The courageous don’t live forever, but the timid don’t live at all

When you read about someone rescuing a passenger from a burning car, what are your thoughts? Many people believe that they could never do the same because they would be too frightened to act. The implication is that courageous people are fearless. However, that is not the case. The brave act despite their fear, not because of its absence. That’s why we call them heroes. If they weren’t afraid, anyone could do it.

Courage is meant to be experienced by everyone. It is our birthright. We need it if we are to get the most from life. For example, if you are single, did you see someone you would have liked to meet, but avoided because you were too shy? If you are employed, were you afraid to ask for a raise or promotion? If your friends try to entice you to do something you disapprove of, do you have the courage to refuse? If you are unemployed and looking for work, are there positions that you are afraid to apply for? Isn’t it obvious, then, that if you had the courage to do everything you wanted to, life would be much better? Well, that’s the way it is supposed to be!

Courage is our spiritual muscle and is far easier to develop than you may imagine. Compare its development with our physical muscles. We can all improve our strength if we want to. Its simple. Regularly work out with weights or a weight machine. Start out by repeatedly lifting 10 lb. and over a year gradually increase the weight to 100 lb. or more. The result? You grow in strength! Anyone can do it!

Develop your spiritual muscle, courage, in the same way. That is, start out by doing small tasks you are afraid to do. For example, there may be unpleasant phone calls that you’ve been putting off. Perhaps you have to apologize to an angry customer, request payment from a delinquent account, or sell to a stranger. Im sure you will agree, unpleasant as these tasks may appear to be, they are far easier to do than drag someone from a burning car! These are 10 lb. tasks. Use them to develop your courage. Its okay to be afraid. You are supposed to be. How can you develop courage if you’re not scared? So, say to yourself, Im afraid, but I’m going to do it anyway, and go ahead and do it. As you repeatedly do so, the tasks will become easier and easier. Later you will be ready to move on to 20 lb. tasks, and so on.

Even after gaining courage, you may hit roadblocks. If so, analyze your fears and overcome the source of the problem. For instance, your boss tells you that he wants you to deliver your first presentation at the next sales meeting, and you are scared stiff. After thinking about it, you realize that you are afraid because you dont know what you are going to speak about. That simply means you are unprepared. Even the best speakers would be afraid if they were unprepared. So do your homework. As you develop and organize your material, your fear will decrease.

Heres another tip. Whenever you cant act because of fear, ask yourself, What is the worst that can happen; what will most likely happen; and what is the best that can happen? Suppose you’re at a dance party and would like to ask someone for a dance, but you’re afraid. So, what is the worst that can happen? The person may be rude to you. He or she may say, for example, Get away from me; you ugly pig! If so, so what? You can survive a brief verbal attack, cant you? Besides, if you think about it, such a vicious reply is funny. Later you will probably end up laughing instead of feeling sorry for yourself. So, just smile and walk away.

Most likely, however, the person you ask for a dance will be polite, making the refusal less devastating. The response may be, I’m sorry, but I’m waiting for a friend. If so, you can say Thanks anyway, and walk away. On the other hand, the best that can happen is the person you’re interested in cheerfully replies, I’d be happy to! Wow, success at last! Isn’t it worth the effort? It certainly is, so go ahead and try. In fact, the more afraid you are, the more you will relish your success. Also, the more nervous you are, the more you flatter the other person. Wouldn’t you be flattered to learn that you are so desirable that you are causing someone to shake in their boots?

Finally, remember what Miguel De Cervantes wrote: He who loses wealth loses much; he who loses a friend loses more; but he that loses his courage loses all.