“In gratitude for the gift of life, one dedicates that life back as a gift to God through selfless service to His creation as all of life.” — David R. Hawkins, M.D.
Conversing openly with other people can take enormous courage! Think about the number of times you have withheld how you feel to a loved one because your long-held beliefs were in conflict or you chose not to speak up during a staff meeting to reveal your ideas out of concern of being ostracized or even fired. Our relationships are defined by the conversations we have (or do not have) with the people in our lives.
Courage comes from the medieval Old French word corage, meaning “heart and spirit.” When you speak from your heart and spirit you are being true to yourself. Simply using the word “courage” to describe an action and outcome activates your voice and sets a context for positive action.
One of my corporate coaching clients said, “I am so used to ‘filtering’ myself I almost forget I am doing it. My test of courage has been being able to share openly my deepest dreams and fears and true thoughts. With one exception in my life I have always kept a certain core totally to myself. Yet, when I was able to let go and candidly share this core, I felt enormously liberated.” This sixty-one year old client yearns to speak from her heart. Once she attains this level of self-realization (and eventually self-fulfillment) she is able to demonstrate her authenticity. Then, when her time comes to pass on, she will not be filled with regret or resentment.
Authentic means “genuine; real.” When you combine the original meaning of courage (“heart and spirit”) with authenticity, you get the true you! If you long to alter the context of your life, to break through and achieve your noblest aspirations, then speaking the language of courage is the right tool.
You can determine the quality of your relationships by analyzing your conversations. For example, do you stay resentful toward your boss or partner telling others of his/her faults or do you take a stand in courage and make a declaration to speak to him/her? Ask yourself these few questions:
- Am I using courage to declare my feelings? •How do I create my conversations with others?
- Do I blame my boss/mate instead of generating a new context for listening?
- Do I take responsibility to speak up to reveal the truth?
The action of conversing with courage makes something new happen. Below are three examples of how you can converse using the language of courage:
- Become a detached “observer” of yourself. When you notice you hesitate to share something that you have determined “should” be shared, start with this phrase: “I want you to know that it takes courage to share…” This sentence sets the stage for a different kind of listening and helps you to be authentic.
- Begin to notice when you feel regret(s) about not speaking up. An editor of a newspaper wrote an article about long-held regret called “Learning to Speak Up.” She still lives with a regret that took place twenty years ago in a high school gym. Painfully, Angela wrote that she still kicks herself for not speaking up about the horrible gym incident she witnessed. She wrote, “I should have offered her some compassion. I guess I didn’t want to make a bad situation worse…I failed my schoolmate that day, and I’m sorry. But I’m also grateful to her, because the incident she endured taught me to never be silent again.”
- Watch for this phrase: “I wanted to say…” One evening, sitting in a restaurant with my friend Daniel, he excused himself to go to the men’s room. Two women were sitting kitty corner from our table talking about an incident at work. Based on my observation, they seemed to be in well-established positions, but that doesn’t really matter. One woman leaned her shoulders over the table’s edge and said to her friend, “You know, I really wanted to say…you have an issue with…” Her friend said, “But you didn’t.” Her friend’s response was correct. The other woman chose to withhold her true opinions. Women have a tendency to swallow their words of wisdom. They are reluctant to speak up with contrary or during “against the odds” situations. Why? They may lose their jobs/image/esteem/friend (whatever!).
It takes conscious choice and effective action to dive into your heart and spirit to claim who you really are. Conversing with courage means you are unwilling to let anyone else design your life. Then you are not filled with regret.
Moral of the story: Design your life with the courage to converse. Listen to your heart and choose to transform yourself through language. Don’t simply visit this world.
Share some of your stepping up moments at work.
“Call on your courage to stand up for the self you know to be you.”
– Sandra Ford Walston, COURAGE: The Heart and Spirit of Every Woman/Reclaiming the Forgotten Virtue
One cannot discover new oceans until he [she] has courage to lose sight of the shore.
Most people have differing opinions about who has courage and how they got it. Is it learned or innate? Do you maneuver in and out depending on the circumstance at stake or can you keep advancing your level of courage consciousness? The training department’s viewpoint matters. Extracting courageous leadership from courageous figures of the past can help define what can be applied in training and how they can be used to achieve results.
