Most people, particularly women, seem so surprised when I share that only 11% of women perceived themselves as courageous out of over 750 survey forms distributed nationally. Why? Women are more inclined to see it in other women than have the capability of defining it, much less claiming courage in ourselves. One woman said, “I don’t feel my parents, much less society, taught me or prepared me to understand how to embrace the virtue of courage. Yet, during times of indecision I feel I need it more than ever.”

On the other side of the coin, men will casually and naturally use the word to identify a woman.

The first five years (out of thirteen) of my original research I researched the actions of courage. I extracted several common themes that yielded the twelve behaviors of courage found on the “Source Wheel” diagram. One theme was the notion of sacrificing or choosing to take an immediate hit to achieve a long-range goal. Courageous people choose to forgo immediate satisfaction by taking risks and hurdling obstacles (one of the twelve behaviors on the Source Wheel diagram). They identify, claim and apply the original definition of courage, meaning “heart and spirit.” In other words, when a situation requires them to “step up” and display their authenticity, they do!

Cable television featured the movie “The Legend of Bagger Vance” about a post WWI golfer and a mysterious caddie. Set in Georgia, the dispirited Savannah folks decide a tournament will boost their war torn morale. But, they fancied a southern pro to represent them; a traumatized golfer with flashbacks reluctantly commits to their request. In the middle of the night, he uncovers his abandoned and dusty clubs and goes out in his backyard to hit golf balls. While he chops away at the ball, out of nowhere, a mysterious man with suitcase in hand walks out from the countryside. With clever indifference, the stranger discreetly starts to coach the frustrated hacker.

Bagger Vance is the inexplicably wise caddie that teaches the troubled golfer how to reach deep inside and find his “authentic swing”. He tells the conflicted golfer: “This is the authentic swing you were born with—the one you came into this world with—the authentic swing is all that you are! You’re just caught up with life’s ought’as and should’as.” The underlying message is not a new one and you don’t have to love golf to get the message. It’s about having the courage to examine the Self rather than remain self-righteous.

Uncertainty is an inevitable condition throughout life. Right now, most of us feel it. Second-guessing ourselves or living in the past or future keeps us out of the present moment. This is where courage comes in to play. The essence of courage is a spiritual energy from the heart that in defining moments motivates a person to take action.

A quote from my first book, COURAGE, I write: “Courage is much more complex than spontaneous reactions to traumatic events.” Using courage as an ally means bundling a combination of courageous actions, such as continually learning, persisting to be mindful of defining moments and holding oneself 100% accountable for our choices. Often times, if defining moments are missed they become chances gone by, never to be reclaimed, such as not accepting a tough project, moving to another state or marrying outside one’s religion.

Without the development of courage other virtues such as honesty, compassion or humor will struggle to find their place. Aristotle believed that courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all the other virtues possible. Don’t wait till it’s too late!

Moral of the story: Start now! Design your life with courage so you live in the core (courage) of your essence. Don’t simply visit this world. 

Sandra Ford Walston is known as The Courage Expert and innovator of StuckThinking™. She is an organizational effectiveness consultant, speaker, internationally published author of bestseller COURAGE, trainer and courage coach. She is certified in the Enneagram and MBTI®.

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