Courage begins with a declaration.
If having courage in your personal life and at work was that easy, everyone would do it. But as leaders, we don’t all begin our careers on the exact right path to self-actualizing courage in our lives and workplace. Some can get to this state, but many need some support.
In order to step into courage, we must examine our actions from where we are to where we want to get. Once you make that determination, you have a roadmap.
What is Courage?
Courage is that sense you feel inside of yourself when you have a breakthrough or an insight about a previously held negative belief.
Courage defies negatively held beliefs about ourselves, the workplace, and the world. These negative beliefs ultimately hold you back, but you can change those beliefs by choosing to step forward into courage. You are stepping forward into a possibility, even though you may have no idea how to accomplish it, your belief is strong enough to enable and empower you to take actions congruent with that possibility.
When your heart is aligned with your head and your gut, you’re operating in alignment with mind, body, soul, and spirit. This is how and why you step forward into courage.
Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the understanding of it.
Famous examples of courageous leaders are former Presidents John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama. These leaders were able to enroll people in their visions for the future: Kennedy’s was our first moon landing, and Obama’s was his determination to become the first Black president. Great leaders, especially at the managerial or executive levels in companies, can inspire courage in their employees the same way our Presidents do.
Courage: The First of the Above the Line Energies
As the first of the above line energies of the Seven Levels of Individual, Group, and Organizational Effectiveness, courage helps individuals, groups, and teams to envision a better future. This level takes the lessons learned from hopelessness, fear, and frustration and transforms that energy into a force for positive change.
When we fully take that step into our courage, our thinking and feelings shift. Our state of mind and body alters, and how we show up shifts for the better. People see us differently. They see us as more positive and visibly moving away from fearful thinking and behavior.
Courage is about stepping into an empowering space, whether it’s in the faith space, hope space, or just the right headspace. And this shift in being creates a clearing in your thinking for a new and open state of mind. When that happens, thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and outlook expands and our aperture widens so we can see what we couldn’t see when our site line was constrained by fear, frustration or even hopelessness. The new frame gives us access to visualize a brighter future.
People who have stepped into this level report to be 50-60% happier with their lives, and science backs up that claim. In the space of courage, you notice a higher level of passion for exploring, experimenting and ideating. You may experience yourself feeling unstoppable, more willing to take risks and less concerned about imminent failure. It is also at this level that our happiness levels increase and internal changes begin to transform our brain and body chemistry.
How does Courage Affect Our Brains for the Better?
Moving forward from below the line to above the line into courage, everything that was holding you back before, that’s all let go and released. Your thoughts are clearer and you are able to see wider and further than you ever have.
When that energy is released it is converted throughout your brain and body, that reactionary fight or flight reaction creating the “Happy Hormones.”
- Dopamine: This chemical is usually associated with feeling good about being rewarded.
- Oxytocin: Oxytocin is also known as the “love” hormone. Oxytocin naturally occurs in your body. It has been linked to feelings of trust and empathy. Physical responses, such as hugs, also are known to cause oxytocin to be produced.
- Serotonin: One of the more well-known neurotransmitters, serotonin, is responsible for regulating.
When the choice is made to step forward towards courage, not only are your brain chemicals activated but so is your parasympathetic nervous system.
This is the part of your body that is responsible for digestion and resting state. When you step forward into courage, your aperture is opened, which activates your nervous system to calm you down. Being calm is where you can make the best and right decisions.
With the Happy Hormones and your nervous system working in tandem with your positive thoughts, you are more likely to take actionable steps towards furthering your journey of courage.
5 Steps to Building Courage
Being courageous doesn’t happen overnight: it is a process. Begin with these five steps to build up your courage in your everyday life.
1. Create Your Day
One of the daily disciplines that have made a huge difference in my life is creating my day, every day. I speak with the same women for five minutes or less every day, and we have been doing this for the last decade or so. This practice helps us get in the right frame of mind to be open-minded to new experiences, cultivate compassion, and set ourselves up for success.
Creating your day looks different for every person. Some might need a lot more structure with planners, calendars, and a rigid routine. Others could do with far less structure, preferring to “create their intention” for their day with a friend or colleague on a 5-minute phone call.
2. Be Open-Minded
By being open-minded to new experiences and embracing those below-line feelings and emotions (hopelessness, fear, and frustration) we all experience with self-compassion and love; stepping into courage becomes easier. Adopting meditation, affirmations, and declarations as part of your mindfulness practice helps you elevate much quicker.
3. Choose Your Activity
Start with an activity that brings you happiness and puts you in the right frame of mind. Perhaps you get active with a HIIT workout, yoga, or a brisk walk around the block. Or, maybe you choose to read a book, write poetry, finish that novel, or try painting. Other people find solace in meditation or prayer.
Whatever activity you choose, that’s the access for you to connect with your authentic self and your highest level of intelligence.
4. Choose Your Affirmations
“Find the center of what you believe matters most to you in life, and act on it today! The moment is now! “ – Tony Robbins.
Everyone from Tony Robbins to Barack Obama speaks about reading and choosing their affirmations. Picking up a book of affirmations or researching the internet is many people’s first step in getting into this critical habit. Affirmations are your calls to action and create new neural pathways, beliefs, and habits that propel you towards your living your best life and achieving your goals.
5. Share Your Journey With Your Tribe
Share your journey into courage with your tribe. Our tribes can be family, friends, or a community such as a church or a volunteer organization. Your tribe is the group of people you share what you are up to, your possibility, and what you’re working towards. By sharing your vision for your life and your career with a friend, colleague or family member you create a community that listens to you as the possibility you are over and above what you may be experiencing in a low moment in time.
My declaration is that I am a conduit for people to unlock their wealth of talent, capacity, and human spirit in every area of life.
You and your tribe are creating that courageous space together in community and that gives others the inspiration to do the same. When your community elevates everyone inside it elevates, which IS how organizational cultural alignment works. Sharing your vision and action steps with the greater collective creates a fertile space where people allow themselves access their whole heart, whole mind, and whole spirit.
Courage in the Workplace
So what does it take to get everyone at work into a courageous state of mind? It takes practice and leadership.
I believe in firm grounding and being clear on what your vision is as a leader. What are you creating? What is your vision? With both a spoken and a written down vision for your workplace and life, it’s an excellent way to get yourself in the fertile space of courage. Stepping into courage means that you are able to envision a future and enroll others in that vision: this is called communicating your vision. From here you make a list of action items so that vision can become a reality. This truly engages both sides of your brain: the right hemisphere is responsible for the above line work, such as creating a vision, whereas the left brain is about the details and actionable steps.
Beyond that, it’s identifying, articulating, and defining your core values. Doing it in a way that’s unique and authentic to you is imperative.
KeenAlignment’s philosophy is to partner with Executives and to cultivate leadership and management best practices. To do this, we use various methods, including coaching business managers and executives to unlock their full potential through embracing and stepping through courage to be the best that they can. Our services include our Leadership Development Program, which allows leaders to explore and develop their natural competencies and strengths.
To learn more about our services and how we can partner with your leadership team, connect with us here!