There are many cliches and platitudes about being brave or courageous, and most have to do with acting without fear, or acting in spite of fear.
I was recently asked to comment on what makes some people more able to make decisions and take action in spite of fear, and the quote that came to mind was neither a cliche or a platitude - but something I recognized as part of my personal truth the first time I read it,
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” ~ Anais Nin
Yes, when we allow fear to stop us from living the life we choose we shrink our very life. An unlimited life is only available to those brave enough, courageous enough, to claim it.
The dictionary gives the common definition of bravery as this:
“Ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.”
And the common definition of courage as this:
“The ability to do something that frightens one.”
So basically, to be brave and courageous is to be ready and able to face something or to do something.
I speak to fear a great deal in my work with entrepreneurs, teaching them to allow fear to be their friend, to embrace the energy of fear and turn it to personal power to accomplish their objectives.
I often suggest to them that being without fear is an unhealthy goal, but that being prepared to move forward through their fear, even to allow their fear to galvanize that momentum, makes them more powerful than if they refused to acknowledge fear at all.
Ultimately, that preparation requires being connected to your own truth and your own purpose.
When you have spent the time and done the inner work to know what you believe, without doubt, and to know what you stand for, without question, and to know what change you are committed to creating in the world, then it won’t matter whether the crisis is small or life-threatening, you’ll act from your truth without thinking.
(It’s important to note that, physiologically, we cannot differentiate between fear of great physical harm or some lesser fear such as loss of face - it translates to the same response in the mind and the body. So being prepared for a crisis of any kind requires the same inner strength and it is cultivated in the same way - whether you’re preparing to face down a potential murderer or face down an audience after falling off the stage.)
Look at story after story of heroes who stepped in and saved lives or just saved someone from a difficult moment - they’ll tell you they didn’t even stop to think.
One of the many articles covering the near-tragedy in Decatur, GA shared this insight into the actions of hero Antoinette Tuff, a school clerk , who convinced the gunman that it was neither his day to kill, or his day to die.
She told ABC’s Diane Sawyer that much of her conversation focused not only on trying to understand the gunman, but also on trying to get the gunman to relate to her. “I just started telling him stories,” she said, and things like, “You don’t have to die today.” Tuff told him a story of tragedy in her own life, and explained to reporters that she simply asked him to put his weapons down and surrender to police. She “talked him through it” by reminding him that “life will still bring about turns, but we can learn from it.”
Antoinette spoke and acted from her personal truth, not from being prepared to handle a life-or-death crisis. And her truth and belief said that the way to deal with a boy with a gun is to speak to the boy, and not to the gun. She showed him that she really saw him, that she could relate to him, and he in turn was willing to relate to her.
In Just Blow It Up, I wrote that if you can “be transparent with your fear, your fear becomes transparent.”
Because it isn’t about hiding your fear, or acting in spite of your fear. It’s about building a foundation of personal truth that guides you through the situation whether fear is present or not.
Because usually in crisis, there is no time to think. You act from that foundation of truth. Even when your life is on the line.