Rosa Parks. Mahatma Gandhi. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Jackie Robinson. Alice Paul. The unknown rebel standing in front of Chinese tanks in Tiananmen Square.
Each one of these individuals stepped out of their comfort zone to stand up for what they believed was the right thing to do regardless of a lack of popular support or having a clear position of power. Each of these incidents dealt with civil liberties and a desire for justice that demanded the mustering up of courage and the willingness to place themselves in a situation where the outcome would be unknown. Due to the stance that each of these courageous people took they helped make the world a bit more accepting, a bit more just, and a bit more humane.
While these were grand and impressive acts of courage, let us not dismiss how we too can live courageously to improve our lives. After all, one must practice being courageous and be willing to step up to the plate whenever a moment presents itself, and being able to step up to the plate only gets easier with practice on smaller matters first. If we want a life of our dreams, rather than a life that is presented to us that we decide to settle for, we must live courageously.
How to be Courageous:
1. Read, read, read. Gain knowledge. Knowing something and having a credible source (or more – which is preferred) will build your confidence about what you know to be true.
2. Stop procrastinating and give it a try. Do your best. Learn from the results of that first attempt and do not become discouraged.
3. Face what you fear. Look it in the eye and determine what exactly it is that you are afraid of. Rejection? Being laughed at? Not being accepted? Often our fears are telling us what we desire the most in our lives, and it is up to us to listen to this internal message and follow that yearning.
4. Take a step outside of your comfort zone. By being open to meeting new people, visiting a new city that you don’t know but are curious about, changing up your routine a bit or having a taste of something that you assumed wouldn’t be to your liking, you are gradually strengthening your ability to be courageous. (Often you are simply one small adjustment away from what it is you desire – read more about this here.)
5. Practice Standing up for What you Believe is Right/Just/etc If your desire is to be able to have enough strength to stand up to those who are bullying you, don’t allow others to be bullied either. In other words, practice standing up for others who need a helping hand. It is often easier to be courageous when someone else is in need, rather than standing up for ourselves. So by being clear about what you will and won’t tolerate, learn how to find the gumption within yourself to have a voice when it is necessary. This will help you find your voice when you need to stand up for yourself.
6. Be Disciplined. In order to have self-discipline, you must be very clear about what you want, and thus, very clear about what you don’t want. As you begin making progress toward what you do desire, you will be less easily swayed to go off course which will make it easier to display self-discipline, allowing you to proceed forward even if no one understands your efforts.
7. Less Analysis, More Action. Similar to slowly making your way into a cold swimming pool inch by inch versus jumping in cannon ball style, the act of just doing it and not over-thinking can actually work in your favor. Why? To begin with, you wouldn’t be considering it if it wasn’t something you were interested in. Secondly, when we start analyzing, we welcome self-doubt which erodes our self-confidence. Yes, I believe it is a good idea to always try to make the best decision, but once our toes are on the line (which means were quite curious in the first place), it’s time to just jump in. For example, it has been a dream of mine to attend New York Fashion Week. After two years of blogging, I finally have purchased the tickets, reserved the hotel room and am eagerly waiting for September to arrive. Do I know exactly how it will work when I get there? No. But I’m betting on myself that I will figure it out as I go, and whatever doesn’t work out, will be chalked up to a lesson learned when I return the next time.
8. Trust Yourself. With each year of life experience, as you pour over what you enjoy versus what makes you cringe, what makes your heart sing versus what tears at your heartstrings, you hone your instincts. You begin to realize what is worth taking a risk for – love, a particular career, justice, etc. And when you know what is important to you, you begin to realize that you must choose what you care most about over the fear that stands in the way.
As you begin to live more courageously in your life, know that your actions speak volumes. Without question, you are daring to say the life I wish to live is worth the effort. The life I know is possible won’t be easy initially to achieve, but I am willing to fight for it. You are saying, “A good life may be nice, but I know a great life is possible.” With each action of courage – standing up for what you value, speaking out for those who don’t have a voice, taking action when too many people are afraid to step in and help, you are not only creating a better life for yourself and those you love, but others you may not even know about.