Building Courage: Make it a New Year Change Resolution

Building Courage: Make it a New Year Change Resolution

Ruchi Bhave

Mental Health Counsellor


I finished my croissant and gathered the breadcrumbs in a bag. The many pigeons in the park wanted the leftover crumbs. They all started flying around me or skirting just enough to tell me they wanted the crumbs.

A little while later, one pigeon sat before me, making eye contact. I said to him, “Oh! You are so courageous to sit here and ask for these crumbs. Here, take it.”

This incident made me think about human behaviour. So many of us want many things; yet, how many seek out what they want? How many ask for what they want? A handful? The rest are all just skirting around and hoping we get the breadcrumbs.

I concluded that the pigeon that came to my table dared to come and ask for it.It showed the courage to get what it wanted. The Courage which so many of us find difficult to muster in order to get what we want.

Building Courage is a Behavioural Choice

Building Courage is a behavioural choice. A choice to be made not in the absence of fear, but despite fear; and going for the prize anyway. We all have dreams and things we want to achieve, yet most of us never really try going for it.

The dream could be to get in shape, get promoted, draw boundaries, or just be. Yet, we find excuses and avoid asking for the things we want. Avoidance comes from fear and we need to seek out the courage within, despite it.

For centuries, the topic of building courage has been a philosophical discussion and has gained some traction in the psychological debates due to positive psychology. Courage has three aspects to it: fear, action and purpose.

To develop courage within, one must face fear and analyse it; plan an action to take and seek the purpose for the action. In my need to find that courage to seek what I wanted, I started studying how to develop the courage to live the life I wanted.

Here I will list out the practices that I adopted which have served me well in building courage within me effectively.

1. Creating an Ecosystem

I read this on Instagram: “why would you accept an opinion from people you would not take advice from?”

This resonated with me, because, a person who was not worthy of getting advice from, meant I did not respect them enough; and therefore their opinion of me was redundant. I started creating an ecosystem that allowed me to thrive.

It is important to surround ourselves with people who have done things that we want to do. For example, if you want to lose weight, surround yourself with those who choose a healthy lifestyle. If you want to start a business, then start attending networking events of entrepreneurs – their stories of successes and failures and learning will add wisdom and knowledge, which will help you in making informed decisions.

Creating relationships with people who have achieved things that you want, will help assess the reality of your fear, solidify your purpose and bring wisdom and knowledge to your action plan. This is a major step towards building courage.

2. Introspection

Our cultures and families (also an extension of our culture) bombard us with information about us. Their perceptions of us have helped define who we are. Breaking through those definitions about us requires self-reflection.

Introspection helps in building courage, since we sit with ourselves and ask those difficult questions that we may otherwise prefer to avoid. Self-reflection is a powerful tool that can help understand – who we are, our fears and our reasons behind the said action or the lack of it.

Since this could bring up emotional stuff, we must do this in an emotionally safe environment. This could be with your coach or therapist who will hold the space objectively, allowing you to successfully deal with whatever comes up.

Difficult conversations with a trusted other are a safe way to move forward and seek the answers that will promote growth and bring clarity.

3. Creating Experiences

Pushing oneself out of a comfort zone builds confidence in your ability to do something new. It gives a sense of achievement and builds resilience, self-efficacy and optimism to do new things; a key factor in building courage.

Learning new things, experiencing new ways of being or just achieving a small goal, creates a sense of well-being and a growth mindset. This directly impacts how one feels about oneself and one’s ability to undertake and commit to new things.

As you increase your psychological capital, you can innovatively deal with new ideas, obstacles and problems.

4. Discipline

Most of the above could be achieved by bouts of motivation. However, motivation does not always last; and it is easy to slump into old ways of being. Discipline is therefore our friend in the long run.

That is where a good ecosystem comes into play, like having an accountability partner. Someone who will get us going, when the going gets tough. Someone who has been in our shoes and understands when fear gets the better of us.

By showing up for us every day, we build hope and assurance within us, of our ability to achieve what we want. Taking small steps daily instead of a few big steps when motivation strikes, creates self-serving behaviours.

Finally, courage is the friend we are afraid to seek out, but most certainly need to have. It becomes the driving force behind everything that we do.

Most importantly, it allows us to become the person we want and stand tall in adversity. All the above steps act as building blocks to develop courage, allowing us to thrive in our environments.

So, how about making a New Year Resolution for building courage?!!

In finding my courage, I was inspired by the following and will always give credit to them.
Santisi, G., Lodi, E., Magnano, P., Zarbo, R., & Zammitti, A. (2020). Relationship between Psychological Capital and Quality of Life: The Role of Courage. Sustainaibility, 12(13).
Shea, L. M. (2020). The Courage to Be: Using DBT Skills to Choose Who to Be in Uncertainty. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 61(2).
Lowery, K. (2019). ‘What are you willing to do?’: The development of courage in social justice leaders. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 25(1), 1-120.

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