Think about The Wizard of Oz and its Cowardly Lion, who wishes for one thing: courage. He presents himself as fearful, timid and insecure. It’s only at the end of the story, when the Wizard of Oz places a medal around the Cowardly Lion’s neck, signifying the gift of courage, that he realizes he’d been courageous all along.
And just as the Cowardly Lion learned, courage isn’t something we can receive in the form of a medal or find in a book, and it’s not something we’re born with. Rather, courage, in its truest form, is something we nurture and grow within ourselves.
Here’s the good news: Courage doesn't have to involve rescuing someone from a burning building, grand sacrifices or awesome feats of physical derring-do. If you think about it, many of the things we do in our daily lives take courage. A certain amount of bravery is necessary just to get by in life.
Cultivating courage can be easy, if we focus on putting in the time and energy to do it. Here are some of my favorite methods for developing courage on a daily basis:
1. Know yourself
Take the time to examine who you are as a person so you can figure out your strengths and the areas where maybe you need to grow a little to be courageous. Then, start working on those areas where you could use some improvement or ask for help from others so they can pick up the slack.
2. Take responsibility for your mistakes
Look at how you live your life and where you have made errors. Own up to your mistakes, recognize them and try to learn from them. Apologize as needed.
3. Forgive yourself
No one is perfect. Strive for progress, not perfection. If you fall off the horse, be kind to yourself and get right back on.
4. Stand up for yourself
Do not let others push you to think, act or feel in ways not right for you. Be brave in standing up for your wants and needs.
5. Don’t give up
Remember, you will always have hope as long as you keep trying. When times get tough and your courage is waning, rest, recharge and then keep going. Fight for what you want and need.
6. Learn to say yes
If something sounds appealing but it is a little (or a lot!) scary, say yes and try it. At least put a toe in the water—you may discover something new about yourself.
7. On the other hand, learn to say no
If something or someone makes you uncomfortable, rally your courage and say no to investing your time and energy.
8. Let go of what you can’t fix or change
Even the most courageous of people can’t change what they can’t change. If you can’t change something, let go of it, accept it as it is and invest your skills in areas that you can change or improve.
9. Don’t be afraid to be afraid
Many of us think that we need to wait for the fear to go away, but sometimes it never goes away, so acknowledge your fear, allow it to exist and take the steps you need to anyway. Being afraid is both healthy and necessary.
10. Focus on the positive
Focusing on the positive is important in every situation; however, it’s absolutely critical during challenging times. Look for the diamond in the rough, think about how great you will feel in the end and take time to smell the roses.
11. Pat yourself on the back
Facing your fears takes bravery. Much like the Cowardly Lion, we all deserve some sort of a “medal.” Pat yourself on the back, tell yourself “Job well-done” and allow yourself to enjoy recognition for your successes.
Stacy Kaiser is a successful Southern California-based licensed psychotherapist, author, relationship expert and media personality, and a frequent contributor to Live Happy.
To read more about courage, see the June 2015 issue of Live Happy magazine.