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Courage

The very word comes from the heart. Coeur is the French word for heart. It's important to remember that this isn't stuff that comes from the brain; it also comes from the gut. You don't work through a set of decision-tree steps to get to it.


Howard Schultz provided a good example.


Recently, he wanted to move Starbucks into a particular international market. He was discouraged by all sorts of consulting studies and analysis, all the advice he could muster.


He called his coach. Without telling them any details, he said, "I have something I want to do, but for the first time almost all of my direct reports are against the decision.


"What do I do?" he said


"Well, how far have you gotten on your instincts, your gut, your heart?"


The coach said, "Why don't you just follow your heart?" Which is another way of making a brave decision.


However, his coach did counsel him to spend at least a couple of hours with his direct reports getting out all of their concerns. "Listen to them," his coach said. "You may change your mind. But if you don't, then tell them, 'Look, this is what I think is right, I want your support, and let's do it.' " That's what happened.


Schultz had spent over half a million dollars on consultants telling him not to do it.


But courage is giving people a direction that's unusual and then getting people to enrol and mobilize behind that decision. He listened to all the concerns. But he went on his heart.


From this we learn that what we label courage, it is a strong emotional commitment — and the keyword is emotional — to some extent. Those ideas could be called a vision for where we're trying to drive the enterprise, they could be called values for what we think is important in life, they could be called principles of what is right and wrong. When people don't just have an intellectual sense that these are logically good, but are deeply committed to them, they're developing courage.


When you run up against barriers that keep you from those ideals, the stronger your commitment, the more likely you are to take action consistent with those ideals. Even if it's against your short-term best interests. And other people will look at that and say, "Wow, that's courageous."


The bigger the context, the greater the barriers, the more the snake pits — pick your own overused metaphor — the more there will be times for courageous acts. And the people who go down in history as great leaders always meet these tests.

I believe that one of the most common wishes is simply to feel more confident in various situations in life.


But How?

Confident friends may say: “Well, just be confident, man!” However, to a person that doesn’t feel that confident this piece of advice may not be very helpful. At all.


There is however some time-tested and timeless advice. And in this article, I’ll explore some of those tips. You can learn much more about becoming surer of yourself and building your inner strength and assertiveness


Now, I hope you will find something useful in this article to help you improve and maintain your own levels of confidence.


  • Take action. Get it done.

The most important step in building self-confidence is simply to take action. Working on something and getting it done. Sitting at home and thinking about it will just make you feel worse. Simple. But not always easy to do. To make it a bit easier, here are three of my favourite ways to make it easier to take action:

  • Be present. This will help you snap out of overthinking and just go and do whatever you want to get done. This is probably the best tip I have found so far for taking more action since it puts you in a state where you feel little emotional resistance to the work you’ll do. And it puts you in a state where the right actions often just seem to flow out of you in a focused but relaxed way and without much effort. One of the simplest ways to connect with the present moment is just to keep your focus on your breathing for a minute or two.

  • Lighten up. One way to dissuade yourself from taking action is to take whatever you are about to do too seriously. That makes it feel too big, too difficult and too scary. If you, on the other hand, relax a bit and lighten up you often realize that those problems and negative feelings are just something you are creating in your own mind. With a lighter state of mind, your tasks seem lighter and become easier to get started with.

  • Really, really want it. Then taking action isn’t something you have to force. Taking action becomes a very natural thing. It’s something you can’t wait to do.


  • Face your fear.

Look, I could tell you to do affirmations or other exercises for months in front of your mirror. It may have a positive effect. Just like preparing yourself it may help you to take action with more confidence.


But to be frank, if you don’t listen to quotes and face your fears you won’t experience any better self-confidence on a deeper and more fundamental level. Having experiences where you face your fear is what really builds self-confidence. There is no way around it.


However, there are ways to face your fears that do not include that much shaking of the knees. There are ways to make it easier for yourself.


  • Be curious. When you are stuck in fear you are closed up. You tend to create division in your world and mind. You create barriers between you and other things/people. When you shift to being curious your perceptions go SWOOSH! And the world just opens up. Curiosity is filled with anticipation and enthusiasm. It opens you up. And when you are open and enthusiastic then you have more fun things to think about than focusing on your fear. How do you become more curious? One way is to remember how life has become more fun in the past thanks to your curiosity and to remember all the cool things it helped you to discover and experience.

