My attitudes # 4 – Courage

“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

In recent posts I spoke of hope – a belief in a positive outcome – and optimism – looking on the bright side of situations and overcoming fear by facing reality and responding positively.

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.

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24 thoughts on “My attitudes # 4 – Courage

  1. Great post Elizabeth….inspiring. One of my posts favourite books is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Mr Stephen R. Covey, it is wonderful to see you quoting him. Thank you for sharing all that you share, it takes courage to do that too. Clarabelle

    • Hello. I read ‘The 7 Habits’ first up in 2006. It was an epiphany in so many ways for me, especially the first habit. I still refer to the book quite a bit.
      What a great idea you have of the list of your favourite books. I have checked it out and there are a few cross-matches with books on my own list. Great minds think alike!
      Have a great weekend 🙂

  2. Hi Elizabeth. You are indeed on a journey of courage and we should all learn from your strength. I would add to your article a concept we have exchanged thoughts on before. And that is Brene Brown’s notion that vulnerability is the highest form of courage. Surely the strength of your journey to here has involved a healthy dose of the “v” word! Keep going! You’re doing great!

  3. I can relate to the feeling of lost choice and purpose. In the early days of my separation I felt as if every purpose of my life including staying in life was taken away from me. It takes courage, like you have so brilliantly shown to keep moving on, create a purpose for life and start achieving small but meaningful goals.

  4. I learned a great deal about courage a few years ago while teaching martial arts at a summer camp. During each session, the camp director would tell a story that would bring him to tears. I think it takes a great deal of courage to cry in public. Terrific post Elizabeth!

  5. “I keep getting blocked by these two obstacles, my lost choice and my loss of purpose.” I certainly do understand, Elizabeth. Even though I had the choice to leave and took it, the original choice to have the relationship I wanted with him was not mine alone. In a relationship, each person’s choices have an affect on the other person. No matter how you slice it, there are two separate people choosing their own way. You can’t control that or change that.
    BUT, your loss of purpose is absolutely a chunk of clay that can be molded in whatever way you wish. Even with me being the one who chose to leave, it left me no better able to handle the “loss of purpose” issue. Even 3 years now since leaving, I can’t say that I have a sense of purpose that is as strong as in other times in my life. Everything takes time, but set yourself on a path of discovery towards a purpose again. You will find your way . . . I’m certain of it.

    • Thanks so much for your comforting words. it means so much to hear from people who have been through similar events and come through shining at the other end.
      And even though you say in your case you ‘chose’ to leave the relationship, it was still NOT your choice for the circumstances as they were, that leaving was the only option for you. In other words, you had the choice of a stressful situation or a less stressful situation, but there was no choice of the third alternative of the ‘happy- ever-after’ for you (as for me). So I do indeed understand that you too have suffered both the loss of choice and the loss or purpose.
      Thanks for your encouragement to me of a path of discovery.
      I really do appreciate your wisdom.

      • I appreciate your wisdom as well, Elizabeth, and I know that deep inside you know exactly what you must do. It’s almost instinctive, I find. The only thing we really need to take along is the lesson, not the memories. Lighten your load as much as possible and set out on the path.

  6. I hear you, sista!

    For me, the stuff leading to the divorce and beyond coincided with the natural pulling away of a teenager. Her goal is as it should be—to get out of the house. Sure, she says it as rebellion, but the rebellion is rooted in the natural motivation to be independent.

    The psychology is all well and good, but in MY gut it feels like I’ve been fired from my job as a homemaker. Sure, I worked outside the home, but the homemaker job is what I considered my primary career.

    You’re a wonderful mom. We’ll ALWAYS be moms; it’s just that the job description will keep changing. Right now my caregiver role is to hug a cactus.

    As far as being good wives–being loyal, understanding, nurturing, and all the other qualities—can’t they be applied to being good friends, good employees, good bloggers?

    Maybe we all have the same purpose– to be kind to ourselves and to others. The scary yet exciting part will be to discover through trial and error our unique paths there.

    • Yes, you are right there – applying those qualities to other people in our lives is something truly worthwhile. I am much more vulnerable than I was and I have noticed that works positively as I am more empathetic to others. And I will be chatting away to someone (or more likely listening to someone else’s heart-ache) and I hear the choking in their voice and I see the look of gratefulness in their eyes just because I am listening to them …. and I think to myself …. ‘I have made a connection’…
      and that is great.

  7. Pingback: My attitudes # 5 Be Pro-active | Almost Spring

  8. Pingback: Personality + Character + Circumstance + Attitude = ME | Almost Spring

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