Brave: How can we be courageous?

Oprah Winfrey says: “The great courageous act that we must all do, is to have the courage to step out of our history and past so that we can live our dreams.” As I battle my health condition this week, I’ve thought a lot about how can we have the bravery to confront what seems impossible?

Thanks to the following guests for participating:

King’s College London Teaching Fellow Dr Zeno Leoni

Entrepreneur and author of ‘Make It Happen!’ Lazar Vukovic

Gillian Jones Williams, Managing Director of Emerge and author of ‘Locked Down But Not Out

Sharenika Lashay, US life coach, owner of “All in One Creations”, sex trafficking survivor, and author of ‘Hustled Through The Pain’

Professional Flamenco dancer Lourdes Fernandez

Here are some of the resources from the show:

Kate Swoboda on the Integrate Yourself podcast in 2019:

Dr Margie Warrell at the AN Leading Women conference in 2018:

Books looked at this week:

Kate Swoboda: The Courage Habit: How to Accept Your Fears, Release the Past, and Live Your Courageous Life

Dr Margie Warrell: Brave: 50 Everyday Acts of Courage to Thrive in Work, Love and Life

PS. I do not receive commission for reviewing books and talks.

Transcription

Exploring how we can master ourselves by looking at how experts say it is possible with your host Suswati Basu.

Intro music

Welcome to episode 21 of How To Be…with me Suswati as your timid presenter, guiding you through life’s tricky skills by taking this learning journey with you.

This week I’m unfortunately battling an episode from my health condition. So as I deal with the disappointment of going forwards and backwards, I ponder upon the question of courage and how to keep hold of it. How can we be brave?

King’s College London Teaching Fellow Zeno Leoni and British Entrepreneur and author of ‘Make It Happen!’ Lazar Vukovic spoke to me this week on the topic.

ZENO LEONI
LAZAR VUKOVIC

Our first book comes from life coach and creator of yourcourageouslife.com Kate Swoboda with The Courage Habit: How to Accept Your Fears, Release the Past, and Live Your Courageous Life. The book takes a look at the role fear plays in our lives and offers a four step programme for becoming your most courageous self through the use of cognitive behavioural therapy. Here she is on the Integrate Yourself podcast in 2019.

KATE SWOBODA

Swoboda found that fear is the main hurdle we all need to clear before we can manifest our true dreams and desires. She’s also seen that fighting fear is unrealistic – then you’re just pretending it doesn’t exist.

So the first hurdle is pinpointing the role fear plays in your habits and routines. She says when we decide to make a radical change without first acknowledging our fear, it can be easy to use the feelings that arise from it to rationalize not following through. Why should a new direction seem so scary?

Well, the brain prefers comfort and predictability. To get these, it floods your body with feelings of fear and anxiety when its routines are challenged. Likewise, when you choose the predictable route, the brain rewards you with the feeling of relaxation.

This is ultimately why facing your fears and making changes are both so difficult. They require patience, as well as sitting with the feelings that make you uncomfortable.

So what can you do instead?

She says you can choose to practice courage by engaging with your fear, and giving yourself permission to ditch the status quo and figure out a better way to live. One way to do this is by reconsidering your approach to fear by challenging old habits and forming new ones.

So what is the Courage Habit? It’s a technique that the author has developed to help people take their own desires seriously, confront their fears, and become their most courageous selves. It’s important to realize, though, that this isn’t someone you need to “turn into.” You simply need to clear away the barriers that have inhibited the growth of that person.

To prepare yourself for the first step in the Courage Habit, you need to do a few things. First: figure out what you truly want.

One way to do this is by envisioning your Liberated Day, an ideal day in which fear doesn’t hold you back. Describe the day in lots of detail. Consider how your most courageous self would approach every area of your life using internal cues and ignoring external validation.

Narrow your focus to three Primary Focus goals – three areas of your life that you’d like to change.

Finally, think about how your goals could benefit others. Consider how you might be a more supportive friend or family member if you could reconnect with yourself and your own happiness. As you consider your Primary Focus, remember that stepping outside your comfort zone and trying new things is key – even if a certain outcome is not guaranteed. She says you’ll definitely make mistakes, but it’s about building resilience.

