What names come to mind when you hear the words courageous life?
Sir Edmund Hillary with Sherpa Tenzing were the first mountaineers to climb Mount Everest in 1953. They did this during a period when many people who were attempting to scale the peak were freezing or falling to their death. Later, Sir Edmund visited both the North and South poles, becoming the first person to complete the ‘triple.’ I think it’s easy to agree that both Sir Edmund and Sherpa Tenzing led a courageous life.
Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara was serving as Vice-Consul to Lithuania during the Second World War. At this time, European Jews were trying to escape Hitler’s ‘final solution’. While ordered by Tokyo to not aid these refugees, Sugihara personally wrote exit visas for nearly 6,000 Jews to travel through Japanese territory, helping them escape nearly certain imprisonment and death.
These examples show us that while there are different ways of living a courageous life, we can recognize great courage when we see it.
Today, let’s take a look at what courage is and the steps you can take to live a more courageous life.
What is courage?
Courage is when a person does something they feel is right, even when there’s a risk attached to taking that action. Think back to Chiune Sugihara. While he was writing those visas, he was risking his job and the lives of his family, but he did it anyway.
He did what he thought was right despite the risk.
The same goes for you. Good or bad, the choice is always yours.
What prevents us from living a more courageous life?
Whenever we are faced with a choice, we are tempted to take the easy path. Whether, like Chiune Sugihara, we are faced with a choice that affects many, or simply the choice of what to eat for lunch, we always face the temptation of taking the path of least resistance.
The problem is anytime you give in to this temptation, you give up control of your mind. Over time, this can lead to always taking the easiest path because you haven’t built up the needed resistance.
Over a lifetime, this can lead down a lonely, dark path filled with regret and sorrow. But you can instead train your mind to make smart decisions.
Are smart decisions easy to make?
No, they require courage. We make wrong decisions because they are easier than building the resilience needed to do what is best for us.
Let’s examine how you can build resistance to temptations and make courageous decisions.
Steps to making more courageous decisions:
1. Remove the temptation.
Avoiding temptation is far easier than resisting it. Here’s what this means.
If you’re like me, and you have ice cream in your fridge, when tempted to eat ice cream, you’ll eat it. It’s hard to resist that temptation.
On the other hand, if your fridge is filled with vegetables and healthy snacks and you get tempted to eat ice cream, there’s a good chance you’ll make a better decision. This is because you probably won’t want to go to the grocery store to buy ice cream.
Temptation avoided always wins over temptation resisted. This is the first step to leading a more courageous life.
2. The first few battles are key.
Think back to something that has tempted you in the past. Maybe it was smoking a cigarette or turning down dessert. How easy was it to resist?
The facts are the first time you attempt avoiding temptation, it’s going to be challenging. But by the 50th time, it will be so much easier. In fact, there’s a good chance you won’t even realize what you’ve done.
Learning and experience will reinforce your decision-making ability and will help instill positive default choices.
3. Recognize what triggers you.
A trigger can quickly run you off course. For example, hearing the song that was playing when you broke up with your ex can put you in a downer mood and reduce your resistance to temptation to eat that big chocolate chip cookie.
To keep this from happening, you need to keep track of what triggers you. You also need to understand how they affect you. An easy method to do this is keeping a journal.
Journaling can help you to prepare by developing strategies to deal with your triggers when they appear. This type of knowledge can help you with decision-making better than anything else.
If you identify being alone in your room puts you in a state of mind where you’re more likely to succumb to triggers, determine a strategy to deal with it. For example, be around people as much as possible or have an agreement with a friend that you can call when this happens.
By applying the knowledge you gain through this process you will better avoid making poor decisions in the future.
4. Think through your biases.
Many times, the reason we fail to rise to the occasion is we allow ourselves to be deceived by our excuses and justifications. This is often the reason we take the easy, instead of the courageous path.
Often bad decisions result from not thinking through the problem clearly.
Instead, whenever you have to do something difficult, ask yourself, “Am I making the right decision or the easier decision?”
Give yourself more time to think about the decision. Avoid making the easy choice and then searching for the justifications you need to defend it.
This will empower you and help you build your courageous life.
5. Focus on your long-term goal.
Staying focused on your goal is vital. Always remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Recalling step four, be sure to take the time to weigh your decisions against each other.
For example, you could ask:
“Should I eat that cheeseburger and feel overstuffed for the rest of the day, or should I eat half a turkey sandwich and some fruit and feel better about myself?”
“Should I hit snooze and sleep in and then rush to work, or should I get up now and arrive early to have a better day?”
Keeping your goal in mind will help you make the choice that’s ultimately best for you.
6. Take yourself out of the situation.
Unless you’re an emergency room doctor, there are very few decisions you’ll need to make the moment the situation comes up. Almost everything else can wait for a while.
Things that tempt you always push you to decide in a hurry. It wants that gratification as soon as possible.
When you delay your decision, you can reduce the pressure to make an unwise decision, causing it to fizzle out. It also helps when you remember that the moment of pleasure is never worth the guilt that follows.
7. Follow through.
Following through is how you create a courageous life. This is where you take the first step toward your goal and then commit to its accomplishment.
Once you start, it’s easier to continue. Building courage is like building muscle. You start with small decisions and then get better at making them. This is how you make a better life, by making a plan and following through.
You can live a courageous life
Guess what? You’re going to make mistakes. Life is about learning. No one gets it right every time.
Everyone will succumb to temptation from time to time. This is part of what makes us human.
No one is fearless. You show courage by continuing to try despite your fear and the pressure of temptation.
Making a courageous decision isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it. You can develop moral fortitude. The key to doing this is by developing your self-discipline, which will happen as you continue to work hard.
Don’t forget to reward yourself when you make a smart decision. Continue to train your mind. The stronger your mind gets, the better your life will be!
Want to learn how to be able to make more courageous decisions? Good decisions come from good habits, and you can learn how to create good habits by picking up a copy of The Secrets of the Black Belt Mindset: Turning Simple Habits Into Extraordinary Success.