“What is courage?” – I asked the people around me and here are some of the answers I received:
to do things where I need to overcome my fear, i.e. mountain climbing despite my fear of heights
to rely on my gut feeling and do what’s important to me (even if it means to do what nobody else does)
not avoiding uncomfortable situations but facing them
to walk down unknown paths without knowing how it will turn out
to openly display my fears or emotions, i.e. failing or crying in front of others.
Courage has many different aspects. Melanie Greenberg writes in one of her articles on Psychology Today that courage has the following 6 facets:
- feel fear yet choosing to act – face your fears, act despite the fear
- follow your heart – do what is important to you (even against the stream)
- preserve in the face of adversity – keep trying, not run away when things get difficult but stay
- standing up for what is right – speak up, say what you think, stand up for others
- expanding your horizons; letting go of the familiar – go to the unknown without backup and not knowing what will happen
- face suffering with dignity or faith – accept strokes of fate like illness, make the best out of it and support those who suffer
I would add one more aspect of courage that comes from Brené Brown:
- being vulnerable – admit mistakes or fail in front of others, show blind spots, be imperfect (cf. Brené Brown, Daring Greatly)
Courage not only has different aspect, it also has various definitions.
I like the French word for courage very much: Cour-Rage. Heart & rage, the rage of the heart. What I love about this definition is that the passion and intensity of courage is emphasized a lot here. (vcf. Henry Kimsey-House, Courage and the Leader in Front).
In dictionaries courage often is defined as mindset or mental attitude:
the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear, bravery.dictionary.com
The definition of Robert Biswas-Diener describes courage very accurately:
Courage is the willingness to act toward a moral or worthwhile goal despite the presence of risk, uncertainty or fear.Robert Biswas-Diener, The Courage-Quotient
I chose to pursue my goal although I am afraid is the essence of his Biswas-Diener’s definition.
With “moral” Biswas-Diener means action that has a positive impact on me or others. Without the moral aspect, the definition could also be applied to a thieve. A thieve is prepared to pursue his goal, which is worthwhile but not moral: make a burglary , despite the danger of being caught and despite his fear. (cf. Robert Biswas-Diener, The Courage-Quotient).
The researcher Cynthia Puthia differentiates in her definition between two types of courage: “General Courage” and “Personal Courage” (cf. Cynthia Puthia, The Construct of Courage).
“General Courage” is what one would commonly see as courage, i.e. a fire-fighter who rescues people will probably be seen as brave by a lot of people or an activist who speaks her opinion although she could be prosecuted for this.
“Personal Courage” is courage for me personally; when I overcome my very personal fear, which might not be brave at all for others, i.e. drive long distances by car or speak in front of a large audience.
Maybe not everyone of us will be a firefighter or activist.
But here is the good news concerning our Personal Courage:
We all have the powere to overcome our fears and saboteurs and become braver.
We can learn courage!
Do you want to be more courageous, too?
Don’t waste time! Start Now!
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• Melanie Greenberg Ph.D., The Six Attributes of Courage, Psychology Today, 23.8.2012, https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201208/the-six-attributes-courage
• Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, 2015
• Henry Kimsey House, Courage and the Leader in Front, Co-Active® Training Institute (CTI), 29.3.2019, https://coactive.com/blog/courage-and-the-leader-in-front/
• Cynthia L. S. Pury, Cooper R. Woodard, The Construct of Courage. Categorization and Measurement, Researchgate, Juni 2007, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232442435_The_Construct_of_Courage_Categorization_and_Measurement
• Definition “Courage”, www.dictionary.com
• Robert Biswas-Diener: The Courage Quotient: How Science Can Make You Braver, 2012