She also talks about quashing the power of fear over you by claiming your fear routine through the cue-routine-reward cycle mentioned in a book mentioned before The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

The cue is your initial feeling. When a cue causes you stress, your brain is actually hardwired to trigger a behavior, or routine, that offers you the reward of decreased tension. The reward is the feeling that you get from that routine; if you leave the coworking space, you feel momentary relief. The same goes for a fear routine.

The four predominant fear routines include the perfectionist, who takes too much on and has trouble relinquishing control, but external validation and checking items off a to-do list gives them a sort of high, but leaves them overwhelmed. The Saboteur has a hard time sustaining their efforts and often expects big returns on small investments of energy feeling “tied down”.

The Martyr’s routine is about being a people-pleaser. Service to others is their main life focus. Whilst the Pessimist’s routine leads them to believe that nothing works out for them, so they don’t see the point in trying.

Most of us mix and match elements of each of these routines, but tend to fall back on one of them. Identifying our main one apparently will help empower us to interrupt this routine.

Swoboda then recommends to “access your body” which helps you identify the fears that are getting in your way. This is a type of mindfulness practice that gives you the space to pause and control your cue-routine-reward process.

Begin to access the body by performing a body scan. Start this at your feet. Ask how they are. Move slowly up your body this way, from your feet all the way to your head.

During this practice, notice the sensations that arise and try to translate them into emotions. A tightening in the body or a churning sensation in the stomach, for example, might be symptoms of fear.

If a body scan doesn’t work for you, as I tend to fall asleep after 10 minutes there are many other ways to access the body. Try dancing to music, running, practicing yoga, or visualizing yourself in a happy state and noting what that looks and feels like. It can bring up intense feelings, so find ways to bring you back, like going for a walk, speaking to a friend, or using sensory objects and music.

Your Inner Critic also confirms your worries that you aren’t good enough. It stops you in your tracks before you can summon the courage to make a major change in your life. The best thing to do is to engage with it rather than ignore it. Try writing down just what your Critic is saying, really capturing its voice.

Next, think back to the collection of goals that comprise your Primary Focus. What does your Inner Critic say about your ability to make that focus a reality? Whenever your Inner Critic says something disrespectful, ask it to rephrase its statement or demand. Say: “Re-do, please. I’m listening, but only if you can say things respectfully.”

The way to heal and liberate ourselves from its control is by offering love and compassion. Reframing limiting Stories, the third step in the Courage Habit, helps you prevent unhelpful Stories from dominating your life.

To identify your own Story, consider an area in your life where you feel stuck – perhaps as it relates to your Primary Focus. Next, finish the sentence, “I’m frustrated because…”

Reframing limiting Stories is about having empathy for your own struggle and pain, keeping your Stories from spiraling into a feedback loop with no healing or resolution.

Next is about creating a courageous community by beginning with people that you know. According to research done at Harvard University in 1994, social support is necessary in habit-formation.

Our next book comes from Dr Margie Warrell in Brave: 50 Everyday Acts of Courage to Thrive in Work, Love and Life. Dr Warrell provides behavioural courses in communication for companies and institutions including Nasa, AOL and the UN Foundation.

Her book details the actions anyone can take to become braver in daily life. Here she is at the AN Leading Women conference in 2018.

MARGIE WARRELL

Dr Warrell says if you find yourself too afraid to take the plunge, then you’ll potentially miss out on opportunities to turn your life around for the better.

A key way to build up confidence and strength is to be aware of when you’re letting fear govern you. So every time you notice that you’re avoiding doing something – whether through fear of failure or of rejection – note it down. That way you can gradually improve. Start out small and work your way up to bigger challenges.

Another key aspect apparently is to avoid dilly dallying, acting practically, and acting now. So, have a think about what you’d really like to do in the next few months if you really felt brave. Then break down and nuance the fears you associate with each challenge. Now do some positive thinking.

