Human beings are remarkable. We are all capable of survival and regeneration, especially when the chips are down. If you want to be braver here are 3 steps to follow.
Courage is the ability to do something, even though it might appear frightening at first. Do you ever read biographies of amazing people and feel in awe of what they have done? Does that awe sometimes make you feel a little despondent because you don’t believe you could be so brave, or accomplish so much despite the obstacles? Do you ever feel your life would be better if you could just muster up a little more courage to pursue your dreams or exit a poor situation? Do you want to be Dorothy but feel like the Cowardly Lion?
If so, a little more insight into these human qualities may help you to access them. We all have courage inside of us. It is as human as the blood that courses through our veins. Courage is like an inner reservoir we can draw on when we need to, although many of us only discover our courage when we are in a tough situation or someone we love is in danger. Bravery, on the other hand is the action, behaviour or outcome of courage; it’s the active facing of our fears so we can step into the unknown, or even into the known!
If you lack courage, here are my thoughts as a virtual life coach and therapist on what you need to know.
Courage – It’s Not What You Think
Perhaps the biggest hurdle we have to navigate to access our courage is identifying that we’ve been hoodwinked by TV, film and the media. They make us believe that bravery and courage are only required for ‘big’ acts: climbing mountains or rescuing small children from burning buildings. The courage and bravery we see on TV, or hear about on the nightly news, often creates an impossibly high bar that we see as relevant to ‘other people’ living ‘other lives’.
The truth is courage is much less dramatic. Anything that makes you feel slightly scared – even if it’s getting a spider out the bathroom without just killing it – will require courage, especially if you hate spiders! Learning to ski in your forties because your kids enjoyed a school trip and want to go with you this time requires a little courage. Depending on your personality, you may need to call on some bravery to meet new people or attend an interview.
Embrace Your Fear
I was skiing recently in the Alps and was on a ski lift going up the mountain. Next to me was Frasier, who was six years old and part of a ski school. We were chatting and I said, “Frasier, if I get scared at the top of the hill what would your advice be to me?” He thought about it for a minute, then turned to me and said, “Always face your fear!” Frasier was only six, but that’s great advice.
We are creatures of habit and we generally don’t like change that much. Change, by definition, is moving from something that’s known to something that’s unknown. Most of us prefer the known because there are no surprises there; it’s our comfort zone. But there is also no growth in the comfort zone. If we are to harness the power of courage to face difficult situations and make constructive change, we need to be willing to move into the challenge zone.
You Need To Exit Your Comfort Zone
If you are constantly in your comfort zone, how fulfilled do you feel? Sure, it’s a nice safe (some would say boring) place, but are you really doing what you want to do and being who you want to be if you are permanently ‘stationed’ there? To move into the next zone, we need to access the courage to push out beyond our comfort zone and into the challenge zone. But that push doesn’t need to move us into the panic zone. If you are spending too much time in the panic zone, it means you aren’t in control of what you are doing. The panic zone is almost as immobilising as the comfort zone, only it’s fear not comfort that’s driving the bus!
The key with change is incremental ‘stretch change’ that pushes you past what’s comfortable and easy, but not into being overwhelmed, fearful and panicked. Bring yourself back into what you know and/or what you need to do to find your own inner resources to fuel and power yourself in the challenge zone. Embrace the challenge! The challenge zone is where we learn, grow and develop as human beings. It’s where we find the impossible possible, and surprise ourselves by the strength of our convictions and the courage we can muster to see them through.
Start with small things that push you out of your comfort zone for a few minutes. The more you embrace the challenge zone as a playground for your own development, the braver you will become, and the easier courage will be to muster when you need it.
Find Out More
If you find you lack courage in certain situations, I hope the above advice has been helpful. Remember, if you would like any help or advice please get in touch. I offer virtual life coach sessions, and help my clients with a variety of issues. These sessions are available to international clients as well as those based in the UK.
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Emotional baggage is something most of us are carrying around to some degree. After all, we are all shaped by our experiences. But it’s less about what the experiences do to us than what we do with them. We are shaped by what we choose to make those experiences mean about who we are, what we deserve, and what we are capable of.
If you are on a guilt trip then you are most likely feeling remorseful because of something you did – or even forgot to do. Guilt trips can be minor or something that has festered away at us for years. Here’s the thing though, guilt isn’t a switch you can flick on or off. It’s a gradual process of accepting you’re not perfect – and that being imperfect is OK.