  • Realise that fear is often based on unhelpful interpretation. As humans, we like to look for patterns. The problem is just that we often find negative and not so helpful patterns in our lives based on just one or two experiences. Or by misjudging situations. Or through some silly miscommunication. When you get too identified with your thoughts you’ll believe anything they tell you. A more helpful practise may be to not take your thoughts too seriously. A lot of the time they and your memory are pretty inaccurate.

  • Understand in what order things happen.

The thing is when you do things you don’t just build confidence in your ability to handle different situations. You also experience progressive desensitization. What that means is that situations – like for example public speaking or maybe just showing your latest blog post to an audience out there – that made you feel all shaky become more and more normal in your life. It is no longer something you psyche yourself up to do. It just becomes normal. Like tying your shoes, hanging out with your friends or taking a shower.


It may seem scary now. But after having done whatever you fear a few to a dozen times or so you may think: “Is that it?” You almost feel disappointed of how anticlimactic it has become. You may even get a bit angry with yourself and wonder why you avoided doing it for so long.


  • Prepare.

When you know nothing of what you are about to do it’s very easy to get lost in vague, foggy fear and start building big horror scenarios in your mind of what may happen if you give it a try.


Preparing yourself and educating yourself can be a big help here. By for example rehearsing and rewriting your speech over and over you can pretty much learn it by heart. By doing research you can find breathing techniques that can quickly make you calmer and present. Or simple visualization techniques that make you feel more confident and positive as you step out on the stage.


This is obviously more work than not doing anything about the speech at all before you start giving it. But it can make a huge difference in your confidence levels if you take the time to prepare yourself. And of course, the speech and the delivery of it will most likely be a lot better too.


So prepare and you will feel more comfortable and confident. Just don’t make the mistake of getting stuck in the preparation phase and using it as a way to avoid taking action and the possible pain that it may result in.


  • Realize that failure or being wrong will not kill you.

Again, you have to face your fear. Because it is only then that you discover the thing that billions of people throughout history have discovered before you. Failure won’t kill you. Nor will being wrong. The sky will not fall down. That’s just what people that haven’t faced their fear yet think.


The thing is to reframe failure from being something that makes your legs shake to something useful and important for the growth of your self-confidence and your overall growth as a human being. Here are four ways that failure can help you out:

  • You learn. Instead of seeing failure as something horrible you can start to view it more as a learning experience. When standing in the middle of a failure, you can ask yourself questions like What’s awesome about this situation? What can I learn from this situation?

  • You gain experiences you could not get any other way. Ideally, you probably want to learn from other people’s mistakes and failures. That’s not always easy to do though. Sometimes you just have to fail on your own to learn a lesson and to gain an experience no one can relate to you in mere words.

  • You become stronger. Every time you fail you become more accustomed to it. You realize more and more that it’s not the end of the world. And, again, you get desensitized. You can handle things that would have been very hard to handle a few years back. Failing can also a have an exhilarating component because even though you failed you at least took a chance. You didn’t just sit on your hands doing nothing. And that took quite a bit of courage and determination.

  • Your chances of succeeding increases. Every time you fail you can learn and increase your inner strength. So every failure can make you more and more likely to succeed.


And remember, the world doesn’t revolve around you. You may like to think so. But it doesn’t. People really don’t care that much about what you do. They have their own life, problems and worries that the world revolves around them to focus on. They don’t think that much about you or are constantly monitoring what you do wrong or when you fail.


Maybe a disappointing thought. But a liberating and relieving one too because now you can let go of that worry that everyone is watching you.


  • Get to know who you are and what you want out of life.

To build and find more confidence in yourself you have to get to know yourself better. Go exploring. Face some of your fears. Fail consistently over and over and understand that it isn’t really that big of a deal. Grow stronger through such experiences and also become more internally relaxed. Figure out what really excites you by simply trying a whole bunch of stuff out.


When you know more about who you are and what you want out of life – not other people say you want – you will have more confidence in yourself and what you can do.


What other people say or think will have less of an impact than it used to because you know who you are better than they do. And since you have had all these experiences, since you have taken time to really get to know yourself and stretch yourself you will trust your own opinion and ability more than anything outside of you. You become stable and centred in yourself.


This will of course take time. It may be something that never really ends. So you might as well get started now.


“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” - Dale Carnegie

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