As working women maneuver through potholes to pursue their passion, they recognize defining moments and employ everyday courage. Cognizant of the etymology of courage (meaning, “heart and spirit”), their courage consciousness is vital to their success, particularly during times of uncertainty. Most of the women I meet possess unidentified courage.
Based on over twenty years of original courage research, twelve behaviors of feminine courage emerged. They are significant if you wish to keep stepping up at work. You might wish to prominently display this motto:
Courage is the forgotten virtue because women do not recognize their everyday actions as significant.
- Affirm strength and determination
A courageous woman has learned that courage is acquired by conscious design and that you strengthen it, step by step, choice by choice. The choices you make each day in your life have repercussions in how you advance your career. Her spirit is a disciplined machine that knows why it is important to take time to stop and practice daily reflection (at least twenty minutes) to evaluate and apply the best resources available. When doubt seeps in she asks, “Do I really need this?” Then, after reevaluating their path, she decides whether the sacrifice is worth the objective. If she needs to make adjustments to her plan, she does. Applying courage consciousness, she is constantly refocusing, and continuing to step up. When the inner core of your strength and determination is saying, “I know I can do this,” how do you overcome inertia? What process do you use to rekindle your spirit?
- Laurel Thatcher Ulrich said, “Well-behaved women rarely make history.”
- Morale of the story: You can tap into your courageous spirit for the strength you need to overcome every obstacle in the workplace if you give yourself permission to claim your courage, such as suffragist Victoria Woodhull demonstrated as an advocate for women.
- Hurdle obstacles and take risks
Every behavior a courageous woman exhibits and every action she takes is a choice. There is a big difference between reacting (foolhardy) and courage consciousness. When you compare yourself to some standard of success that is not you, you are at grave risk of developing false ideas of happiness that are certain to be shattered. Choose the risks you take so you can creatively navigate your way around, through or over any obstacles that cross your path. Courageous women know that mediocrity is the kiss of death. When you feel reluctance set in, ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that can happen if I do this?” Usually the worst never occurs, so take the risk and step up to the next rung of the ladder (even though that step might feel like double steps), such as attending a networking function where you most likely won’t know a soul.
- Erma Bombeck said: “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and I could say: ‘I used everything you gave me’.”
- Morale of the story: Unwilling to bow to feeling resistant by risks, a courageous woman seeks out difficult tasks and take risks that force her to perform above their usual skill and knowledge levels; hence, exercising her courage to take on the tough project such as Queen Boudicca who fought the Romans.
- Manifest vision
There are no shortcuts when it comes to balancing career success, so it’s important to know where you want to go and develop a crystal clear vision of your intention. A courageous woman becomes stubborn about attaining her vision so she can discard any non-productive judgments others put on her. Committing totally means she stays “true to yourself” (that’s her everyday courage at work!). You can accomplish this by developing your SQ (Spiritual Intelligence). How do you do this? Stay present! You can adeptly shift gears if the goals you set forth need modification. Imagine this: you are on a cruise chip to the Caribbean and the compass on the ship is off one degree! It doesn’t take long to end up in Nova Scotia! Are you off one degree?
- Harper Lee said, “Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
- Morale of the story: Refuse to accept defeat; instead, choose to demonstrate this important courage action skill: manifest your vision such as Florence Nightingale.
- Reflect self-esteem
All your actions reflect who you are and what you stand for. If you’re repeating a certain behavior that you don’t like, don’t editorialize! Look inside and ask, “What old script needs adjusting?” To move out of an old “B movie” that self-doubts inflicts, sharpen your skills and abilities through education, reflecting, reading and training, and surround yourself with the kind of people you want to learn from—the people that epitomize higher levels of courage consciousness. When was the last time you learned something new? When was the last time you discarded an unhealthy relationship?
- Clare Boothe Luce said, “Courage is the ladder on which all the other virtues mount.”
- Morale of the story: When it comes to defeating the incessant chatter that consumes our false self and creates self-doubt, discover the crucial manifestation of this courage action: establish higher standards such as former Washington Post CEO Katherine Graham.