“Much of my life I thought you were either courageous or you weren’t. But, courage is being displayed everywhere, and one size courage does not fit all,” states John Jackson, adjunct associate professor, marketing and strategic management at CentralQueenslandUniversity in Australia. He highlights a few courage distinctions displayed by famous and everyday people:
- “Mother Theresa had the courage to work for many years with the poor of India in what most people would regard as a hopeless no-win situation.
- Nelson Mandela had the courage to take on the apartheid system, but not to renounce armed resistance.
- Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King had the courage to champion and live non-violent resistance.
- Winston Churchill had the courage to do whatever it took to rid the world of Hitler and Nazism (or as a historian friend of mine put it: ‘only a bastard as big as Churchill could have defeated a bastard as bad as Hitler’).
- My good friend David had the courage to retire at 35 years of age to devote himself ‘to the Divine’.
- My Dad’s nickname at school was ‘Chokey Jackson’ because he had the courage to put so much into the 400 meter run that he would choke from exhaustion. Later on in life he took on the role of running an orphanage in Africa.”
Courage is generally associated with being a hero. Jackson continues, “I am no hero. Most of the time my most courageous act at work was to champion peace and harmony. But as Aristotle would remind us, virtue in this instance is finding the balance between being a strong peacemaker and being a strong push-over.” If employees have inklings about how to dial into their courage — great! That’s the first step. The learning curve escalates when you become adept at extracting the courage varieties permeating your environment and then honoring them.
Teaching the Attributes of Courage
Begin the training process to discover the individual or the organizational definition of courage. Many people define courage around convictions/values, taking risks, speaking up or overcoming an illness. Chart these viewpoints and then take a step back and see how those beliefs are playing out in your organization. Ask your attendees a few important questions:
- Which of the 12 behaviors of courage (affirming strength and determination; confronting abuse; conquering fear; embracing faith; hurdling obstacles/taking risks; living convictions; manifesting vision; overcoming illness or loss; reflecting self-esteem; reinventing self; revealing vulnerability; speaking up) do you most relate to?
- List the top 3 choices as primary, secondary and tertiary.
- Review which behavior in your organization might be weighted and probe into what tacit behavior is not recognizable or simply missing.
- Ask attendees how they perceive they bring their courage to work and how they demonstrate it for others to validate?
- How is the larger organization designed to support courage action beliefs?
- Where are the breakdowns within the organization that reveal lost courage (dispirited)?
- What internal scripts play out when employees are challenged at work and what is the difference when they are deeply engaged in their passion (spirited)?
- Do you believe your training division attempts to understand how your courage is uniquely wired and what you may need to do to boost its size?
If you are the training manager, based on the above feedback, ask yourself these four questions:
- What can be done to teach how my workforce/organization demonstrates courage?
- What programs or coaching does my workforce need to ensure that their unique size of courage develops?
- What regrets (lost courage) would I like to do over and what is the theme or pattern to those misfortunes?
- What courageous acts will my peers and workforce celebrate and remember (noble legacy) when I transition out?
The work environment is riddled with uncomfortable and challenging issues. In the midst of all the required tasks plus last-minute scrambles, how can trainers flush out individual courage so that the organization surges in fluid courage? Jackson reveals how he integrates courage probing insights, “When I mentioned my discomfort at work with serious confrontations, Sandra courageously sent me The Ways of Transformation by Karlfried von Durkheim, which talked to me about ‘the dignity of daring…to let go our futile hankering after harmony…and the comfortable life.’ How did she know? She took the effort to read between the lines and to ‘listen intuitively’.” Ask and listen and you shall receive:
- En-courage feedback — it takes courage to learn from others’ perspectives. To reverse employees who are risk averse or too shy to speak up wholeheartedly embrace on-going interactive dialogue through storytelling and establish a time for regular follow-up (then, celebrate those steps in advancement).
- Acknowledge the power of honesty. Jackson mentioned a passage from The Way of Transformation. Here’s another segment of inspiration to ponder:
The woman or man who, being really on the Way, falls upon hard times
in the world will not, as a consequence, turn to that friend who offers her refuge and
comfort and encourages her old self to survive. Rather, she will seek out someone who will faithfully and inexorably help her to risk herself, so that she may endure the suffering and pass courageously through it, this making of it a ‘raft that leads to the far shore’.
