Definition of Courage – Taking action despite perceived or actual risk
I am often asked, “Why did you include perceived risk in your definition of Courage?” To which I share, “Because most of the fears we let control us begin in our own heads.” While it is true we all have situations in our lives which involve some level of actual risk—when we explore the fears behind it, we find something deeper. After all, how many of the things we spend time worrying about actually happen?
These concerns and fears keep us up at night or can dominate our thoughts while we are alone driving in our cars. These “what if’s” slow us down or can have the power to bring us to a full stop. It is easy to become consumed by them. Yet, when we look backwards at those worries, we realize few of them ever actually occur.
It is perceived risk which can dominate a person’s life. Every time a person makes the choice to listen to those voices in their head and bow down to fear, it becomes easier to make that same choice again. Over time, listening to their fears becomes a habit and an individual stagnates.
It is disheartening to watch someone with loads of talent and opportunity get stuck because their focus is on the perceived risk in a situation. While it is true something going wrong is possible, is it probable? Quite often those who wallow in the perceived risk of a situation get those two words—possible versus probable—confused. How often does the fear of something possibly going wrong doom a talented individual to mediocrity? I certainly don’t want that to become me.
A classic example of “possible vs probable” is the situation in which an individual continues to avoid a difficult conversation. The truth is, we have all done this. We perceive the conversation will go badly, therefore we avoid it. But the funny thing is, when we finally do have the conversation we think to ourselves, “That wasn’t so bad!”
Many leaders won’t challenge a team member, peer or a boss because they confuse the possible with the probable. As a young manager, I often found myself deferring to the experienced people in the room. Why? Because I feared being seen as a show off or a “suck up.” Was it possible they could have perceived me that way? Yes. Was it probable? No.
How could we make sure the possible doesn’t become probable? We steer clear when we pay attention to how we communicate ideas and exercise Humility when doing so.
When I finally realized that speaking up and contributing to the group, no matter my age or tenure, was my Duty as a leader, something great happened. Each time I spoke up, fear had less and less of a grip on me. I began to exercise the habit of Courage in the first significant step. I did not let perceived risks control my decisions.
Most of us will have the opportunity to face the fear of the perceived risks which float around inside our heads. Here is my question for you: What were those for you last week? Did they hold you back? If they did, identify these thoughts as perceived risks. Ask yourself: “Are they truly probable or just possible?”
Each time we act in the face of perceived risk, it makes it easier to make that choice to fight against fear again. Like a muscle, Courage gets stronger the more we exercise it. Exercising Courage in the face of perceived risks builds our Courage and prepares us for action when we face situations in which the risks are probable or actual.
Dig Deep Questions:
What risks exist within your world which are more likely to be perceived versus probable?
Discuss these elements as a team to determine how you can exercise Courage together.
Exercising Courage takes work and is a lifelong journey. We want to partner with you as you practice the habit of Courage daily, which is why we have created FREE tools and resources to guide your journey.
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