I’m excited to introduce to you my guest blogger, Benjamin Hardy, who will discuss the topic of courage. Ben is pursuing his Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology at Clemson University. His research focuses on how people build the courage to become entrepreneurs. He is the author of Slipstream Time Hacking. You can connect with him onTwitter at @BenjaminPHardy or at www.benjaminhardy.com. Take it away Ben.
In today’s global and information economy, many of the external constraints to living your ideal life have collapsed.
In previous eras, the tools, connections, and information we currently have didn’t exist. However, due to rapid innovation in technologies and tools, the playing field has become leveled.
No longer do you need to have money to do what you love. There are many ways of getting others to pay to get your idea off the ground.
No longer do you need time. There are endless automation tools that will do most of your work for you.
No longer do you need a sponsor. You can either launch your own company, create your own website and marketing funnels, or self-publish your own book.
The constraints are no longer external, they are internal. The only barrier to living your ideal life in today’s world: Yourself.
What people need more than money, time, sponsors, or connections is…courage. With courage, all of those things can quickly be acquired.
What is Courage?
From the perspective of the psychological literature, courage is a widely misunderstood concept. Most people consider courage as standing up to fear. But if two people did the same thing, like rescuing someone from drowning, and one felt fear while the other didn’t, would the latter be less courageous?
Chris Rate generated an empirical definition of courage in 2010 which included 3 elements:
Cynthia Pury and others have found variations of courage. For example, some actions would be considered courageous for anyone. Running into a burning building to save someone would fall into this category. Or giving a public speech.
However, there are other forms of courage which are more personal and subjective; which would not be considered courageous for everyone. For example, a person may perceive risk in going to the dentist. Or having an important conversation.
Not only are the risks subjectively perceived in many personal pursuits, but the goals are subjectively noble. Not everyone desires the same things. What may be worthy and noble to you would not be to me. But that doesn’t make your pursuits any less courageous.
Combining Rate’s and Pury’s findings together, courage can be defined as:
With this definition clearly in place, we will now turn to 5 ways of increasing our courage.
1. Focus On Your Goals—Not The Risks
What you focus on expands. If you consistently focus on the risks involved in whatever it is you want to do, you will probably hesitate to move forward.
However, if you redirect your attention onto the goal, you will be far more likely to act courageously. Get to the point where you focus almost entirely on the goal and the risks will shrink in your perception.
For example, if someone had the goal of becoming an entrepreneur, but spent all of their time focusing on the risks involved, they may never move forward. However, if they focus instead on their desired outcomes, they’ll be more likely to confront their risks.
2. Reduce Your Perception Of The Risk
Risk is perceived and relative—it’s not objective. Some will consider jumping out of a plane as risky while someone else will not.
However, when a risk is perceived, there are ways you can reduce that perception or alter it completely.
You could convince yourself that the risks aren’t really that bad by thinking of alternative outcomes; or exploring worst case scenarios and telling yourself that you can handle whatever outcome.
Or, you could do stuff that would diminish the risk. For example, you could finding out the real likelihood of the thing you fear—it’s probably very unlikely and reminding yourself of that and that you’ll handle it things don’t go as you hope. You could get help. You could become more educated. You could get training. There are several ways to reduce risk and promote courage.
3. Pursue Goals You Are Passionate About
What is the “white-hot-WHY” that motivates you? If the why is powerful enough, you will find any how.
So why are you pursuing what you’re pursuing?
If you are extremely motivated and intrinsically excited about your goals, you’re far more likely to do whatever it takes to attain them. The risks will be perceived as less challenging and you’ll confront them. You may not even be held up by them at all.
This requires that you be more intentional about the goals you set. If you’re on the fence about your goals, you will likely crumble when it’s time to face the perceived risks.
When you’re intentional, you’re clear on what you want and why, and what you don’t want and why. You can clearly remove the distractions in your life that aren’t really goals. You can stop pursuing other people’s goals and live your life based on your own agenda.
4. Take Risks Early And Get Conservative Later
I had a friend who wanted to be a professional film-maker. But he was getting his college degree in business. I asked him why and he responded, “I want to make a lot of money while I’m young, and then I’ll have lots of time and money to make brilliant films.”
On the other hand, Gary Vaynerchuck (best-selling author and creator of multiple million-dollar companies), argues that people should take huge risks while they’re young. Don’t be conservative in your career until you’re in your 40’s. The younger you are, the less you have to lose and the greater the possibilities if you succeed.
But if you’re avoiding risks in your 20’s and 30’s, you’re playing way too small. In fact, having stability and “security” may actually hinder you from accomplishing your dream. Constraints require innovative thinking.
Your current situation may be super humble and challenging. You may be desperate for rent-money. Or for connections. This desperation to make something happen could be the very catalyst and constraint for success. The obstacle is often the way.
5. Don’t Worry About Other People’s Perceptions Of You
People fail to act courageously far too often because they are worried about what others will think of them.
What will people think if you fail?
What will they think if you express yourself so openly?
Maybe you’ll lose your friends.
But if you do, were they really your friends?
In any case, what other people think about you is none of your business. We all live in subjectively perceived worlds. So don’t let other people’s incomplete and often inaccurate view of you hold you back.
Actually, most people find it refreshing, and even motivating, when they see someone taking personal risks to pursue their goals. People admire those who are trying to live theirdreams.
You may think that people will respond negatively, but more than likely they’ll respond positively.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that most people aren’t thinking about you. They’re thinking about themselves. We may believe we are the center of the universe; but so does everyone else. Other people spend very little time worrying about you. So we shouldn’t inflate something that isn’t really there.
Courage is a widely misunderstood concept. It is more than facing fears and confronting physical danger; it is a subjective and personal experience. Courage can be enhanced to make dramatic leaps toward desired goals.