International Women’s Day (IWD) is March 8 so celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievement of women.
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-six years of original courage research, twelve behaviors of feminine courage emerged, and six are highlighted below. They are significant if you wish to keep stepping up at work. You might wish to prominently display this motto:
“Indeed, we women will know that we have achieved equality when women are
noted and praised for their unique brand of steadfast courage.” — The Courage Difference at Work: A Unique Success Guide for Women
- 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.
- 6. 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.
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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