessness is not the absence of fear. It’s the mastery of fear. It’s about getting up one more time than we fall down.
Some days it takes all the courage you can muster to get up in the morning. We often face deadlines, disempowering management, disgruntled co-workers, dissatisfied clients and a myriad of other workplace challenges. Plus, I just bet, you have days of personal and family angst. We all do! Yes, that includes me.
You Demonstrate Courage Every Day
Here are some examples of common occurrences that sometimes muster courage. My acts of courage for this week included:
- Telling a loved one how fearful I felt watching her high-risk behaviors. I risked hearing defensiveness or having her distance herself from me. Instead, I gained trust and closeness.
- Telling someone I disagreed. I risked hearing I was wrong but I gained understanding.
- Disclosing to a colleague that I felt incompetent after she delivered an amazing presentation. My presentation followed hers. I risked judgment and feeling even more incompetent. I gained a new friend who shared that she sometimes has incompetence attacks. We even had a mutual laugh.
- Turning a conversation around. When a Bank of Montreal employee called to offer me a deal, I changed the subject. I asked how I could submit a proposal to present at their next Professional Development day. I risked a minor rejection but gained his name and email address. Wish me luck. After all, for over 25 years I’ve given them my business!
- Insisting on lying down on a bed at the lab to give blood. I risked being denied but I saved them the trouble of picking me off the floor and filling in an incident report.
Please, if you have not already noticed, begin to observe how you demonstrate everyday courage.