There is an excellent quote on courage by Thucydides, an Athenian scholar and General, which underpins this article.
“But, the bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.”
Thucydides gives us a powerful quote which, in my opinion, highlights the personal quality of courage. However, to have, or demonstrate the act of courage there must be a unity of strength in the body and the mind.
There are some unique examples that you may be able to relate to either personally or know someone who might demonstrate a similar juxtaposition which I will outline here (fyi I have been waiting a long time to use that word).
I have witnessed people with the ability to endure physical hell, yet they will allow themselves to be easily pushed over in a personal relationship. Conversely, there are those who are mentally switched on yet cannot endure an ounce of physical pain.
What then, is the disconnect between these two states? It has been my repeated observation that the overriding emotion that prevents action is fear.
How do we combat fear? Courage.
Courage is a personal attribute that eludes people of every kind, every day. The pursuit of courage can occupy a lifetime. It can be elusive, and where one may have a firm hold on how to apply it in one situation, the opposite may be true in another.
Courage is not reserved for the physical realm alone nor is it required to be measured against the backdrop of a life or death situation. There are many demonstrations of courage that take on different identities.
History books tell colorful and inspiring tales of social activists, such as John Lewis at Pettus bridge, who chose to speak out against injustice at significant personal risk.
I am particularly fond of the stories of entrepreneurs such as Joy Mangano, depicted by Jennifer Lawrence in the movie Joy, who take a tremendous personal risk to pursue their dreams, only because I can relate to the struggle.
There are different types of courage, ranging from physical strength and endurance to mental stamina and innovation.
So the question then is how do you find courage in the moments you need it most? What actionable steps can you use to crystallize your intentions to be brave into action?
Here are a few helpful suggestions you can use, outside of the memory of your mom telling you to be brave as you get strapped into the dentist’s chair.
These were some steps I would personally go through upon prepping to deploy for a critical incident whether it was a raid for armed suspects or a contain and callout for a deranged person.
Check your equipment
Checking equipment was something we would do to ensure we had everything that was required to fulfill our tasking but also to make sure our equipment was functioning and not excessively loud.
Regarding courage, check your equipment means merely review your thought processes. Not every situation is tactical, but you can use similar methods to develop the skills to gain courage.
When there is fear involved in what you are about to undertake it can be wisdom that you’re in danger or on the wrong path. In fact, many of my clients need to learn to be afraid more!
Take your time to get clear and lock your shit down. If the fear is justified, decide whether to proceed with caution applying all of your knowledge skills and ability or to back off of the situation.
Managing risk is important. In the world of tactics and specific scenarios, when given a 60% chance of success, you must take that opportunity. An opportunity missed is an opportunity lost. It may not come again. In life, you can certainly allow that percentage to be much higher providing it will not cost you your life or the life of someone you love.
Stack Up Squeeze Up
When you are set to make entry into a building or room the team is often in a stack. As the team is stacked and final preparations are made the last operator will squeeze the teammate in front. The squeeze continues until it reaches the number #1 position. It’s a reminder you are not alone.
You can use a mental stack to remind yourself you are not alone. Instead of feeling alone, take a moment to recognize that fear links you to a tribe of people across time who have taken a risk to move beyond safety for something more.
To join the ranks of these “fearless” people you admire, don’t focus on what you feel; focus on what you are about to do. Move with intent and press forward into action amidst the embrace of those who have come before you.
Again, I want to highlight the fact this applies to all manner of situations. Courage can be a matter of not allowing yourself to be pushed over any longer, standing up to someone taking advantage of you or pushing through pain in the gym.
Or perhaps you are witnessing someone being victimized and you feel compelled to act, yet fear reprisal. Dig deep and chart a path to ensure you take the appropriate steps to address the situation.
Many have successfully run the track before you and have no unique skills or training, just the desire to see the result.
Breathe Into Action
A good gunfighter takes every opportunity to oxygenate their brain. You should be no different. Without going into detailed scientific analysis understand that your breath, drawn in from your diaphragm in a controlled and deliberate way, sets your state of mind and provides clarity. Never forget to breathe
Remember courage is not reserved for the elite. Bravery is not an assigned quality given only to warriors. It exists in everyone. The ability to draw courage out at the time of need is also present in everyone, including you.
Check yourself and lock down your mental state. Remind yourself you are in the company of masses and never alone. Finally, Breathe!
Taking these small actions will create the nexus between the physical and the mental states, propelling you forward and building your foundation of courage. It will enable you to learn how to press on and ultimately Stand Apart!