Five Practices to Increase Courage

Recognizing that courage is actually about pushing through fear can initially feel very liberating – until the inevitable question “Now what?” emerges. This week, try these practices that effectively engage your mind and body to build strong reserves of courage.

  1. Set a SMART intention to act with courage.

    Identify one “stretch” behavior you are going to try – e.g., speak with a more authoritative tone, call your contact about potential new business, be the first or among the first to speak up on call, accept a speaking engagement (or better yet, go out and proactively find a speaking engagement!) Write down your intention – and make sure that it is specific, measurable achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

  2. Use your breath to calm your nervous system and remain focused on your intention.

    Begin by slowly breathing in and out. As the external noise fades away, remember why acting with more confidence matters to you (e.g., you want to make partner, you want to win a big piece of business). Center around your objective – “for the sake of what.”

  3. Use your body posture to stabilize your emotions and feel more confident.

    Press your feet into the ground, lengthen your spine, open your chest, make eye contact, and remember to slow down.

  4. Create the conditions that allow you to show up at your best.

    Visualize yourself taking that courageous Be aware of, and manage sources of stress. Above all, practice, practice, practice. Practice out loud if the stakes are high and/or your confidence is low.

  5. Call on an external muse.

    Think of someone who inspires you and bring them to mind as you call on your courage. Remember not to focus solely on their accomplishments, but more importantly, to reflect on where they may have needed to act with courage.

Most of all – keep trying. Courage is contagious: both internally (the strength and desire to keep stretching) and externally (e.g., the recent groundswell of mass movements and public policy debates). One act of courage (even if it doesn’t turn out exactly as expected) often leads to another, and then another, and so on. It is the effort of trial and error that builds experience – and with experience comes true confidence.

Are you an alumni of the Women’s Leadership Forum? I’d love for you to keep in touch with the WLF community. Request to join us in our private Facebook group here, or connect with me on LinkedIN here and send me a note that you’d like to be part of our exclusive LinkedIn group.

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