Like me, you may have a view of courage that is represented as a lion; big, fierce, strong, with a determination to achieve whatever the danger. The lion is not afraid because it has a mission, however, could carelessly facing danger represent courage? Perhaps the pursuit of the end goal makes it a courageous act? (1) As a Positive Psychologist, I have become better acquainted with the concept of courage. After studying views from antiquity to modern-day thinkers, I believe courage is finding the middle ground between cowardice or avoidance behaviour and carelessly facing danger. When achieved, this courage can promote a feeling of wholeness or happiness known as eudaimonia. (2)
Carelessly facing danger without considering the consequences could negatively affect personal traits such as kindness or relationship building. Within a work context, this could mean risking career progression. Equally, avoidance behaviours can have a similar effect promoting anxiety and fear, which can lead to missed opportunities and career stagnation. Ultimately, the middle ground that is courage means “choosing to take responsibility to be the authentic self” (3) resulting in feelings of wholeness where unique potential has the opportunity for actualization. (1) In practice, this is focusing on maximising your skills and talents to develop your career whilst reducing fear and anxiety helping you move forward.
Choosing not to live and work with courage can promote fear, anxiety, unhappiness, meaninglessness, career stagnation and even depression. It comes from a lack of inaction or running away which are avoidance behaviours. If you find yourself in this zone, utilising your internal resources and accessing external ones can help you overcome fears to take authentic, meaningful action.
Courageous thoughts and behaviours can be developed through several resources. (4) These consist of:
- Positive traits
- Positive states
- Values and beliefs
- Social forces
Being open to experiences helps you embrace change as it engages the imagination and encourages creativity. Consequently, change becomes perceived as an opportunity rather than a fearful situation, making you more likely to take timely authentic action.
Developing a conscientious mindset promotes tenacity and persistence which steers away from avoidance type behaviours. Evidence suggests that this attitude promotes a problem-solving capability.
Building confidence promotes self-belief and reduces the perception of fear which supports making authentic decisions. (5) Evidence suggests that this can encourage a positive attitude and improve performance.
Feeling a sense of achievement can promote confidence, however, to begin with you need to know what you are attempting to achieve. Psychologists suggest this can be achieved through developing hope by setting meaningful goals to create motivational energy and motivation towards something you care about. This helps you to develop your potential, build resilience and reduce feelings of anxiety or stress.
Values and Beliefs
Being guided by personal values and beliefs promotes consistent authentic action. These give direction, help decision making, build resilience against fear and build feel-good confidence. Values and beliefs are extremely motivational forces and enable you to feel whole which encourages eudaimonic happiness.
Not conforming to the expectation of others to be liked or to be right. This can often happen in the workplace. Courage can be affected by trust and level of support from others (e.g. your team), commitment to the group, the influence of role models and how you identify with the group. The better these relationships, the more authentic and courageous you will feel.
Working on building these resources to build courage will help you build the confidence to develop and grow your authentic career.
Main Image by Thomas Wolter from Pixabay
- Woodard, C. R., & Pury, C. L. (2007). The construct of courage: Categorization and measurement. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 59(2), 135.
- Aristotle, & Ross, W. D. (1925). The Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle; Translated with an Introduction by Sir D. Ross. Oxford University Press.
- Bugental, J. F. (1981). The search for authenticity: An existential-analytic approach to psychotherapy. Irvington Pub. 26
- Hannah, S. T., Sweeney, P. J., & Lester, P. B. (2007). Toward a courageous mindset: The subjective act and experience of courage. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 2(2), 129-135.
- Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman.