The Courage Quotient: How Science Can Make You Braver reveals that courage is more about managing fear than not feeling it, and that courage can be learned.
What is courage?
Many dictionary definitions of courage say essentially the same thing: courage is a quality of mind or spirit that allows a person to face danger or difficulty without showing fear. Embedded in this definition is the idea that courage is, to some degree, a mindset rather than a behavior. In the end, courage is not found only in physical acts; it is fundamentally an attitude toward facing intimidating situations.
How bravery is viewed by the masses
Recently, psychologist Christopher Rate did us all the favor of comparing many of the existing definitions of courage to identify points of agreement. He mentioned either three or four of these common characteristics:
- There is perceived danger or threat to an individual.
- The outcome of any action is uncertain.
- Fear is present.
- The person willfully, intentionally acts, despite the presence of the first three characteristics.
To put it simply, courage is the willingness to act even in the presence of fear, risk and threat.
- Understandable and not mysterious.
- Valuable because it leads to living a full live.
- Can be learned.
- Involves two separate processes: managing fear and boosting the willingness to act.
- The first step toward increasing courage is recognizing it.
Increasing courage by controlling fear
Fear is part of our basic human emotional architecture, and everyone gets a dose from time to time. Kids feel it when they enter a new classroom for the first time, adults feel it when they walk through a dark, isolated parking lot at night, and entrepreneurs feel it when they open a business.
The trick, where success in life is concerned, is to learn when fear is our friend and when we should be ignoring it.
Ways to raise your courage quotient:
- To manage your fear effectively so that it does not prevent you from pursuing valuable goals.
- To remove uncertainty by gathering information or exposing yourself strategically to anxiety-provoking situations.
- To let go of our egotistic concerns.
- To manage the physiological responses of fear. Using mental and physical relaxation techniques can put the body at ease, which in turn has the effect of making the mind less high-strung.
- To replace fear with a stronger emotion: anger. When used strategically, anger can help us tap into our values and advocate for ourselves and those we care about.