What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?
Sounds enticing, right? With guaranteed success, you might tackle opening up your own business, learn a musical instrument you’ve always wanted to try, or tell your boss you’re ready for a promotion. But, in the real world, we let fear of failure hold us back from pursuing our dreams. Let’s face it—it’s hard to be brave and take risks.
Think about how fear is holding you back in your own life. Maybe you hesitate to take courageous steps due to fear of the unknown, of what other people might say, or of course, because of the possibility of failure. However, giving in to your fears will only keep things as they are and may hinder you from going after ambitious goals that will propel you forward.
The good news is bravery can be learned if you regularly push yourself outside of your comfort zone. If that doesn't come naturally to you (or the thought alone makes your palms clammy), this guide highlights the difference courage can make in your personal and professional life and shares actionable tips on how you can summon your courage and become the bravest version of yourself.
Your comfort zone is, well, comfortable. So, what's the point in leaving that safe and predictable bubble in the interest of pursuing bravery? Knowing how to be brave can have major positive impacts in both your personal and professional lives.
No matter who you are or what goals you have, bravery is needed in your daily life—from having the courage to have an honest conversation with a family member or being courageous enough to try a new hobby you've always wanted to learn.
With that said, a brave act doesn't always mean a big grand gesture (nope, it's not all about skydiving). Sometimes, it can be addressing the elephant in the room or establishing boundaries with someone for your own mental health. Having the courage to do the difficult but necessary things in your life will also make your personal relationships all the more meaningful.
Plus, you can't let fear or self-consciousness hold you back from going after the goals, hobbies, or lifestyle choices that have the potential to add even more joy to your daily life. If you want to have more music in your life, go try taking a piano lesson. Or, if you want to travel the world, see if you can work remotely or take a long-term absence from your job to go and see new places.
Those decisions require a certain degree of bravery and, if you constantly hold yourself back from pursuing these aspirations (or whatever is on your own list), your life may feel stilted—when a little bit of confidence and guts could push you toward living an even richer, more fulfilling life.
Even a little bit of bravery can pay dividends when it comes to your personal passions and relationships. But, there's a big payoff for your career as well. Bravery can lead you down an ambitious and more fulfilling career path.
For example, maybe you don't enjoy your current corporate job and dream of working for a nonprofit instead. While you might like to quit your job and get a new one at your favorite nonprofit, you're afraid the lower pay and involvement with a less-established organization would be a bad career move. These fears may be understandable (and of course, you always need to balance your own objectives with real-world logistics). But, by not listening to your intuition and going after your true passion, you could be limiting yourself and avoiding a career that's ultimately more fulfilling for you.
Many times, people don't pursue their career dreams because they suffer from imposter syndrome and think they're not good enough. You can move past this negative thinking by focusing on the great ideas and skills you bring to the table. With a positive mindset and confidence in yourself, you'll be able to have the courage to raise your hand for the leadership roles or other professional responsibilities and challenges that you want.
You're convinced—you're ready to display some more courage in your life, whether professionally, personally, or both. Rest assured, being brave doesn't have to be synonymous with being reckless. It's more than possible to take a thoughtful, strategic approach to incorporate more audacity and confidence into your everyday life.
Let's look at eight steps you can take to not just put on a brave face but actually use your life experience to find a real source of courage within yourself—and become a far more brave person in the process.
Courage is not the absence of fear. It’s the ability to acknowledge your fear and then move past it. Some people believe that the best way to conquer fear is to ignore it and pretend that it doesn’t exist. This can be tempting, but it’s an unhealthy way to deal with your fears. Ignoring the fear only makes it seem more scary and unmanageable in the long run.
That’s why the first step to bravery is to accept that you are afraid and then dig into the root cause of your fear. Why does that situation make you afraid? For example, perhaps you've always had a paralyzing fear of public speaking. You can use a technique like the "five whys" technique to get down to the true cause of your apprehension. It's as simple as asking "why?" five times in a row. Here's an example:
"I'm afraid of public speaking."
Why? "I've never had a positive experience with it."
Why? "I always get overly nervous and self-conscious."
Why? "It's nerve-wracking to get up in front of other people."
Why? "I'm worried that they're quietly judging me."
Why? "Because I don't think I have anything worthwhile to share with them."
See? While you might've originally thought that your fear was related to a large crowd or even the potential for embarrassment, it goes deeper than that: You don't trust that you're worthy of speaking in front of a crowd. That's a root cause that you can work on addressing with adequate research and preparation for public speaking opportunities.
Naming the fear and the reason behind it helps you look at the situation from a more objective perspective and gives you more control over your fear. Then, knowing what you’re up against gives you the ability to decide how much this fear will hold you back from your life
If you’ve had the thought, “I can’t do this” or, “What if they think it’s a dumb idea?” you’re not alone. Many times negative thoughts will hold people back from taking a brave step.
Don’t give your negativity or internal stress any weight. Instead, question those pessimistic thoughts. How do you know that people will laugh at you? What evidence do you have?
Then, look at all of the facts that go directly against your negative thinking. That could be something as simple as compliments or positive feedback from other people that you trust. We all have the tendency to be our own worst critics and will let their fear hold us back. Take a holistic look at the situation without letting your uncertainty or doubts cloud your judgment. Your goals might not be as unrealistic as you originally believe.
Similarly, make sure you are kind to yourself throughout your journey. If you’re hard on yourself every time you make a mistake or aren’t sure what to do next, you’ll never want to put yourself in those types of situations that help you grow. You need to trust yourself through the process. Your intuition can be the most resourceful tool when it comes to facing your fears, so check your gut and follow what it tells you.
