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how courageous are you?

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“Courage” is a very popular topic on the interwebs these days. But what does it really mean? And just how courageous am I? How courageous are you?

According to Wikipedia (certainly not the ultimate authority, two forms of “courage” (physical or moral) are the ability to confront fear, pain, risk, danger, uncertainty and intimidation.

However, I’ve thought of courage in much simpler terms: doing or facing something that terrifies you. You can have the desire or ability, but unless you actually DO it, are you really that courageous?

For instance, it takes some courage to keep challenging your knitting skills. Knitting lace is pretty scary if you haven’t done so before. The courage required to learn a new knitting skill is, obviously, not quite on par as the courage to stand up for religious or political freedom, but it’s courage nonetheless.

It takes a GREAT deal of courage to not only follow your dream, but to first figure out and articulate that dream. Few people do this in their lifetimes, wallowing in a sea of regret as they grow older.

Your dream may be fairly practical. Perhaps you just want to work in the field that you are passionate about, raise a happy and healthy family, retire with your beloved, and live out your golden years surrounded by your loved ones. That’s a pretty awesome dream, and it may require courage to accomplish, given your particular circumstances.

Your dream may be huge. If you want to affect social change, perhaps political or religious, you will run into many situations requiring a great deal of courage.

Maybe you just want to build your own handmade empire, designing and selling your handcrafted goods, online, at shows and via boutiques and shops. I say “just,” but believe me, doing so requires immense courage, because there are SO many obstacles and events that will make you just want to give up. Drawing a regular paycheck from a regular job is so very much easier than following your bliss and being responsible for every penny you earn.

We – you and me – are in unique circumstances right this very second. Our entire world has changed in just the last 10 years. The timing has never been better for creating your own future, articulating and following your dream, and handcrafting the life that you want to live.

But it’s scary. It takes courage. You will be pressured by so many family, friends, acquaintances, circumstances to continue living the life that you’re not all that happy with.

The life that you want to live may involve building your own business. Or moving to a new professional field. Or earning a graduate degree so that you can pursue higher level positions. Or starting a family. Or traveling the world. Or moving from the big, exciting city to a teeny tiny town. Or vice versa. The options are truly infinite.

This is a topic I’ve been working my way through for the last year. I’ve never been a very courageous person. As a little kid, I was extremely introverted, shy and all around terrified of people and situations outside of my tiny world. I’ve had to be far more courageous than I’ve thought I had the ability to be, for many years. Sometimes, doing what terrifies me simply because I didn’t see another choice. Other times because it was the right thing to do. And other times because I wanted to make something happen despite my fear.

I love hearing people’s stories, particularly when it involves overcoming obstacles and fear. So inspiring! And because this is so very near and dear to my heart, I’m going to be writing more about this and sharing resources with you.

But first, I’d love hear about your own experiences and insights on courage (which may require a little courage for you to share!). And also, let me know what kinds of resources and insights you’d most appreciate when it comes to courage?

And in the meantime, you might appreciate the following posts by courageous women:

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Ngan May 4, 2011, 7:13 PM

    Love this post. Thank you for sharing and inspiring me to think about my own courage. I’m a slow mover when it comes to taking risks. I dream big, but I don’t take steps toward it because I don’t like potential rejection and failure (well, excluding earning a doctorate, but to me that doesn’t take much courage per se).. now bearing your art for the world to see, that for me takes courage. You should’ve seen me at my first art show.. I was terrified on the inside. People were face to face with my designs AND me.. and I can feel them “judging” my work right in front of me. I hated it, but am getting used to it a little more. Baby steps, right? 🙂

    • brenda May 4, 2011, 8:20 PM

      Ngan, I love your insights and it’s so true how we all avoid our big dreams in order to avoid potential rejection and failure … emphasis on potential! And yes, baby steps are awesome – anytime someone works up the courage to do something that scares them, I want to celebrate! 🙂

  • Sharon Hanson May 4, 2011, 8:04 PM

    A thought-provoking post, Brenda. Here I thought you were always perfectly brave and fearlless.

    Most of the time I am terrified of putting my work out there, but the opposite–not doing it–is even more frightening. I waited far too long in my life to get started selling my work and finally, after becoming a woman of a certain age I just said “to hell with it”–I’ll do it in spite of being scared spitless. (The nice thing about selling on the Internet is that people can’t see the panic in your eyes.)

    My favorite all time recording is Janis Joplin singing “Me and Bobby McGee.” One of the lines in that song is easily paraphased for this situation. Sometimes courage is just another word for “nothin’ left to lose.”

    Thanks for the links to the other posts, too.

    Keep on going on. (We’re all Bozos on this bus.)

  • brenda May 4, 2011, 8:25 PM

    Sharon, I know some amazingly courageous people, all of whom struggle with courage! Some days I’m more courageous than others. 🙂 That’s probably true for all of us, right? Love that line from Janis – I’m going to make it my mantra for a while! Thank you!

  • molly May 8, 2011, 12:16 AM

    this was so well written, Brenda! how funny I read this post at this stage of my life. Many people tell me I’m courageous, although, like you, I feel I’m always timid, shy, and always nervous and scared. Gosh, there’s so many things to be scared about in life.
    The most courageous thing I have ever done is definitely to pursue my dream in music. I was an amateur pianist for many years and always felt my playing was not good enough. I wanted to become a professional musician, but kept telling myself that it was impossible. I tried to forget about my dream by stopping lessons and not playing the piano for four full years, until I (mysteriously) sank into this deep depression, so deep that nothing mattered to me anymore — except music. That was when I told myself, “I’m going to try this just to see if I really cannot do it.” And guess what? I tried, and I succeeded. 🙂

    • brenda May 10, 2011, 11:07 AM

      Thank you, Mollie – and I think what you’re doing with your music shows great courage!

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