What constitutes a courageous act? Most recent events that have been in the headlines have used the word courage over and over again: Farrah Fawcett battled courageously against cancer, the courageous battle of the demonstrators on the streets of Iran to have their vote counted, etc. So what makes these actions so courageous? Is it the fact that the consequences these two were facing were dire, i.e., Farrah Fawcett lived and shared her life despite her knowledge of the fact that she was losing the battle, or did she believe that she would be cured? Did the demonstrators believe that change was imminent, or did they go out there and risk their lives despite the knowledge that nothing would change? Or it just didn’t matter to them how the story would end? I wonder…
According to the dictionary courage is: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear or difficulty. Does courage require things to be dangerous, fearful, and difficult, so that we have to take some kind of action? Let’s go back to the beginning of the definition: “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand…” It’s almost as if, we don’t have to do anything in face of danger, fear, and difficulty. Is courage just about facing the challenge, looking it straight in the eye and acknowledging its strength against yours?
From my experiences with coaching clients, their battles are diffused the moment they face it. It is as if they are not clear what is in their path, or they do not want to know. But the moment they are ready to face whatever that obstacle is, it just dissolves away, or they find another path to follow. For me, courage is the moment you decide you’ve had enough and decide to do something about it. After that, it takes trust or a knowing that regardless of how things turn out, you will be fine. That trust is the second most difficult step or process once you have found the courage to face your issue(s).
Trust is so easy when we are children and we believe that our parents will take care of us. In 1980 after the first Iranian revolution, my family and I left Iran to come to the US without any long-term plans. I remember, that I was worried about how I would adapt to an American school speaking English, and how I would miss my friends back home, but I also remember that I had this total trust in my parents taking care of me. I knew that everything would be fine, because they were there.
Trusting one-self or life itself is the most difficult kind of trust, because it does not come with any guarantees, promises, or even prior experience to build from. When you are going into uncharted waters, you have only you to trust, and that takes courage! This is the type of courage that most people need when they make life changing decisions. It is difficult, scary, and lonely when you go against the grain. Nothing you have learned is useful when you are in the midst of making some big changes. It is as if you have jumped out of the plane and don’t even know if you have a parachute strapped to your back, let alone if you know how to use it or if it will work. Yes, it took courage to jump out of the plane, but now, you are way up high, floating down and you have only you to count on. The only way you will figure out how to land safely is if you can once again courageously trust yourself and believe that it will work out.
On this Independence Day (in the U.S.), I wish us all courage and trust to live a big life of great satisfaction like those before us who dreamed big and made this country and freedom a reality.