Sunday, October 13, 2013

Courage Revisited

The media tends to focus on grand acts of courage: elite athletes, those who climb the highest and most dangerous mountains, military and police heroes, parents exhibiting superhuman acts of strength to save their endangered children, extreme adventure travelers, world explorers, etc. 
Courage is about challenge and difficulty and is often defined as “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear.”  I believe that, contrary to this definition, we can be quite fearful in the moment and still embody courage through our actions. This is what courage is all about – acting on one’s highest values and desired outcomes in spite of how fearful one might feel in the moment.

I would like to suggest a more expansive approach to courage, an approach that includes and celebrates acts of courage that I have repeatedly witnessed in my professional and personal lives. These include, but are certainly not limited to: the corporate whistle blower who risks his/her career and finances to act with honor and integrity; the man or woman who extricates him/herself from a toxic personal or work situation; the unemployed professional who puts him/herself out there every day in spite of limited prospects and fragile self-esteem; the depressed individual who gets out of bed each day, taking one day (or sometimes 5 minutes) at a time; the youth who is bullied and seeks out support; the person who intervenes when they see a child being mistreated and/or endangered; the parents with children with a catastrophic or chronic illness who focus on what needs to be done to move forward. Everyday acts of courage move people beyond what they think is possible, stretching their comfort and competence zones to places beyond what they thought possible.

Acts of courage are everywhere when we expand our perceptual filters in order to notice them. What acts of courage have you witnessed today?


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