As you’re trying new things and trusting your own judgment, a personal coach can be a good supporter to help you know when to check in with yourself for that intuition. Our Trust Your Gut Program is a powerful resource to help you develop that internal reference and start building your positive inner voice for yourself. You'll walk away with boosted self-esteem, heightened self-awareness, and the ability to make faster, more confident decisions.
Mistakes will inevitably happen as you’re learning to be brave. Use those bumps along the way as learning experiences and maintain a positive mindset. You can be your own best cheerleader, so give yourself the grace and the encouragement you deserve.
Here's the truth: When you make a brave decision, you’re setting yourself up for potential discomfort. But, discomfort isn’t something to be afraid of or avoid. It’s part of having courage. The braver you try to be, the more likely you will find yourself in uncomfortable or unfamiliar situations. Lean into this and start to become comfortable with the unknown and the thrill that comes with venturing outside of your comfort zone.
Soon, stretching yourself and trying new things will start to feel like a habit or second nature. That’s when a brave act like quitting your 9-5 to start up your own graphic design business won’t seem so scary. You’ll be far more accustomed to the uncertainty that comes with that decision and know that you’ve gotten through an uncomfortable situation before—and you’ll be able to do it again.
Failure is an ominous word to many, but it shouldn’t be a bad thing. It can seem scary and, obviously, it isn’t the outcome most people hope for. But, failing can be a teaching moment along your journey to help you get closer to reaching your dreams.
When your plans don’t pan out, take the opportunity to assess what went wrong and what can be improved next time so the mistake doesn’t happen again. Seeing each setback as an opportunity can also help you build resilience so you’re able to get back up and keep trying without letting the failure eat away at you too much.
Failing will likely happen to you at one time or another. While this is true, don’t let it hold you back. Never trying something new or going after your goals means that you're giving into that fear and accepting cowardice. Go after the bold dreams you have and accept that failure may or may not happen. The bravest thing you can do once you’ve failed at something is to get back up and try again.
As you pursue increased bravery, it can be helpful to have a mentor or coach to advise and encourage you throughout your journey to building up courage. If there is someone at work who has the job you want one day or if there’s another person whose bravery you admire, ask them how they got to where they’re at now. Not only can you look to them as a role model, but they may also be able to offer advice to help you be more courageous in your career or inspire you to go after your dreams.
If you’re shy about asking someone you know for help, a life coach can be that person to encourage you and provide actionable, targeted advice. F4S has plenty of coaching programs that can help you develop courage and confidence, and the Personal Power track is one great example. This program will not only help you see the talents and value you bring, but Coach Marlee can also build up your confidence and provide tips on how to make the most of your personal influence.
To prepare yourself to do a brave thing without feeling like you're leaping off a cliff or flying entirely by the seat of your pants, try making a plan so you can think through and prepare for every small step. You can analyze every potential scenario and come up with responses for each possibility. Another way to plan is by creating SMART goals for each aspiration you want to set out to do. This will help you set a timeline to achieve your goals so you don't let too much time pass without taking action.
For example, if you decide you want to try your hand at standup comedy (despite the fact that the thought alone terrifies you), you can create a schedule for when you'll work on writing new material and attending open mics. You could also research top comedians, times that they've bombed in front of a crowd, and their own recommendations and strategies for coping when jokes aren't landing the way you hoped.
Is it a foolproof plan? Nope—and that's why bravery is still required. But, the sheer act of planning helps you feel like you're exercising at least a little bit of control over an otherwise intimidating situation, which can calm any anxiety you have about going after a bold goal. While events may not go according to your plan, you'll at least have put in your best effort to prepare so things can go smoothly. Plus, you'll have something to reference to keep you on track so you feel more accountable to accomplish your dreams.
Ultimately, the best way to be courageous is to just do what makes you scared. Take a deep breath and do the brave thing. You can plan all you want, find the right mentors, and put yourself in the right mindset, but if you never jump into a brave decision, you’ll never have courage.
As counterintuitive as it might feel for you, an impulsive decision here and there can help kickstart your brain into thinking more courageously and get primed and ready to take on your fears. Allow yourself to jump into new things without overthinking and you’ll find that being brave isn’t always as scary as it might seem.
While fear can hold you back from being courageous, it can also be a healthy emotion to experience from time to time. A strong gut feeling that something isn’t right can save your life in a dangerous situation. When you feel afraid, sit with that feeling and try to uncover why you feel that way and how likely those fears are to come true.
If your fears are based on doubt or unlikely consequences, the brave thing to do is move past that fear and move forward. But, if your fears are based on results that are somewhat likely to happen or your intuition tells you to stop, it’s probably a good idea to listen to that fear and pause. There is a fine line between bravery and recklessness. Your fear is that gut check that can help you determine which side of the line you’re falling on and if you should think twice before committing to a brave act. No illusion of bravery is worth risking your health or well-being.
While you can plan for years or give yourself positive encouragement, the best way to build your courage is to just do the things that you want to try but are scared to do.
Go after the promotion, say "hello" to that person you’ve admired on the bus, or volunteer to lead a fundraiser for a local nonprofit. Having courage doesn’t mean you’re not afraid, but it means you won’t let that fear hold you back. Take the small steps day after day to put yourself out there and get closer to where you want to end up. You may even surprise yourself with what you can achieve.
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