Everyone can learn to practice courage regardless of career or position. It does not matter if you are a sales associate, graphic designer, project manager, photographer, accountant, administrative assistant, CEO, entrepreneur, journalist, construction worker, electrician, mechanic or stockbroker, you can learn to manifest courage in your work.
Courage comes from the French word corage, meaning “heart and spirit,” which tells us that acting with courage is about acting from your heart and spirit—from the center of your being. In Being, you identify with your deeper Self and claim the courage that empowers you to confront others’ limiting perceptions; ironically, it also allows you to let go of your attachment to those perceptions and move on. Once you begin exhibiting courage at work, you will discover a direct correlation between your courage quotient and your success quotient.
Researching courage behaviors in individuals and organizational components for over twenty years, I discovered that there were twelve cousins to courage:
- CLARITY: Most people do not have a clue about their inner calling. Think about a time and an issue that excited you, that made you animated. Animation is an energy that makes you come alive in your core—in your heart. There is a good chance that you have experienced this positive energy at some point in your life. Perhaps you have all but forgotten this experience, but if you look closer, you might see that this experience revealed your inner essence. Living in this energy field requires that you give yourself permission to claim and apply your courage. Personal courage empowers you and invites new challenges. It is a perfect starting place if you want to multiply your talents and effectiveness, define with clarity what is vital in your life and escalate your success at work. Clarity is a cousin to courage. One moment of courageous clarity can work miracles in your career advancement.
- COMPOSURE: Is it difficult for you to risk your security? Too worried that a risk might backfire, most people wait and wait, caught up in self-intimidating scripts that prevent them from mustering the courage to take the plunge. It is your courage that supports your ability to let go of deadly attitudes, change the way you organize your time, change your relationships and change who and what you are. Risk-taking in motion is not about the situation you are facing, such as taking on the tough project or starting your own business, but about the internal process you use to examine the risk at hand. Review your thoughts and dreams, study the behavioral patterns that keep you stuck, and uncover your voice as it relates to risk-taking, spontaneity and making mistakes. Risk-taking includes making mistakes, but your courage allows you to recover from your mistakes and step up. That’s a part of self-realization! Eventually, composure merges as a cousin to courage because your self-knowledge has stepped up to a higher level of courage consciousness.
- CONSISTENCY: 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 such as “Why do I change my mind so often?” Then,
- suspend assumptions,
- detach from opinions and certainty about what you think is true,
- stay in the question rather than having the answer (most people prefer denial to “not knowing”), and
- take responsibility for your courage consciousness development (this lifts the spirit of your work environment).
Courageous people can execute this process by stopping to reflect. Do you consistently practice any form of meditation? Consistency is a cousin to courage.
- CARRYING ON: Oprah understands how to take her courage to heart. During an important career transition, she clearly recalls her fears. “Almost everyone around me doubted whether I had the stuff to handle a talk show in a tough market like Chicago, where Phil Donahue was king—but I took the step anyway.… What that move and many others since have taught me is that the true meaning of courage is to be afraid and, then, with your knees knocking and your heart racing, to step out anyway.… If you allow it to, fear will completely immobilize you.… What I know for sure is this: Whatever you fear most has no power—it is your fear that has the power.”[i]
Therefore, your intentions are pivotal in launching or changing your path—declaring an intention to do only work that brings you joy. PINK magazine’s motto is: “Courage is doing what you love.” You keep carrying on until you find your passion. Carrying on is a cousin to courage.
- FAITH: “Faith is the quiet cousin of Courage. Faith is willing to put its foot out when there is no guarantee that there will be a step to support it.”[ii] Uncertainly lives in this unseen step. We question it, we doubt ourselves, and we stay stuck! Uncertainty is the obstacle that gnaws and manipulates us, many times without our conscious knowing. This unknowing creates a spiraling of unnecessary suffering—suffering that could have been prevented if there had been no attachments to the outcome but rather an appreciation for the present. Besides, every day is a day of uncertainty. Only the ego mistakenly believes that you have a schedule set in stone when you walk out the door to go to work. Why is it that way? The ego strives for certainty.
- CONTROVERSY: At times, you may have to appropriately offend the people you wish to influence. You do this by standing in your convictions and challenging the situation. Controversy is a cousin to courage.
