I’ve always admired stand-up comedians
It takes courage – or guts – to put yourself out there with nothing but a microphone separating you from a crowd of people and say, “I’m funny – come and pay money to listen to what I have to say.”
Great comedians are often vulnerable because they use personal experience to confront the humorous aspects of social issues courageously and, in making people laugh, frequently change entrenched attitudes.
When I was young, I used to think that courage was something that only Superheroes and individuals who achieved extreme physical feats possessed.
Now I realise that we can all have courage
Courage can be small and sometimes even unnoticeable.
But small acts of courage can build and become a tidal wave of change. Martin Luther King Jr springs to mind as someone who had the courage to speak out about the injustice of racial inequality. He performed no physical feats of courage yet in 1964; King received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolence.
Courage isn’t possible without fear
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.” ~Ambrose Redmoon
That ‘something else’ is our sense of what’s important – our values
Courage is about making a heart connection to our values and letting those values inform and guide our behaviour, regardless of the fear that’s present.
Courage comes from our gut brain
If you’ve read previous articles about your multiple brains, you might remember that your gut brain provides you with your sense of identity. It’s responsible for you taking action that aligns with your values.
Courage might involve:
- Speaking up and engaging in conversations you might not have had before, even though it may not make you popular.
- A peaceful protest against an activity that the majority believe will create short-term wealth, because you think it will have catastrophic long-term effects on the environment.
- Being who you truly are; expressing yourself authentically in every conversation and not pretending to be something you’re not – regardless of whether people like you or not.
- Doing something you’ve wanted to do but were too afraid to undertake.
- Saying ‘No’.
- Pursuing your dreams instead of your day job – even though there’s risk involved.
Why is courage important?
Values – generated in the heart – inform our gut of what’s important. If you value something and don’t take action to align with that value, you’ll experience shame. And your subsequent actions will feel dishonourable. If your behaviour impacts the welfare of others, you’ll also feel guilty. (I’m talking about real guilt here not about the guilt trips others can take you on if their manipulations don’t work.)
Example: let’s say kindness is one of your values. Values form part of your core identity, so you might say, “I am a kind person.” One day, you say something deliberately hurtful to a good friend. You will suffer shame because you’ve contravened a personal and closely held value and feel guilty because you’ve hurt and upset your friend.
Courage means behaving with integrity
Courage means ensuring there’s an alignment between your deepest values; who you are – and what you do in the world.
“Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles
Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances.
Courage breeds creativity; Cowardice represses fear and is mastered by it.
Cowardice asks the question, is it safe?
Expediency asks the question, is it politic?
Vanity asks the question, is it popular?
But conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.”
Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
Acting on your values
I have a challenge for you: You may not want to do stand up comedy (or maybe you do?). But what goals will you set that will demand courage this year? Will you allow yourself to be vulnerable? Will you step into all that you’re capable of being? Will you be true to your Self? Will you be creative in your pursuit of your goals? How much difference will you have made by the end of the year?
A final thought from Steve Jobs:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
PS If you’re not sure what your values really are, there’s an exercise you can do here. The exercise will help you to define work values, but you could use the same exercise to determine your life or relationship values.
PPS. If you’d like some help, take a look and my Private Coaching and Mentoring Programme.