First, let’s start with the definition of courage. According to the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, courage is “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” Why do we start the definition? Because, most often, we cannot define it clearly. We only have a vague idea of what it is. For example, what if I tell you that courage is distinct from bravery? Similar, but not the same. You can be courageous, but not brave.
Bravery is the absence of fear; it’s a singular quality. A brave person is dauntless and bold. A courageous person, on the other hand, has fear but still undertakes to go ahead. Courage is a state of mind, a means to venture forth for the greater cause. On tracing the roots, the word brave comes from the Italian “bravo,” which also means to be wild and savage. Courage comes from the French “coeur,” which means heart.
So, how do you become courageous?
Face the fear
Facing your fear is the first step. You have to manage it. Control and lower it. When the time of action begins, have no doubt about it, fear will come. Fear is the signal that the moment has arrived. You have to summon your inner strength and subdue the emotion of fear using every ounce of will. This only needs to be handled in the beginning. Because once the action starts, and you move forward, then fear takes a backseat.
Make a list of your fears. Actively train yourself to handle yourself when the time comes to face the fear. Suppose you have a fear of speaking to an audience on a stage. There is nothing that’s going to be more effective than training yourself to speak on the stage and doing it. Start small, and move to a larger audience as you progress.
Our minds make up excuses, stories, and outrageous scenarios that will never happen. When you train and do something, and none of these scenarios happen, your mind has no option other than to let you move ahead without fear. The more knowledge you gain about the thing you fear, the less fearful you will get.
Courage is like a muscle that you need to constantly exercise, and like a brain that you need to feed knowledge to. Practicing diminishes fear greatly. Suppose you are part of a symphony and need to perform for a very stringent audience. You can acclimatize yourself with the acoustics of the venue and practice every day before the performance. The familiarity will help to calm your nerves on the day of the performance.
You need to keep your mind focused on what needs to be done. And move away from the ego-centric perspective of thinking only about yourself. When you think more about yourself, you will also think of what others think of you. This leads to becoming self-conscious. Focus on the task at hand. Practice, and become the best. Once you’ve reached a certain threshold of performance level, you will welcome audiences. This arises from the confidence you’ve built.
Lots of people have turned to faith to build their inner resilience. When a believer entrusts in a higher being with his or her protection and safety and believes in principles that ensure good outcomes, they will be motivated to act in spite of fear. Death, the greatest of fears, has no hold on true believers because they trust their Lord will take care of them in the afterlife.
Try doing something scary every once in a while just to test yourself to have a feel for the emotion. Because, as I said before, it’s easier to face something you know very well.