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience,
but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.[iii]
Regardless of the cost, do you stand steadfast to demonstrate your talents and stand up for what you know to be right? Courageously forthright action does not mean bravado or having “balls”.[iv] Courage initiates decisive action and accepts nothing less.
- CONCENTRATION: The power of your spirit illuminates the steps that correlate your success quotient with your courage quotient. Embracing this concept calls for a great deal of courageous will so that you can sacrifice the seductive illusion of the external world to find the truth hidden in your internal world, the source of your vision. Twenty-three-year-old 2004 winter Olympic athlete Apolo Anton Ohno manifested vision at work. He made conscious sacrifices, like choosing to live in the dorms at the Olympic Training Center, so that he could concentrate on an intense training regimen. Committed to manifesting his vision, Apolo detached from outside distractions and authored amazing changes in his life, ultimately validating his willingness to sacrifice by winning the gold medal in the men’s 500-meter speed skating event. Anton consciously chose to sacrifice four years of his life to manifest his vision. A fertile spirit flourishes in sacrifice. Concentration is a cousin to courage. What is your concentration level?
- COMPASSION: Perceptions about leadership will not change unless we claim the courage to become self-aware, and initiate honesty about how we treat each other. Compassion is a cousin to courage. Do not confuse compassion with fixing. Efforts to fix things, even out of a sense of compassion, ultimately rest on judgments. Compassion helps us move past the tension and see through the false identities that create the tension.
- COMMITMENT: When you manage your career, you also manage your workplace persona, an important key to developing your workplace courage. In other words, when you are centered in your courage consciousness, your workplace persona provides an honest reflection of your inner being. “Your self-doubt or self-loathing will sabotage you.… What’s going to bring you success that will make you feel good about yourself?”[v] Success is about developing your own identity, your true self, so that you feel fulfilled and happy in each moment. Novelist Jane Rule writes, “My private measure of success is daily. If this were to be the last day of my life, would I be content with it? To live a harmonious balance of commitments and pleasures is what I strive for.”[vi] Commitment is a cousin to courage.
- CONTENTMENT: Self-disciplined people use their knowledge and skills to restore their spirits with contentment. Contentment is a cousin to courage. Below are a few probing questions to contemplate. Use them as a guide to question your existing model.
- What is it that you do really well?
- How do you rediscover your core strengths?
- What do you like to do?
- What do your peers, family or clients’ value in you and think you do well?
- How can you sell your strengths in a competitive environment?
- What do you stand for?
- CONFESSING: Do you confess your shortcomings and missteps? For example, if you lack knowledge about a topic, do you respond in a deceptive manner that keeps your ego intact? The honest response would be to confess your vulnerability by admitting that you do not know the answer. Confessing is good for the spirit when done in a timely manner and with positive intent. The process helps us face the truth. We take responsibility for what is happening with our spirit and address those missteps that collect unhealthy energy. What manipulative behaviors do you need to purge?
- Do you need to confess that you are hiding an illness for fear you will lose your job?
- Will you confess your judgments about a risky workplace topic or that you sense an element of corruption?
Yes, we invite potential trouble when we stand in our courage and confess our shortcomings, but more importantly, we hold ourselves accountable and establish our integrity. Confessing is a cousin to courage.
- CANDOR: People at work witness what we stand for, and straight (unambiguous) talk gets attention because it is uncomfortable for most people. Speaking with courage means learning to speak with your own voice, to express the truth that flows from your own “heart and spirit.” Candor is a cousin to courage. Only by learning to express ourselves from our own courageous identities can we begin to employ the courage action that moves us beyond ambiguity.
[i] Oprah, “What I Know for Sure,” O: The Oprah Magazine, April 2001, 232.
[ii] Lasater, Judith, Ph. D., P.T., Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life (Berkeley: Rodmell Press, 2000), 31.
[iii] King, Martin Luther, http://www.inspirationpeak.com/cgi-bin/search.cgi?search=Martin+Luther+King%2C+Jr.&I1.x=27&I1.y=3
[iv] Iacocca Lee with Catherine Whitney, Where Have All the Leaders Gone? (New York, New York: Scribner, 2007), 8.
[v] Gottlieb, Annie, “The Radical Road to Self-Esteem, O: The Oprah Magazine, March 2001, 101.
[vi] Jane Rule, http://en.thinkexist.com/quotation/my-private-measure-of-success-is-daily-if-this/380341.html.
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