How do you define courage?
A definition I found is: ‘Strength in the face of pain and grief.’
Yep, we could all use some of that right now.
The word strength is key here.
Do you invest time in strengthening your body? Muscles don’t miraculously become strong. It takes training. That training can be uncomfortable and tiring, but the result of having a strong, healthy body that carries us through life is worth it.
Courage is similar. It’s true that courage can appear miraculously even if we haven’t been practicing, but when we train our courage muscles it’s a lot easier to summon.
Training our courage muscles requires that we practice doing hard things. That’s why I think of the training strategies as secrets. They’re not really secrets, but because people resist them, they’re also not common.
What I’m witnessing and experiencing is that people who have trained in doing hard things are weathering these uncertain times with greater ease and less suffering. That’s because they trained to be strong in the face of pain and grief.
Here are 3 Strategies to Train Your Courage
Practice Hard Moves in Easy Water (Do Things that Scare You)
I know that you’ve heard this before. This is definitely not a secret, but how often do you practice it?
Courage is being afraid and taking action anyway, so a pre-requisite to courage is being afraid and being vulnerable.
Are we having fun yet?
No one enjoys being scared and vulnerable, but wouldn’t you rather practice in situations you choose before being confronted by a situation that you didn’t see coming?
In whitewater kayaking we call this practicing hard moves in easy water. It’s key to building skill, experience and mindset. You can progress to a harder river before you’re physically and mentally ready, but when I’ve done that it hasn’t always gone well.
You don’t have to take up whitewater kayaking or go throw yourself into a dangerous situation to flex your courage muscles. In fact, those things aren’t recommended at this time during this pandemic.
Training your courage muscle could look like making a bold request of someone you’re not sure will say yes, or doing a Facebook Live video or calling an old friend you have talked to in a really long time.
Once you realize that you can deal with the outcome – whatever it is – and still be OK, your courage muscle starts to strengthen.
Practice Not Getting What You Want
This is the ultimate training in getting uncomfortable.
Remember that freedom is achieved through discipline, not through doing whatever we want whenever we want. That’s because true freedom is having the peace of mind to be OK with whatever needs to happen/not happen in any given situation. Freedom is not grasping for what you want nor having an aversion to what you don’t want.
It takes courage to be with the discomfort of not getting what you want and/or having something that you don’t want in your space.
A good way to train yourself is to give something up. Here are ways you can give something up and flex your courage muscle within discomfort:
- Give up being right in a conversation/debate/argument
- Give up certain foods, try a cleanse or a fast
- Give up screentime an hour before bed
Now I know that everyone is being asked to give up a lot right now during the Stay Home Stay Safe orders so you’re already practicing. Imagine if you had been practicing some of this as discipline and courage training during your regular routine? The stronger your courage muscle, the less you suffer.
Practice Losing Control
My clients who have the most fear in whitewater kayaking or SUP are the ones who are the most fearful of letting go of control.
They expend so much energy on being fearful of the river that they lose control of their own ability to read the water. There’s no sense in trying to control the river or being afraid because you can’t control the river.
Instead, the key is accepting that you can’t control the river, but you can control your kayak.
Kayaking becomes fun when you learn to navigate your kayak (the only thing you can control) in a dance with the water (what you can’t control, but can learn to navigate).
Uncertain times and situations can be approached like navigating a river. You don’t always know what’s around the bend, but you can keep looking ahead knowing that you can control your own boat.
That’s why outdoor adventure is key in courage training. A huge part of adventure is the unknown. It’s exciting and scary. It requires courage and helps to train.
Obviously this isn’t the time to embark on a big outdoor adventure, but there are micro adventures you can take:
- Choose a new walking route
- Run instead of walk
- Bike instead of run
- Invite your family and friends to an at-home dance party
- Try out a new online yoga class or teacher
These are all mini adventures that can help train your courage muscle.
The key to all of this is consistency over time and practicing even, or maybe especially when you don’t have to. May courage be with you now and always!
If you want to flex your courage muscles and practice ‘Not Getting What You Want” then join me for my Guided Spring Cleanse happening May 11 – 15th. Click Here to learn more!