Armory of Courage ★ 9 tools to act well despite fear

Can we practice being brave?

Nine tools to act well despite fear

When I first climbed up a high rope course, my body shut down in panic. My legs shivered. My hands clung to the pole. I could hardly bring myself to let go. Despite knowing I was technically safe.

I despised myself for this lack of control. It was embarassing. Let alone impractical. I wanted to be able to move up here and enjoy myself like apparently all of my peers did.

Naturally, this wasn’t the last I saw of anxiety, fear or doubts.

This physical paralysis though taught me that at times will or reason aren’t enough. Sure, it helps to know how our amygdala works. Or what it takes to build self-confidence.

To overcome adverse effects of our automated fight or flight response however we also need somatic tools.

They are the most natural and effective way to regulate our nervous system. Applied well they allow us to quickly settle back into a state in which we’re able to use reason and skills.

I’m currently reworking the below Armoury of Courage to include more of these powerful tools.
And created this spiffy option to be emailed with updates:

Courage is looking fear right in the eye and saying
„Get the hell out of my way, I‘ve got things to do.“

Fear is natural. Firefighters, soldiers or surgeons however trained their brains to focus on their mission. Even in the presence of fear. How?

Fear is a signal in our brain. It‘s fired by the amygdala. A part of our brain that is responsible for your first emotional response.

Given time, our cortex will then take over and check the emotion in the light of reason.

If something is actually dangerous, fear can still be overriden by a stronger emotion. Like love. That’s how a mother can rescue her child from a burning building, despite being terrified.

Our brain always processes the strongest signal first. Be it fear, love, passion or drilled in duty.

We in turn can rewire our brain and influence how our amygdala reacts.

To do so, we can shift our attention towards the emotion we want to strengthen. (See Tale of two Wolves)

And repeatedly practice new patterns of thinking until the wished for reactions become our new nature.

Courage is the most important quality:
It allows us to consistently practice all others.
– Aristotle

How can I be brave when I’m afraid?

Courage can be defined as the choice and willingness to confront agony, pain, danger, uncertainty or intimidation.

In its earliest form, the word courage also meant „to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.“ (Brené Brown, I Thought It Was Just Me)

In other words: Courage is not absence of fear, but resistance to or even mastery of fear. Which grows with the judgement that something else is more important to you than your fear is. So your will to face the situation becomes stronger than the fear that holds you back.

You see, we don‘t have to be fearless to be brave. Quite the reverse. As Ambrose Redmoon puts it: „To take action when one is not afraid is easy. To refrain when afraid is also easy. To take action regardless of fear is brave.“

So let‘s be thankful for being afraid: It’s half of what it takes for acting courageous. ;)

Armory of Courage

If a tool speaks to you, click its title to read more

Admit you’re able

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any

Love yourself

Love is a strong, nurturing emotion. Stronger than fear. Loving gives you courage.

Act full-assed

Be honest with yourself. If something is important to you, pursue it full-assed

Still your mind

Meditation helps to calm and control our thoughts. Even 5 minutes make us more serene

Drop that mask

How to know who we are and raise our ability to cope with challenges.

Courage is like a muscle
We strengthen it by use
– Ruth Gordon

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