Discovering the Courage Within
by Karen Asp
Christopher Columbus needed courage. So did Lance Armstrong when he defeated cancer and captured the Tour de France in 1999. History is littered with courageous acts and courageous people.
You do not have to be a world-class explorer or professional cyclist to have courage. Everybody needs it, but how do you get it, especially when you are like the lion before he discovered the Wizard of Oz?
As the lion had to learn, courage exists inside of you. You just have to dredge it up after years of burying it behind your safety zones.
The Inborn Courage in You
Everyone was born with courage. You may not remember learning how to walk, but you know you fell hundreds of times before you stood on your own. Learning to walk took courage. And you succeeded because you had little fear or doubt.
Eventually, that changed. Parents and other caregivers told you to be careful, to avoid dangers. Society, after all, values comfort over fulfillment. "We've been exposed to a barrage of messages that discourage us from being courageous," says Harold Bloomfield, MD, a Yale-trained psychiatrist and author of Making Peace With Your Past.
Your Adversity Quotient
As you grew up, you patterned your response to adversity on how people around you responded to difficulty. Paul G. Stoltz, PhD, president/CEO of Peak Learning International and author of Adversity Quotient, defines this reaction as the adversity quotient (AQ).
As a baby, your AQ is untested. By the time you are 12, thanks to your environment and situations you have faced, you have developed your AQ. "The higher your AQ," Stoltz says, "the better you're able to summon courage and tap your greatness in times of need."
Fortunately, your AQ can be strengthened.
Courage Aas a Necessity TOP
Why do you need courage? Because courage will help you live your life the way you want. "Courage is learning to overcome fear," says Dr. Bloomfield, "and when you do that, you grow."
Today, courage is needed more than ever before. In polls that Stoltz conducted, 98% of people predicted more difficulty, chaos and uncertainty in their lives in the future. Stoltz says that 10 years ago, the average number of challenges people faced in a day was seven. Today, that number has risen to 23.
Linda Larsen, author of True Power, knows firsthand the power of courage. Over 20 years ago, she was kidnapped, raped, and held hostage for over five hours. She summoned courage she did not know she had and escaped. "My courage didn't let me down," she says. "Once you know courage is always in you, you can start learning to act more courageously in life."
Obstacles to Becoming Braver TOP
There are, though, things that stand between you and your courageous self. Dr. Bloomfield lists the following obstacles:
Finding Courage in Times of Need TOP
Stoltz says you draw courage from what matters to you. "The changes you're willing to make are the ones that have the greatest significance," he says. For example, if you have been offered a job that will force you to move across the country but you do not care about the job, you will have a hard time finding courage to make the move.
Once you have decided what matters, follow these suggestions for becoming more courageous.
Dr. Harold Bloomfield
Canadian Psychological Association
Last reviewed May 2011 by Brian Randall, MD
Last Updated: 5/16/2011