Do what you can't: Live courageously and achieve your impossible
Courage is the oldest and most admired virtue of mankind. Plato and Aristotle philosophised about the physical bravado of soldiers on the battlefield, and whilst physical bravery is an admirable quality, the science of positive psychology has identified several other types of courage that are just as admirable, and even more integral to overcoming fear and self-doubt, so you can achieve what matters to you.
Personal courage is the type of courage that nobody else sees. It’s the type of courage required to walk into a gym class for the very first time or give a presentation to your co-workers.
Psychological courage is required to speak out about a mistake or call out a popular but unhealthy idea at work, even though you risk being disliked. It’s the kind of courage you use to cope with a painful illness or overcome a destructive habit.
Moral courage is the ability to stand up for others and do the right thing, despite personal risk.
A lot of people wish they had more confidence to achieve the things they want; starting a business, running a marathon, performing on stage, writing a book, etc. But the truth is that confidence is the result of repeated successful action. Courage is what you need to take action in the first place, and it’s something you already have within you.
Courage comes from the Latin word ‘cor’, meaning ‘heart’. Originally courage meant “to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Later, in old French, ‘coeur’ referred to courage as the heart that enables us to take risks.
What are your true heart’s desires? What are the things you’d love to achieve if you knew anything were possible? What are the things you’re too scared to speak of for fear of sounding silly, irresponsible or down-right deluded?
What are the things you’re telling yourself you can’t do?
‘I can’t’ is a lie spoken by fear and self-doubt, keeping you stuck, unhappy and unfulfilled. The truth is, there’s very little in life that can’t be done. Unless you’re thinking about swimming to the moon, here are some suggestions about how you can tap into your inner strength of courage and achieve what you think you can’t.
How to tap into your inner strength of courage
The VIA Institute on Character presents four strengths of courage: bravery, perseverance, honesty and zest. These strengths are already within you, waiting for you to notice and nurture them. They may be strengths that have been forgotten about, or strengths that you don’t use very often, but they are there and can be grown and strengthened with a little attention.
1. Choose to be brave
It is your responsibility to live courageously. You owe it to yourself and others to explore the limits of your potential, and strive for happiness, meaning and fulfilment, whatever that looks like for you. Growth happens outside of your comfort zone. New opportunities can feel scary and risky, but if you don’t act on them, you risk living with regrets and a life unfulfilled.
How can you dial up your strength of bravery? What aspects of your life and work are calling for you to show valour?
Don’t shrink from fear, face it. Fear is often perceived, not real. As soon as you start taking action, fear dissipates and confidence grows.
Perseverance is one of the top strengths of successful people. Successful people are willing to do the things others are not and persevere until it’s done. What are you giving up on? What tasks, positive changes, and goals require you to be persistent and industrious? What’s been started but not finished?
Dig deep and persevere with the things that matter to you, even when it feels hard, even when you don’t feel like it. Never, ever give up on your heart’s desires.
3. Be honest
Being honest means being authentic, trustworthy and sincere. To what extent are you being honest with yourself and others? To what extent are you living authentically, in your personal life and professional life? What changes do you need to make to be true to yourself? Who are the people you feel inauthentic around?
It’s important to understand who you are and what you want. Say ‘no’ to people and things that don’t align with your values and wants. Strive every day towards the things that matter to you.
4. Bring the zest
The strength of ‘zest’ is often forgotten about in the chaos of life. How can you nurture enthusiasm and energy? Are you looking after yourself properly? Sleeping well, and exercising?
Living courageously and achieving your impossible needn’t be an arduous task. Make your goals easy and make them fun. Show up with positivity, hope and optimism, and you’ll inspire others to do the same.
Remember, there is no courage without risk. Feeling a little bit scared is natural, but you should never let fear hold you back. Start exercising your courage muscle a little bit each day. What’s one small thing you can do today to start achieving the things you think you can’t…?
Yes, you can!