- Confront your limitations and seek personal accountability.
- Be proactive. “True courage is not measured by the size of the act, but by the size of the heart” (this sentence was on a flag draped on a building by Ground Zero).
- Cross-check to review how you’re doing with your own courage context and courage quotient.
A portal to your heart opens when you strive for the best outcome. Why? The heart matures during different stages of courage development. Revelation allows you to be more self-conscious. Consciousness thrives in contemplation. Contemplation centers you in silence. Silence breeds insight. Insights augment learning.
Cultivate Courage Initiators
Training departments commit and recommit themselves to their workforce to form productive and accountable relationships. Identifying setbacks provides one opportunity to identify patterns along with honoring each stage of courage recognition. Courage evolves through openly inviting and boldly seeking its cultivation (referred to in my July 2010 article as “Genius in Gray Areas” ). Monitor your organization’s recognition of the courage initiators below and verify whether you
- Face the facts: denial is saying “no” to courage
- Quickly take action: swift to review worst-case scenarios
- Keep stepping up: always move forward
- Know the value of sacrifice and discipline: specifically declare an intent about what you want to happen
- Value “courageous will:” if there’s a will there’s a way
- Ask for the tough projects (the project no one wants): an esteem that allows you to take on a high learning curve project or high risk management aptitude
- Trouble shooting abilities: invite positive dissent
- Express views in a timely manner: sensitivity to introverts/extraverts
This process not only reveals the truth about your workforce, it also eliminates unwanted debris such as undermining scripts that stall progress.
One day’s courage often predicts the next day’s expansion in creativity, inspiration, dedication, deeper engagement to the task, intensity, innovation and the willingness to share insights. Models of individual courage give others permission to grow. No longer immune to its energy, courage deposits allow your heart to exhibit genius—a residual every trainer seeks.
“The challenge,” says Lou Marines, president of Advanced Management Institute, “is to move beyond the sometime archaic and pedestrian thinking represented by such items as business myths and anecdotal observations that pass for wisdom.”
Courage leadership emerges naturally when human spirits come from their hearts not their heads. These authentic moments reveal the truth about learning and growing!
“You will change when the pain of staying in the old pattern is greater than the pain of change.”
– Sandra Ford Walston, excerpt from COURAGE The Heart and Spirit of Every Woman
“Indeed, we will know that we have achieved equality when women are noted and praised for their unique brand of steadfast courage.”
–Sandra Ford Walston, COURAGE The Heart and Spirit of Every Woman
“When you come from your being (rather than you’re doing), you identify with your deeper Self and claim the courage that empowers you to confront others’ limiting perceptions; paradoxically, it also allows you to let go of your attachment to those perceptions and move beyond them.”
From FACE IT! 12 Obstacles that Hold You Back on the Job
“Faced with what is right, to leave it undone shows a lack of courage.”
– Confucius, Chinese philosopher
Does your day-to-day work inspire you?
If not, what prevents you from making a purposeful move to a fulfilling, meaningful career? What real skills do you need to develop in order to make that move? Whatever the specifics of your situation, our human tendency is to stay stuck in old patterns far too long. This false identity distorts reality and actually creates the most difficult obstacles that we face. Using the personal assets of everyday courage, you can break free from these internal obstacles—outdated emotional patterns, mental “scripts” and false identities—just as others have. You can learn from these courageous individuals and know that you too possess the courage to overcome any obstacle.
From FACE IT! 12 Obstacles that Hold You Back on the Job
We have all invested much time in a false identity, and in order to live in everyday courage—from our heart and spirit, our true Self—we must invite some form of stopping. And just because we do not invite it willingly does not mean we can avoid it.
From FACE IT! 12 Obstacles that Hold Y0u Back on the Job
The definition of courage is “heart and spirit.” Your badge of courage logo: “I wear my heart on my sleeve.” Your courage resides in these places—where you shared an open heart, or experienced something truly pivotal. Research has shown that 75 percent of employees in America today are not engaged at work. They show up for the paycheck but don’t give their best efforts. Part of this is because they don’t feel connected to their leaders. From where they sit, their leaders appear heartless and could care less about them. That’s why cultivating courageous leaders that have the courage to wear their heart on their sleeves is especially important to getting corporate America back.