- Speak up
If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, believe your intuition and disclose why you believe the situation is not desirable. This action is called a “courageous conversation.” Exercise your courageous voice by challenging the status quo; make graceful waves when someone is putting you down or attempting to deter your passion. Swallowing your voice is the opposite of being the voice above the crowd. A courageous voice has learned how to embody “where courage meets grace.” One speaking colleague observed in her travels how women treat women differently from men (woman’s inhumanity to woman). I asked her how she responds to the woman using double standards and she said, “My typical phrase is (depending on the exact context), ‘I don’t think you are aware that you are doing this, but….’ And then I go on to describe the behavior as well as what would be more equitable.” Do you treat women the same or does a man get a bigger smile?
- Lily Tomlin said, “If you can’t be direct, why be?”
- Morale of the story: Only by learning to express ourselves from our own courageous identities can we begin to employ the courage action that moves us beyond elements of ambiguity. That action: confront uncomfortable truths was demonstrated by Sojourner Truth.
- Conquer fear
True fear is a survival signal that sounds only in the presence of danger; yet, our culture is stuck in the creation of dualities, such as courage or fear (pretty/ugly, peace/disaster or bad/good). In other words, our culture says “you can’t have courage without fear.” Not true! If you go to work and learn your biggest client has gone to your competitor do you allow anxiety to take over in the form of projections, such as “I am going to go under…” At this propitious moment, observe your mental chatter so you can monitor the fearful feelings created by the false self. A courageous woman is not into living a life of regrets. Fear blocks and paralyzes the heart; therefore, fear blocks courage. What percentage of your life is filled with regret?
- Author Unknown: “Fear, the worst of all enemies, can be effectively cured by forced repetitions of acts of courage.”
- Morale of the Story: Exemplifying personal courage, a working woman refuses the easy path of blaming others and steps up to work without regrets demonstrated by Sacagawea when she was abducted at ten years old by the Minnetaree tribe.
- Reveal vulnerability
The storms that enter a courageous woman’s work life offer opportunities for an honest assessment of her vulnerabilities. She discovers that vulnerability comes in many forms, such as acknowledging her unhappiness, learning to move on through disastrous events and learning not to manipulate failures or mistakes. While this may seem like a sensible behavior pattern for any working woman, the deeper truth is that revealing vulnerability represents integrity and authenticates the True Self (versus feeding the scripts of the false self). This choice is the opposite of hiding mistakes or a weakness while utilizing forms of manipulation. Manipulation is a negative energy that undermines integrity, breeds distrust and stifles “heart and spirit.”
- Poet e.e. cummings wrote, “It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.”
- Morale of the story: Be willing to expose your “heart and spirit” so you exemplify the courage action reveal your vulnerability witnessed by former Canadian broadcaster Barbara Frum.
- Reinvent self
One of the keys to productivity is to have the courage to do things differently. That is probably why many traditional organizations are constantly trying to reinvent their leadership models and redefine expectations. Strategizing means the ability to re-create daily, not just during the annual budget meeting at corporate headquarters. There’s a tendency for entrepreneurial women to naturally know this. Rarely generalists, they represent a variety of courageous portraits, such as Anita Roddick of The Body Shop. Why? Rather than accept the comfort of apathy, they trust their own abilities, define their careers and demonstrate the self-discipline necessary to create the business of their dreams. You don’t have to be an entrepreneur to reinvent herself—apathy affects everyone. For example, to reinvent for fun you might buy a wig or change departments to learn something new that adds a “star” to your resume. How often do you reinvent yourself?
- Anonymous: “No one has looked back sadly on a life full of experiences, but many look back wishing they had had the courage to do more.”
- Morale of the story: The courage action necessary to overcome the obstacle of apathy was when Golda Meir demonstrated instill self-discipline when she became Prime Minister of Israel.
- Live convictions
One working woman told me that applying her courage at work requires that she demonstrate daily an unconditional commitment to her beliefs, values and ideals. This is not an easy commitment to maintain, especially if you are stuck in invisibility—an obstacle to courageous action. Are you willing to showcase your talents, take a chance, face failure, overcome rejection and say “No” to conformity (a courage killer)? Conformity compresses talent. The savvy working woman knows that there is a direct correlation between her courage quotient and success. How do you showcase your talents, such as a soothing voice during turbulent conversations, holding yourself 100% accountability or illuminating compassion? Courage is organic. When you seek high standards that showcase your talents you learn to discriminate and refine your worth.