This week and next week, I’ll share some guidance on accepting that imperfection. But for now, here are my thoughts on how to get over your guilt trip.
Whatever you – or anyone – did or didn’t do, you must accept that human beings will always do the best they can with the resources they have at the time. So, before you go beating yourself up, acknowledge that you were probably trying to do the right thing – even if that effort didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to. Perhaps you just didn’t have the knowledge or skills or insights that would have allowed you to handle the situation more effectively.
If you behaved badly, cut yourself some slack. Realise that although something didn’t work out well, you were probably doing the best you could at the time. Our life is full of paths to our destination, so it’s not surprising that we take the wrong one now and again. The key is to realise it’s the wrong path and to get back on the right one as soon as you can. Choose to let go of any guilt you feel because of your brief ‘detour’. After all, you can’t change the past but you can change what happens going forward.
Hindsight Is A Tool – Not A Weapon
When we are on our guilt trip we can easily replay the whole situation repeatedly in our heads, turning up the volume and emotion with each repeat. We cycle through the past and thus re-experience the shame and regret. If only we could go back, knowing what we know now, we would have done it differently, right?
Instead of using hindsight as a tool to further flagellate yourself, celebrate it. If you know you wouldn’t behave that way now, then you are clearly a different person than the one who behaved badly. Guilt is only possible if the experience you feel guilty about changed you. If it hadn’t, you wouldn’t be feeling the guilt. Perhaps you are older, a little wiser, have more knowledge or information than you did then, or you’ve mellowed a little, become more resilient or expanded your life experience.
Whatever the difference, you are different, so to continue punishing the new you for a mistake made by the old you doesn’t really seem fair, does it? Let it go.
Is Your Guilt False?
False guilt is guilt that doesn’t belong to you. I see this in my coaching work more than you might think. We know if guilt is ours, right? Not always. Often a person can assume someone else’s guilt and carry it as though it were their own.
For example, a parent can feel guilty when their child behaves badly–and this can still happen when your child is an adult because you’re the parent and feel responsible for them. By accepting guilt on their behalf, you are effectively shielding them from the consequences of their own behaviour. But no one grows up until they experience — and appreciate– the consequences of their actions.
It can also happen when the individual in question doesn’t take accountability for what they did, so someone else in their vicinity will carry that guilt on their behalf. If you recognise this, give the guilt back: It’s not yours to own. The other person needs to take responsibility, so they can move forward and continue to develop as an adult. But regardless of whether they do, the guilt is not yours. Return it to its rightful owner. Immediately!
Guilt Is Complex
Remember, guilt is usually about something you have done or said or something you should have done or said but didn’t. We can do and say things in the moment because of other stuff going on in our lives. For example, following a death, illness, stress or because of difficult relationships. This stuff can be the driver that moves us away from who we really are inside and transforms us into something or someone we don’t recognise. In other words, the way we behaved, even if it wasn’t great, doesn’t make us a horrible person. It just means we said something or did something that wasn’t so great at that time.
This isn’t about letting ourselves off the hook for bad behaviour, but it allows us to remember that “I am a good person but I did something stupid”, rather than “I did something stupid so I am a bad person”. This is a very important distinction because it allows us to isolate the incident, rather than allowing it to negatively impact our self-esteem and sense of self. Ask yourself, “If I had another chance, would I have handled things differently?” or “Would I handle it differently in the future?” If the answer is yes, then it shows the problem lies not with you as a person, it was your behaviour or action at the time that you regret.
To Sum Up
Guilt is an emotion, not a personality trait. It’s something we create but that doesn’t mean we can’t reflect on our actions and make peace going forward. Ultimately, beating yourself up about what you did or didn’t do won’t change anything about the situation. But, you can use this time of reflection to consider if you would have handled things in a better way and learn from it.
As a therapist and life coach, I help my clients with a variety of topics including personal development. If you are ruminating over past situations and feel unable to move on, then talking about it could be a useful outlet. I am currently running virtual life coach sessions available internationally, so get in touch if it’s something that would be of benefit to you.
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My work often involves encouraging people to think differently about whatever situation they find themselves in, to create a different narrative and a way of thinking which will drive a different outcome. We are not our thoughts we are whatever reality we make for ourselves.