A lot of people assume that courage is a special quality reserved for firefighters, soldiers, or activists. They don’t understand that they, too, can be courageous.
All of us were born free of fear. But as we grew up, fear crept into our mind and we started seeking security. Perhaps as a child you were told to avoid dangers. Your parents and elders always advised you to stay safe.
But when you over emphasize the importance of security in life, you will begin to play safe. This will prevent you from setting your goals and working hard to achieve them. So the need for financial security will force you to work at your stable job even if you don’t enjoy it. The same need for security will force you to stay in an unsatisfying relationship. After all, you can’t buck the system. So be content with your lot and swim with the tide. You hope that eventually things will change for the better. And you will spend the rest of your life waiting for that miracle to happen. When that doesn’t happen in five, ten, or twenty years, you will learn to be content with your lot.
There is a difference between courage and recklessness. There are real dangers that you must avoid. According to the Zen teachings, courage is an ability to face your imaginary fears. It is required to reclaim the life you have denied yourself. Think about all those fears that have been standing in your way – the fear of rejection, the fear of failure, the fear of going bankrupt, and the fear of physical harm. There are many fears that we face every day.
These fears hold you back from achieving your goals. Have you ever thought what your life would be like if you had absolutely no fear? You will still have your intellectual faculties to navigate around real dangers. But if there is no fear, you will take risks more readily. If you don’t fear rejection, you will ask for more referrals and sales. If you don’t fear failure, you will act. And before you know it, you will dive headlong into your ambitious projects. Now consider this situation. What if you actually enjoy the things that you are currently afraid of? Have you ever wondered what difference that will make in your life?
You have probably already convinced yourself that you are not afraid of anything. If there are certain things that you don’t want to do, there are some logical reasons for that. You don’t speak to strangers because you assume that it is rude. You don’t want to speak in public, because you have got nothing to say. These are mere rationalizations. Now just imagine how your life will change if you do these things fearlessly and courageously.
What exactly is courage?
Courage isn’t the absence of fear. It is the mastery of fear. Courageous people have fears too, but they act out in spite of their fear and thus they learn to master fear. They don’t let their fears cripple them. On the other hand, if you lack courage, you will yield to fear. If you avoid difficult situations, you may feel relief that you managed to escape them. This psychological reward will encourage you to avoid danger in the future. And the more you avoid doing something, the more paralyzed you will feel about taking that action in the future. This will condition you to be more timid.
Unfortunately, this kind of avoidance behavior will stifle your growth. And as years pass by, you will assume that your fears are real. At this stage, it will become impossible to conquer fear.
Raise your consciousness
The only way to conquer fear is to look it in the face. When you successfully handle a difficult situation, your confidence will increase. This will make you better prepared to handle a more difficult situation that comes your way.