- Mary Daly, feminist, scholar, theologian and controversial writer, 1928-2010: “Courage is like—it’s a habitus, a habit, a virtue: you get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging.”
- Morale of the story: Hiding in invisibility might be the easiest route at work, but stepping up to exemplify this courage action is critical for advancement, so have the courage to showcase your talents like British Quaker Elizabeth Fry worked to change how underprivileged women were incarcerated.
- Confront abuse
Recognizing first red flags that undermine success such as a client trying to discount your services or alter your course of action is a critical courage action. To stand in your dignity and confront a red flag means denial is not an option. Denial is a form of self-abuse that creates suffering depicted in sleepless nights. Reflect on a situation at work that causes tension (or worse) in your life. As you examine the situation, begin to notice your “default” courage settings. Then, take responsibility for your courage consciousness development and declare, “No more suffering.” How quickly do you size up bad situations and take a stand?
- Maya Angelou said, “Life can be rough, it can be tough, but if you have the courage to love, you survive. Life loves those who live it.”
- Morale of the Story: Summon your “courage style,” face the facts and… exit bad situations quickly demonstrated by Mexican artist Frieda Kahlo when she left her abusive husband.
- Overcome illness or loss
Do the challenges you face seem so daunting that you have allowed your unique talents and unlimited potential to wither away in neglect? Has self-neglect robbed you of the inner strength to act in your own best interests? If you answered “Yes” to either of these questions, you can begin to strengthen your spirit and overcome the obstacle of self-neglect that perpetuates physical illness or loss of identity. The courage to act is the mark of wholehearted living—the opposite of self-neglect. Ask yourself: “Do you despise your current vocation, or does your work bring you joy and fulfillment?”
Throughout the day, how many masks do you wear that keep you neglecting your true Self? What mask are you wearing right now, such as depression, judgment, suffering or blame? Are you a “self-neglect profile” in non-courage? Identifying the first small step to motivate yourself quells any anxiety. Focus on something immediate and easily reachable. This narrow focus helps you recognize that courage is an accumulation of small steps up the ladder, and this simple recognition helps you avoid standing on one leg in the dark. When was the last time you shed one false portrait?
- Helen Keller said, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched … they must be felt with the heart.”
- Morale of the Story: The courageous power of your innate motivation can propel a courageous woman beyond obstacles like self-neglect. If you are stuck in self-neglect, consider learning how Helen Keller had to motivate yourself from within.
- Embrace faith
Wouldn’t it be nice if you knew a saint, such as St. Teresa of Avila? You could meet for a cup of java and talk about the aspects of working in an enlightened work environment. You know, saints started out as ordinary people; then, their purpose unfolded. The difference between the saints and most of us is that they listened and trusted the undertones of their hearts (their courage) while the rest of us allowed our ego-based scripts to keep us wavering in uncertainty. Uncertainty may seem unavoidable in our age of information overload, bombarded as we are with contradictory “facts” from every quarter making it harder and harder to distinguish truth from falsehood. But we all have a choice, and getting stuck in uncertainty is essentially choosing not to choose. By focusing our attention inward and following our hearts, we strengthen our faith in our true, courageous selves and step up, confident that we are following our own true paths.
- Saint Teresa of Avila said, “I believe God filled our young souls with so much courage that, if we had possessed but half, we would undoubtedly have carried out our project just the same.”
- Morale of the Story: All the great saints of all traditions taught this secret: You are it! You are already important, and the answers to your questions lie within (a knowingness not to be confused with arrogance)! How did all the enlightened saints know, and how did I not know? The courage action that enables us to move out of uncertainty is hold yourself accountable just like Saint Teresa of Avila.
Courageous Actions Equals Productivity
If courage has eluded your spirit in the past, now is the time to step up and make your career a profile in courage—the one that reveals your heart and spirit.
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