“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy” Martin Luther King Jnr
To truly overcome fear, one requires courage. Courage is the attitude to act by ones own free will towards a meaningful goal despite a perceived threat, risk or challenge; despite feeling fear and apprehension; and despite an uncertain outcome. Courage is mastery over your fear. To me, the features of showing courage therefore are –
(a) being faced with a real or perceived risk, threat or challenge,
(b) feeling fear or apprehension because of that risk,
(c) facing an uncertain outcome, AND
despite the above …. you
(1) make a deliberate choice
(2) towards a meaningful goal
That – to me – is courage.
Certainly I am able to say I can tick the first three boxes. I face real risks and challenges. I am feeling fearful and apprehensive. My outcome is absolutely uncertain. I definitely score quite high on the “fears to be overcome” side. Do I have the courage to face those fears and make a choice towards a meaningful goal?
I looked back to see if I had ever shown courage in the past …..
Firstly, there have been many times I have shown courage to meet challenges; starting a new career, despite the risk of not knowing exactly what it would be like; moving to a new area, despite the challenge of knowing no-one and starting again; taking part in sporting or public-speaking competitions, despite the risk of possible failure. I have done all of these.
Secondly, there are times when I have shown courage to overcome difficulties. My second son (a ‘failure to thrive’) was able to enjoy a healthy happy childhood because I had the courage to pursue an unconventional solution for him through dietary means. My third son (with learning difficulties) survived academically as I had the courage to push for structured learning programmes for him at school. He went on to obtain a Masters degree. It took courage to stand up to doctors and teachers and insist from them what I knew to be best for my children, despite an uncertain outcome, and despite a degree of ridicule.
The first examples are ones of taking risks and stepping out into the unknown. I am not wanting to put down these feats, as I believe they all took courage. However they were all choices made by me from a base level of comfort and security, towards wanted life-time goals. The second examples were of rising from difficult situations with uncertain outcomes. However, this time I had a meaningful goal – my children’s health and happiness – which I chose to put above my own discomfort.
Two of the things that I have battled with constantly since my separation is that I am where I am at this moment through no choice of my own. Choice was taken away from me. Secondly, I lost my life’s purpose and my striving towards meaningful goals. Yet somehow from somewhere, I am supposed to find some hidden courage, I am supposed to “choose” a meaningful path forward.
I keep getting blocked by these two obstacles, my lost choice and my loss of purpose. It is so easy to get swallowed up by the fear and apprehension that I feel, to forget about courage and to remain paralysed in a delayed sense of shock.
Yet I know that I have had the courage to face aloneness and discover the joy of solitude. Within that space it has taken much courage to face my inner self, my changing self and to keep striving towards the goal of having a life with meaning, purpose and authenticity.
My courage has been the light in the darkness of my despair.
My courage has been my willpower to survive, despite the darkness.
My courage has been to keep moving forward, despite the fear in my inner world.
My courage has given me the strength to put my thoughts down in my writing.
I now seek to apply that same courage to my external world with confidence and a sense of well being.
“Our most difficult experiences can become the crucibles that forge our character and develop the internal powers, the freedom to handle difficult circumstances. “ Stephen Covey. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.