“Stupid risks are what make life worth living” Homer Simpson. Well stupid risks aren’t really a good idea; you do need to think about the impact. But, having the courage to take risks can lead you down the path you want.
Courage by definition is the ability to do something that frightens you, or having strength in the face of pain or grief.
I feel I’m a fairly courageous person with certain things and there are definitely areas I can improve. I’ll stand up for what I believe in, even if I’m the only one. I remember when I was in grade six and in a split class with grade five students (I don’t know if they do this in other countries when there weren’t enough students to fill a full class). I found out from some friends in another class that was only for kids in grade six that we were behind in learning. I got upset and decided to do something about it. I went on strike. It sounds silly, but I sat in class and put a sign on my desk that I was on strike and not doing anything until we learned as much as the other class. Did it work? Well, it worked in getting me in big trouble at school and home, but my parents respected the fact that I cared enough about my education to do something about it. We didn’t learn more in class, so my parents helped me move ahead.
Courage doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but you can develop it with some work. Here are some ways you can become more courageous in your daily life. Some may seem small, but they can enhance your ability to break down your barriers.
1. Try something new
Do something you’ve never done before or go somewhere you’ve never been before. There are times when your life becomes so routine; you aren’t getting the full benefits from it. Variety is part of healthy living.
- Do you always take the same way home from work or school? Take a different route.
- Do you always eat the same meal on a particular day or go to the same restaurant? Try making different foods at home and try a new place when you go out.
- Take a course to learn a new skill.
I was always hesitant to eat in a restaurant by myself or travel alone. Work forced me to have to do it last year, and I haven’t looked back! I needed that push, or I’m not sure how long it would have taken me to try or if I ever would.
2. Say what’s on your mind
Most people I know don’t always say what’s on their mind; myself included. Do you sometimes suppress what you want to say? Fear usually holds us back; the fear we might hurt someone, sound silly, or say the wrong thing. A good way to begin is to start small.
- Say something positive about a person, even if you’re not sure how they’ll receive it. Positive feedback is usually easier to say and for someone to take.
- Start talking about minor things, positive and neutral. Work your way up to more difficult conversations.
- Whether you’re talking about something good or bad, speak pleasantly and politely. Be firm as well when it’s warranted.
3. Speak to someone you don’t know
As I’ve mentioned in a few articles, I’m a chatty introvert. It’s hard for me to start conversations in large groups of people I don’t know. But I do it. I start small.
- Say hello to a stranger. If you’re in a group, say it to someone you’re standing near or who is also alone.
- Talk about the weather.
- Ask someone what they enjoy doing in their spare time or what they love to eat.
4. Stand up for someone
It’s easier for some people to take a stand when they see someone else being treated unfairly than it is to do for themselves. I had always stood up for the people others picked on, partially because I didn’t like to see people feeling hurt, but also because I couldn’t understand why it happened. To me, if you don’t like someone for whatever reason, why not just leave them alone and not speak to them? Why make someone else’s life a nightmare for no reason?
- If you see someone at home, work or school treated unfairly, what do you do? Do you speak up, or remain silent? Depending on the situation, you may not want to get involved if it puts you in jeopardy, but there are ways to do it without getting penalized. For example, you can try to steer the conversation in another direction, come up with valid points to help the situation, or contact someone to intervene if it escalates.
- If you hear gossip about someone, do you defend the person, shut down the conversation, or let it continue and participate?
Focus on the person or cause you’re standing up for to make it easier to do it.
5. Look how you want
I have talked about ageism in fashion. There are also imposed rules about what time of year we should wear certain colors and material. Also about what length of hair is socially acceptable for women and men at different ages. I’m not even going to get into body type and other aesthetics for the sake of blog length!
Do your own thing. There are times when you can’t, for example, dress code rules at work, but other than that, don’t let others shape what you should look like or wear. Take the opportunity to express yourself!
6. Do something that makes you fearful
Try something you’re scared to try. I haven’t been in the CN Tower in Toronto since I was a kid and getting me on a plane is a chore, but I was forced to travel for work and had to start flying alone frequently.
Pick something small that you’re afraid to do and start with that one. Work your way up to bigger things until you’ve incorporated some of your fears into your life. CN Tower I’m talking to you, soon I’ll conquer this fear and sit in the restaurant to enjoy the city views with a glass of wine!
7. Find others
As the saying goes “There’s safety in numbers.” It’s easier to act when there’s even one other person who feels the same way.
It’s not always the case so you might have to go it alone, but you can work your way up to it.
8. Find courageous role models
I’m a believer in having a role model for many aspects of life. When you’re trying to push yourself beyond your boundaries, there’s a part of you that wonders whether it’s achievable. A role model is a reminder that the answer is yes.
If you don’t have role models around you, search online for someone who has done something you’re trying to achieve, and find out how they did it and follow the path.
9. Focus on positivity
It’s a negative response to something that causes our fear. Learn to focus on the positive signs and ignore the other ones.
If it helps, write down the good things and repeat them to yourself. When your thoughts start veering into negative territory, remind yourself of the positive ones.
What do you think it takes to be courageous? Do you have a tip to help build courage?