Ordinary Courage

A few weeks ago I wrote a post called Start With Courage a phrase that I learned from Michael Bungay Stanier. It’s a beautiful phrase that compels us to begin the interactions we have in our lives with courage. Building on top of that, Brené Brown’s definition of courage in which “speaking from our hearts is what I think of ordinary courage” makes this concept of courage a little bit more attainable.

If we can find a way to make courage a little bit more ordinary, maybe that will help lower the bar for us to be more courageous everyday? And it doesn’t have to be glamorous either. Courage doesn’t have to come from a sudden willingness to put the Superman cape on. Sometimes we just need to cobble together just enough courage to take action. Just enough courage to move the boulder up the hill and let it roll down the hill.

In physics, there’s the concept of potential energy and kinetic energy. Potential energy is when an object is placed in a position in which energy is created upon motion. Think: a boulder at the top of a hill or holding a ball on the edge of a bridge.

Summoning enough courage to address a situation – whatever that might look like for you – is a bit like building potential energy. You may need to talk to the right people to give you good advice or read books on the topic or practice/write/journal what you’re going to say. That potential energy then becomes the fuel you need to turn into kinetic energy. Once you summon enough courage to create potential energy, the stored energy gets released and you build momentum. And once you have momentum, a lot of positive things can build on top of that.

In what parts of your life can you be more ordinarily courageous? How can you cobble together just enough courage in aspects of your life that you’d like to change? Courage doesn’t have to look glamorous. You need just enough to create motion and you might just discover how you’re becoming a different person just by taking action.

Start With Courage

Author and professor, Brené Brown, has a beautiful definition for courage:

“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences – good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as ordinary courage.”

Brené Brown

I love this definition, but, of course, it’s easy to say but hard to do in practice. When we speak with friends or colleagues or even – maybe especially? – family members we often hold back or filter what we say. We hold back what we’re truly feeling for the sake of not rocking the boat. By holding back our thoughts that might help others understand us a little bit better, we’re losing the opportunity to gift others a bit of ourselves.

I’ve always had challenges with opening up. Maybe because of the culture or environment that I was raised in the idea of maintaining peace and outward harmony was more important than telling the truth. It’s often in childhood that we’re taught the behaviors that will keep us safe and in the good graces of our parents. However, as I grew older, I realized that not being able to summon the courage to speak my truth became a hindrance in my personal and professional lives.

To me, “Start With Courage” is about speaking your truth. It’s something I try to work on everyday. Whether it’s with my clients that I work with that need to hear about an opinion I have on an approach they’re taking or with my friends & family that need to know how I’m truly feeling about something that happened in the past. It’s liberating when you can make courage a starting point and not just a once-in-a-while thing you do.