W.H. Murray, the leader of the Scottish Himalayan Expedition that pioneered the path to the top of Mt. Everest, knew something about courage. He shared his experience in a known quote, which I really love:
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.
Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:
That, the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.
I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.
Courage is the single most critical ingredient for achieving our dreams, aspirations and other great things.
Yes, knowledge, experience, credentials, skills and a good plan are material too. However, any plan is only as good as your relationship to it. I have seen too many people with a brilliant plan fail because they lacked the courage to take bold action, have faith or stay the course in challenging times.
Courage comes in many forms, expressions and styles. Sometimes, standing for what you believe and fully expressing yourselves with a loud and assertive voice is an act of courage. But, sometimes, remaining thoughtful and calm in the face of turmoil, allowing yourself to be vulnerable or simply listening to other’s with openness and generosity requires courage too.
Being ‘courageous‘ is very different than ‘being fearless‘. The dictionary defines fearless as ‘Lacking fear’. However, if you are courageous it does not mean you lack fear. On the contrary, you need to be most courageous when you are most afraid.
As Nelson Mandela put it:
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
If anyone knew something about courage, it was Nelson Mandela.
We all have the natural ability to bring forth courage and live by it every moment and day of our life, no matter what our circumstances are. Unfortunately, we often seem to forget or underestimate just how powerful and magical courage really is, so we don’t fully bet on it.
Early in my career when I was struggling with achieving my sales goals, my mentor at the time gave me some advice that impacted my entire life thereafter. He said, “If you do the right thing for long enough eventually you will get the outcome you want.”
It worked. I became the most productive and successful sales leader in the company. I have experienced this first principle time and time again in multiple areas of my life and the lives of others.
If you are willing to be courageous, take a stand for what you want and then stay the course by living, acting and behaving consistently, sooner or later the circumstances will line up with your stance. As W.H. Murray put it in his quote: ‘Providence will move too‘.
Yes, you need to believe in yourself and your ability; you need to have faith for this to work. If you allow yourself to become cynical, negative or sarcastic, the circumstances will prove you right. You know how the saying goes: “Be careful what you wish for!”
Someone shared with me this gospel of Thomas, which I thought is relevant:
“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. However, if you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”
Inaction can have grave consequences when it comes to being true to yourself and achieving your dreams and aspirations. In order to become confident and proficient at the practice and discipline of courage, you need to practice on a regular basis.
Eleanor Roosevelt, another brave and inspiring leader, gave very practical and powerful advice on this. She recommended:
“Do one thing every day that scares you!”
Courage inspires, enables, pushes and reminds us to pursue our dreams and never give up. And, when we remain true to our self, we are always the happiest.