This process of imagining success is supposed to be an important one. It will help you get to grips with the benefits of moving out of your comfort zone. It will also assist in prompting you to make the move and face your fears.

She also says it pays to resist to conformity and be true to herself. The benefit is clear. If you are true to yourself, people will accept that; you’ll be more likely to be successful and also happy as a result. Being authentic is generally appreciated by others.

Dr Warrell says don’t let fear stop you from speaking out. There is a cost to silence. It causes damage in the long term as you’ll feel you’ve betrayed your true values.

There’s a clear path to avoiding this damaging sense of self-betrayal. You first have to be crystal clear about your beliefs, and then be prepared to stand up for them. So be prepared to read up or be informed.

Speaking from the heart also takes bravery, but there are some basic rules to follow. It can be a struggle to say what you think and to share your feelings. Most people would rather avoid topics close to their hearts in day-to-day conversations. The fear of rejection or of being judged is just too great. What is critical is that you do not mix up a person’s actions with the individual themselves.

This also means being your own advocate. You have to be ready to tell others what you can offer. You may feel a touch reticent about that. After all, it may seem a little self-centered to broadcast your abilities, but concentrate instead on what you can contribute to others.

When the future is unpredictable, make a decision and stick to it. Decision-making may appear stressful, but doing it in the face of the unknown and unpredictable is actually both productive and brave.

And don’t be afraid to ask for help when it’s needed. Many of us have been conditioned to see asking for help as a weakness. But that’s simply not true.

It takes real strength to ask. It is brave to display your vulnerability to others. It is an act of courage to reveal your fragility. There is nothing to be gained from pretending you are more than merely human.

There is another benefit to accepting you need to ask others for assistance; it is a way to join yourself to the power of community.

And one of the toughest parts is to give sadness your full attention. It might seem tempting to mask the pain, but that gets us nowhere. Equally, there’s no need to start categorizing grief or comparing our experiences of it. Only if you do that will you understand and process those feelings. And, in time, you can let them go. Bravery and courage comes in all different forms.

So to sum up:

Swoboda says in The Courage Habit in practicing courage requires you to first pinpoint and then confront your fears. You can begin to do this by breaking down your cue-routine-reward habit cycle, identifying the sensation and voice of fear, and finally, writing down and reframing the Stories you tell yourself. During this process, it’s important to surround yourself with a “courageous community.”

Next she says celebrate your journey.

Don’t just find fear-based sensations in your body – look for the positive ones too! These can help you celebrate the time and effort you’ve invested and tune out any Stories that tell you it wasn’t enough. Note any changes or shifts in thinking you have made during this process, too. These show that you have been present in committing to the work.

Dr Warrell says in Brave that being brave doesn’t have to involve making dramatic gestures or taking huge risks. Bravery also takes place on an everyday level. It begins with taking little steps outside your comfort zone, strengthening your courage muscles in the process. Bravery takes many forms and can be practiced every day. You can speak your truth from the heart to those you love, even at the risk of it sparking a conflict. Or maybe you can find the courage to address sadness or depression. If you can find the strength for a little bravery, then a fuller and happier life will follow.

To practice this everyday, she recommends recognizing what you’re grateful for. Being grateful is a brave act, and the process will help you realize that everything you need for a successful life has already been given to you. After that, it’s your responsibility to make it happen.

I’ve struggled to stay brave this week, but I’m grateful for the people that help me during these times and try to make life a little easier.

Before we go, here is Gillian Jones Williams Managing Director of Emerge and author of ‘Locked Down But Not Out’, US life coach, owner of “All in One Creations” and sex trafficking survivor Sharenika Lashay, and professional flamenco dancer Lourdes Fernandez on how they find courage. And if you enjoyed this please hit subscribe!

GILLIAN JONES WILLIAMS
SHARENIKA LASHAY
LOURDES FERNANDEZ

Published by suswatibasu

Suswati Basu is a writer, journalist, producer and feminist activist residing in London. She has written for the Guardian, Huffington Post and the F-Word blogs, and has worked for various media outlets such as the BBC, Channel 4 and for ITV News/ITN. She currently works as a senior intelligence expert.

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