The Courage We Have
When you think of someone courageous, who comes to mind? Is it a historical figure? A social rights activist? Or even a fictional Superhero? Before this summer, I could come up with a list of people who I thought were courageous, but I probably would have never included myself in that list.
However, this year, Leadership Inspirations focused on a theme of courage. This means that all summer long, I had to wear a shirt that said “Have Courage” on it. As you can probably imagine, this prompted me to spend some time reflecting on what courage means, especially in the context of leadership.
After a summer full of workshops and insightful conversations with our 750 student leaders, I am now beginning to realize how minimalistic my view of courage used to be! I used to think that courage meant acting without fear: diving in headfirst or finding a strength within yourself that you didn’t know you had.
However, I now know that courage is so much more. Courage is not about heroic efforts or accolades, but rather about the challenging places we had to navigate to get there. Courage places us in a vulnerable position; that is what makes it so hard after all.
This summer, we commonly referred to courage through Winston Churchill’s famous quote:
Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen — Winston Churchill
Courage looks different to different people in different contexts. Sometimes it is about finding the courage to introduce yourself to someone new. Sometimes it is about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes; shoes that might make you a little uncomfortable. Sometimes it is about speaking up. Courageous people do not say the popular opinion, but the one that needs to be said, even when it makes their voice shake. Courage is not defined by the outcome, but by the way we achieve that outcome. While courage might involve stepping up when needed, it also takes knowing when to step back. It can be about letting others take control, trusting their intuition, and being open to a new path or direction.
Courage is not easy, but it is something we can all practice. There are so many ways we can challenge ourselves and continue to grow for the sake of ourselves and those we serve. And while it can be a little scary, by inviting a little bit more vulnerability into our lives, we can be more courageous – a word that, if you’re like me, you may not have formerly used to use to describe yourself.
Draw out the model below:
Think about yourself from a personal and professional standpoint. Starting in the middle, define your comfort zone. What skills, qualities, people, places, etc. make you feel most comfortable?
Next, think about your challenge zone. What skills, qualities, people, places, etc. encourage you to grow or even struggle a little?
Then think about your danger zone. What makes you most uncomfortable? What feels farthest beyond your reach?
Reflect on what you wrote down. In your personal or professional life, where can you use courage to step up? And where can you use courage to step back? If it is something in your challenge zone, how can you move it to your comfort zone? And if it is something in your danger zone, how can you move it into your challenge zone? Then make a commitment for the week to do one of those things. Start small and be proud of even the smallest acts of courage that you accomplish!
*Meet the Author*
Caroline is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Leadership Development, she loves dogs, the beach, sunshine, and traveling!