by Jennifer Norris-Nielsen
When people think of the courageous hero, they often think of winning battles, aggressively overcoming danger and valiantly standing up against unspeakable odds—usually packaged in a very active, fearless daredevil. Who of us can live up to that definition of courage in our daily lives? Are we doomed to see courage only in books, movies or on the news?
Yet the word courage itself stems for the Latin root “cor” or the French “coeur”, both meaning heart. So, in fact, the core of courage is heart-based. With that in mind, how does that change the everyday definition of courage?
We need to take a moment and listen to our own hearts. Most of us are oblivious to this constant, life-sustaining process, which is going on within us throughout our lives. To live, we need our hearts to beat. It is within that simple rhythm where we may be able to find and use the courage that lives inside each of us.
Courage often goes unnoticed. Just like its heart counterpart, each little beat may not seem so important when we look at them in isolation. Over time, however, they are crucial to our continued existence.
Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” We need to think about times we’ve prioritized someone or something else—in spite of any challenges or odds— and realize those are the beats of a courageous life. It could be righting a wrong, consoling someone who is hurting, or extending oneself in any way for loved ones or even people we’ve just met. Even sharing our gifts in the workplace, home or life can be a courageous act. By not settling for mediocrity, we give more of ourselves. When we do our best, we are urging ourselves to reach higher heights.
Just as movement and exercise improve our cardiovascular health, our courage also needs a certain amount of effort to become stronger and more resilient. If we always played it safe, without any chance of failure, how would we know in what areas we need to work, or how far we can go before we hit our limit? In physical training, we often change our routine to challenge our bodies. When we vary our emotions, we fortify our mental flexibility. When feeling fear, nervousness or discomfort, recognize that it is the inner system letting us know that this experience is something that pushes us to our own limits. Courage needs practice and perseverance to become possible.
Our personal acts of courage may go unnoticed by others, so we have to content ourselves with the inner knowing that pumping greater emotional weight is revealing internal muscles we didn’t know we had. These resources discovered in overcoming our own discomfort can help us move closer to or accomplish goals or values. We need a certain amount of stress to create greater heart fitness, and giving ourselves opportunities to deal with situations that require courage boosts our emotional vigor.
At the same time, we need to give ourselves sufficient breaks to recover from physical and emotional strains and stresses. While the world may seem to be 24/7 with no time for self-care, the heart—and courage—needs care to keep robust and ready.
Maintaining our physical health can positively affect our abilities to better deal with inner reactions to the outer world. Keeping a caring eye on our psychological well-being tends to positively impact our overall health and outlook. Enough rest, nutritious foods and exercise support the body.
Giving ourselves the compassion and support we might give a child who is learning something new isn’t letting ourselves off the hook for the stumbles in our courage and life; it is celebrating our learning, reveling in trying something new and applauding our attempts to contest our self-perceived limitations.
Finding support can give the breathing room needed to recover and prepare to adventure again. Within all of us is a power that may or may not have had its day to shine. As A.A. Milne said about the character Winnie the Pooh, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, and loved more than you know.” Today is a great day to be courageous— from the heart.
Jennifer Norris-Nielsen is a certified consulting hypnotist, instructor and author, helping people to work, play, love and live better. For more information, call 512-969-6306 or email ContactUs@GreyMatterNetwork.com.