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How to be Brave

At some point in our lives comes a time when we need to know how to be brave to overcome life’s biggest and most feared hurdles. In this current era, bravery is probably not spoken of as often as in the past because the physical threats we face today are considered little or virtually non-existent.

Whilst a fair point (since there’s no threat of going out in broad daylight to have a hungry 200-pound lion pounce on you like food, and you’re not going to jump off a building without a parachute or dive into a swamp full of vicious crocs), it is not entirely true. We are constantly fighting new psychological threats.

This is evident in the many forms of ‘fear’ we experience these days: Pressure, tension, apprehension, stress, distress, worry, anxiety, agony, difficulty, complexity, nervousness, fretfulness, dreadfulness, uneasiness, jumpiness, angst, strain, panic, horror, terror, etc. (I know… a long list indeed.)

This is exactly what this post wishes to address: How to cope with all the “new fears” of the 21st century.

To be brave, we must first know what bravery (or courage) is. Being brave is not being fearless; we’ve all heard the saying that "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” -- Ambrose Redmoon.

Being fearless is only being ignorant towards the dangers and risks you take in the senseless pursuit of something worthless. Bravery, on the other hand, is making a conscious decision to overcome fear in the pursuit of something priceless.

Here are a few tips based on my personal experience on how one can be brave when the need for it arises. Remember: Whenever I use the word ‘fear’ in the rest of this post below, I’m referring to any one of the 18 types of emotion highlighted in paragraph 4.

#1 Confront Fear. Do not shy away from fear because it is only powerful when we give it power; it becomes powerless the moment we choose to confront it head on. But there’s a common misconception here: Facing fear does not mean staring them blankly in the face and doing nothing. By doing nothing, you actually feel even more powerless. Confronting fear is to take proactive measures to overcome them.

Find out what’s causing the ‘fear’. Is it:

• The piling up of new work/tasks on your job?
• Unfinished projects with deadlines closing in fast?
• New responsibilities?
• A change of job or a change of working environment?
• Credit card debts eating away at you like a financial cancer?
• Is your health deteriorating due to your bad diet habits?

Whatever your fears or concerns are, seek to identify them first. Next, you can make a conscious decision to evaluate the reason for your worry, and chart out what you can do to conquer it.

#2 Limit Fear. When you’re dealing with more than one form of fear, it will be extremely overwhelming and this in itself could be the cause of your anxiety, panic, and apprehension to begin with. Don’t attempt to deal with more than what you can handle. Realize that you can limit fear by narrowing your observation.

Face one problem/concern at a time. Remember how the 300 Spartans fought an overwhelming number of Persians in the movie "300"? By choosing the battlefield which lies constricted in a narrow path of the “Hot Gates”, the Spartans rendered the Persians’ vastly superior numbers meaningless.

Create a funnel vision in your mind which bottlenecks the problems in such a way that they can only come at you one at a time. Divide and conquer: When the problem lines up in a single file instead of coming at you as a whole, you are better able to shake them off – one at a time.

#3 Make Use of Fear. In a state of fear, our biological system reacts and this is naturally a good thing. Our adrenaline kicks in; our hearts beat faster, our breaths become shallow, and our hands become cold. Blood then rushes into our brains and we become more alert than ever.

This is an opportunity which we can exploit because fear (in the right dosage) pushes us over the edge and can actually help us achieve more than we thought possible. Consider the following examples:

• At work for instance, perhaps a sudden increase in workload causes some worry, stress, tension and pressure. But out of these forms of fear, you are suddenly able to muster sufficient power and speed to swiftly get everything done in a short period of time, and at the end of it, you felt more productive than ever. That’s one way to make use of fear (or the many forms of fear).

• Or to use an even more extreme example, have you ever had any experience running for your life? Perhaps being chased by wild, moody dogs that weren’t too happy when you crossed into their territory? All of sudden you’re sprinting 100 meters under 7 seconds, “volting” over tall fences without tripping, and even scaling over walls with lightning speed.

The adrenaline forces you to act instead of think, and this enables you to surpass your limits which you perceived to be impossible under normal circumstances.

#4 Build Confidence because it is the essence of bravery. Take two individuals with the same competency, knowledge, experience, skill, ability and capability for example. The one that is more confident, will naturally be more proactive as his sense of conviction helps him in translating his competency into desirable outcomes.

On the other hand, the less confident other will find reasons and excuses to support the belief that he is still not good enough, he needs more training, more practice and more preparation before he can succeed. This is where confidence becomes the factor between succeeding and failing.

Being brave is all about taking action, not holding back and pondering what may not work or what could fail. In taking action, we build new experience and new knowledge that feeds back into our competence, which further builds our confidence.

[Related Post: How to Build Self Confidence]

#5 Work on your Reaction. You would’ve probably picked this up by now as I’ve touched several times the importance of taking action when the situation demands it. One other way of being brave is to work on your reaction

Bravery is often motivated by an external occurrence and in this sense bravery can be practiced as your ‘default’ reaction.

Plan, chart and rehearse, in your head, what action steps to take should a stressful or dreadful situation occur. These are things that often throw you off your inner balance of peace and calmness.

You may be in debt, and every time you think about your finances, this dreadful thought leads quickly to frustration, anger and then misery. Plan how you would like to react to this dreadful thought. Chart what you should do whenever you think of your debt.

Next, rehearse in your head constantly that when this panic sets in, your reaction is to do something to sort it out (It doesn't matter if it’s taking a small step; remember that taking action is far much better than doing nothing).

Perhaps you could plan to cut your spending or pay off some of the debt each time you feel stressed or get frustrated by it.

Closing Notes:

Bravery is not fearlessness, but rather the conscious decision to overcome your fear by taking counteractive measures. Confront fear by specifically pointing out the exact cause of your worry, pressure, or stress, etc. Limit these frustration by means of funneling them into a single file before you so you can deal with them one at a time. Turn them into an outward force that produces constructive actions. Build confidence and work on your reactions so that you can react positively and handle the new and tougher difficulties you'll face in life.

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