One of my favorite cartoons growing up was Popeye because he was an ordinary guy who had the courage to do extraordinary things. He drew upon an inner strength when the chips were down and courage was needed to save the day.
Popeye the Sailor Man did not wake up each day and announce to the world that he was going to be a hero. Instead, he met life as each one of us does everyday—with little fanfare and few fantasies about achieving super human deeds.
It was only when he found himself up against obstacles that threatened to derail his path and journey in life did Popeye reach down, pull out a can of spinach, and summon the courage to break through the barrier in front of him. Popeye was never imprisoned in his own mind by his circumstances or appearance.
No one wants to be a coward. Courage is a valued trait, no matter our background or nationality. Many of us will go to great lengths so others will think we’re courageous. In the Popeye cartoon, reaching down into a pocket for a can of spinach is a clever metaphor—we can all reach deep into ourselves to find the courage needed to overcome the fear we feel when confronted with risk, uncertainty, and the unknown.
Courage is something we learn from experience. Movies tell us that courage is extraordinary and extreme action; in truth, many acts of courage happen deep below the surface in places that only the heart knows about.
“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” —Atticus Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird
Here are some types of courage to help you keep going:
1. Courage to take responsibility.
We have become a society that shirks responsibility for our actions. We point fingers, file lawsuits, and refuse to enter into meaningful discussions: I am right and you are wrong—end of discussion! It is everyone’s fault but ours.
When you avoid taking responsibility for your own actions, you are not showing courage (click to tweet). Courage means taking a chance. If you’re not a little bit scared everyday, you’re not learning. And when you’re not learning, you’re done.
2. Courage to make a change.
Staying where you are may not be ideal, you tell yourself, but it’s comfortable. You work an 80-hour week, have a rocky marriage, and a dead end job—wow, and you are worried that a change will wreck your life? It takes courage to ask, “Is this all there is? Is there more out there for me?”
You may be staying where you are because it’s predictable and safe. Fear can be a great catalyst for courage in your life. Do not give up, stop pretending that average is OK, admit things are not perfect, and find the courage to make a change.
3. Courage to stay the course.
For some, the courage to keep going means making a change. For others, it may take more courage not to run away from our circumstances or situation. If the road is rocky but you are on the right path, you may need to stay put. Keep your eye on the goal. It might be easier to jump ship and move in a different direction, but sometimes the greatest act of courage is to stay the course. Don’t blame everything on everyone else. Researcher Brene Brown sums up blame like this: it is a way to discharge pain and discomfort. You can run but you can’t hide. Sometimes it takes more courage to do the interior work rather than shine up the exterior.
4. Courage to have faith.
Life is not supposed to be easy. We are wired for struggle. It’s the reason we need courage if we’re to move forward in life. Just because you’re not where you want to be today, it doesn’t mean you won’t be there someday. Courageous people do not give up. They keep moving and trying. They make mistakes but they don’t quit. Life’s barriers are not there to keep you out; they’re there to give you a chance to show how badly you want something (click to tweet). Have faith in yourself and develop a strong mind to break through your brick wall.
Never give up! It takes courage to keep plowing ahead when confronted with risk, uncertainty, and the unknown. Reach down and pull out of big dose of courage to break through the brick walls that life sometimes throws up when least expected.
“Bran thought about it. ‘Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’
‘That is the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.” —George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones
How have you found the courage to move on? When has it taken more courage for you to stay put? How have you found faith in yourself to be brave?
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