We all wish we could be a little braver, but fear can still permeate into our day-to-day activities. It keeps us from taking action, progressing at work, and even causes us to procrastinate. Here are a few ways to boost your bravery and take every day on with courage.
Bravery is mental toughness, knowledge and confidence all wrapped up into one trait. With bravery you can make tough decisions, take action without wasting time, and approach uncomfortable situations comfortably. You need bravery when you take on new tasks at work, confront others who rub you the wrong way, and even when your work suffers because you're afraid of doing something less than perfect. When you become braver, you become more capable of taking action and handling the things that come your way.
How the Bravery Development Process Works
Bravery is not something you're born with, though, and it's not something you can acquire overnight. Like all desirable traits, it's something you work at developing. Joel Runyon at Impossible HQ breaks the development process down plainly. If you want to be braver, you need to:
- Be terrified of something.
- Do it anyways.
- Be moderately less scared than the first time you do it.
Otherwise there's only one alternative:
- Be terrified of something.
- Do nothing
- Still be terrified
Of course, there's more to it than "doing it anyway". It's important to note that bravery is just as much about understanding risks as it is about taking them on. Jumping into something blindly isn't necessarily brave; it can actually be quite foolish. What bravery really comes down to is learning how to repeatedly turn uncertainty — which is what drives most of our fear — into approachable, calculated risk.
Unfortunately, it's hard to be brave with something if you've never been exposed to it. By doing what you fear, little by little, you slowly, but surely take away the uncertainty of it all. If you're afraid of heights, go somewhere high up. Not too high at first, but just enough that you're still afraid. Experience it. Feel it. Next time, go a little higher. As you go, you'll see how small the risk really is, and you'll be braver for it. It's the same way astronauts get ready to go to space. They learn how to handle things little by little, take what they have learned to help them over-prepare, and then apply it. By the time they launch into space, only bravery remains.
Take In the Moments You Feel Brave Each Day
When you do something brave, try to capture that feeling in a mental bottle. At the very least, try to remember it as best you can. Celebrate it, take a picture, find a keepsake, anything that can remind you of how awesome you were at that point in time.
It doesn't matter what it was, as long as you were brave. For example, say you made a mistake at work. You we're dreading telling someone because you were afraid, but it had to be done. Once you finally got it over with, think about that moment when you said to yourself, "here goes nothing..." Gay Norton Edelman at Family Circle calls these times "power moments":
Try to notice those times when you're feeling strong and competent. Pause and take a few slow, deep breaths and tell yourself, "This is who I am." The more you recognise when you're being strong, the more fearless you'll become.
Big or small, brave moments are fuel for future brave acts. That fuel rolls over to any time you need it. When you're scared, you can just remind yourself "hey, if I could do that, I can do this."
Use Your Emotions as Tools
Emotions can be difficult to control, but controlling them is also one of the best ways to overcome fear of any kind. When focused, emotions can be used to pump yourself up or even affect others in beneficial ways. If you get angry enough, for example, nothing will be able to douse the flames of your bravery.
You may not normally be angry on a day-to-day basis, but that doesn't mean you can't stir some of it up and use it. Robert Biswas-Diener, author of The Courage Quotient: How Science Can Make You Braver, suggests thinking of ways to get the anger flowing when you need a little bravery boost:
…You can work yourself into a courageous mindset by focusing on the ways in which your most precious values are being trampled.
Normally, you wouldn't want to look for reasons to get angry, but anger can be a more valuable tool than you might think. If you can find aspects of your situation that make you emotional, use them. Say you're afraid to call someone out, for example. You can think about how they're wasting your time, inconsiderate, or how they're being disrespectful. Sometimes the need for bravery is more than the need to keep your head level. Just be sure you don't Hulk out too much.
Ask Yourself What You Would Do If You Weren't Afraid
Sometimes being brave is just a matter of looking at things from the outside. If you weren't afraid would you actually be capable of doing what you need to do? Probably! If you weren't afraid do you think you'd be better off as a person? Most likely! When you reflect and look at your situation from a different perspective, you may find that you really are capable of doing things wholeheartedly, without fear.
And if you can't seem to find bravery in the moment, just pretend that you're not afraid. Others might see you as brave just the same, and you might just convince yourself that's all in your head too. Fake it 'til you make it. Plus, the longer you wait, the tougher it can be to become brave. Imagine all the things you could get done if you weren't afraid and you were brave instead.