Courage is a habit

I’m not sure why, but every time I have to do something scary, I talk myself out of it.

Mentally I list every possible, logical reason why it’s better to avoid the thing that I fear. I convince myself that I really believe these reasons. I convince myself that I’m surely not afraid, but that I’m actually making the tough decision to hang back.

But then something happens.

I feel stupid for being a coward, and in order to counteract my fear, I take action in a way that prevents me from backing out before I lose my nerve.

For example, if I’m afraid to approach a person or a group of people, I immediately put myself in front of them so I have no choice but to say something or look like a creeper. If I’m afraid to run 10 miles in a race, I buy the ticket and tell 800 people on Facebook.

Susan Jeffers has this book entitled, Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway. I’ve never fully read it (which I find pretty hilarious for some reason), but the book title is pretty self-explanatory. It’s kinda like that other book by Napoleon Hill that tells you that you need to do something in order to grow rich. What was it, again? Hmm, let me think about this..

I had an opportunity to speak in public today. I took a 30-minute walk and reasoned during this walk that my speech wasn’t necessary. That I needed to strengthen my skills as a reporter and therefore it would take away from my reporting if I was to be double-minded and stressed out about making a speech. That as a reporter, it was my job to remain unbiased in public meetings. That the issue I needed to address was addressed already by my colleagues in a private meeting earlier this week. That I didn’t prepare a speech and even if I wanted to speak, it was too late to give one now.

But the real reason I didn’t want to speak is that I was afraid – even though I’ve given countless speeches in the past few years.

So I showed up at the meeting, ready to take notes and nothing else. I told everyone that I wasn’t going to speak today because of a combination of the reasons listed above. Then in a split-second, I decided to change my mind and sign up.

Why?

Well, in that split-second, I realized that the issue I was going to speak on was actually crucial, that I played a necessary role in validating what all the other speakers were going to talk about, that I was getting good public speaking practice in a situation that actually mattered, that people might look at me favorably for speaking and badly for not speaking.

But the real reason I spoke is that I didn’t want to not speak because I was afraid.

To me, it didn’t make that much of a difference that I spoke today. Everybody will forget that I spoke today and everybody would have forgotten if I didn’t just as easily. But I would know.

Being courageous is like a muscle. The more we exercise it, the stronger it becomes and the easier it becomes. Conquering fear – even in a small way such as this – does wonder for our psyches.

And just a person opinion – if we don’t do anything that scares us, we probably have a very boring and unrewarding life.

Eleanor Roosevelt, who has been called the most influential American woman of the century, said it is important to do something that scares us every day.

“Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run it is easier,” she said. “We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each new thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down.”

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