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I used to think that to be a courageous person you needed to do great things. You had to be a soldier, a mountain climber, or a person who gave speeches for a living. I put all the things I believed I couldn’t do and labeled it courageous. I tucked it away with, “bravery,” and “creative,” and everything else I would never be.

What I realized when I got older was that courage was born within us, that it came in waves of small feats as well as big ones. Every moment offered an invitation to either walk toward the fire or turn away from its light. It was the decisions we make in life that brand us courageous or cowardly. It was deciding to keep on going despite the fear that made us courageous.

Courage is not always the hero, the fighter, the risk-taker. The rabbit that crosses a path in daylight to find food is every bit as brave as the lion who savages his next victim. Just like it is not only the successful CEO who has taken risks to get to where she is, but the mother who wakes up each day to love and care for her children that deserves to wear that badge of courage.

It’s both what we do and decide not to do that can be courageous. And we don’t have to wait for a true hero to inspire our own bouts of courage.

What is courage?

To me, courage is the act of vulnerability. It is decisions made without your ego. It is telling your loved one that you’re upset. It is admitting that you don’t have all the answers. It’s allowing yourself to cry, feel afraid, and experience pain. It’s opening yourself up to fear, but with knees shaking and arms trembling you do it anyway. When you stand in the presence of a courageous person, you do not feel afraid, inferior or apologetic, you feel brighter in their light. Courage is a source of inspiration.

How do you know you’re not living a life of courage?

If you feel like you’ve been stuck in a rut, forgotten your way or find yourself daydreaming about what you want, but haven’t yet accomplished in life, you may be lounging too long in your comfort zone.

Remember the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz?

Stop waiting for someone to give you permission to live your life. You don’t need it. Courage doesn’t come from external sources. Courage is something you had all along. You just had to re-discover it in yourself.

How do you find your courage?

Do one thing every day that scares you just a little. Ask a friend for help. Take a photography class. Allow the possibility of what you want to rest in your consciousness. Make like Alice in Wonderland and, “believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Make a game out of it. Practice your courage the way you practice tennis, train for a marathon, or learn a new skill. The more obstacles you overcome, whether it’s leaving the house or giving a speech, the easier it will be to tackle the bigger ones. Not only that, but once you get off your couch and start facing your fears, you’ll realize, there was never anything to worry about to begin with. The scariest thing that could have happened to you was playing too safe with your life.

I’ve since given speeches with heart racing and palms sweating. I haven’t yet climbed mountains, but I’ve hiked them. I’ve stretched with challenges as much as I’ve tried to avoid them. And in doing both, I’ve learned that if you give yourself the chance to be courageous, not only will your courage grow, but so will you and what’s possible for your life.

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