A call for courage

Practicing courage, which I define as working with the tough stuff of life, rather than hoping to tap dance around it, create the resilience needed to confront pessimism and cynicism. We often think of courage as the stuff of heroes who have something bigger and braver than the rest of us–the Gandhi’s and Mother Teresa’s of the world–without seeing that this mindset only expands the problem.
Cultivating a practice of daily courage is what builds resilience in the face of pessimism, and the courageous people that we’re waiting for are ordinary, everyday heroes–namely each other. We’re interdependent. We need each other, because it’s through working together and practicing courage that we’ll find the solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.
Pessimism is another form of fear, and it’s vulnerable to feel our fear.  But getting honest about our experience of pessimism and fear is what paves the way to practicing regular, ordinary courage in our daily lives. Here are three ways to get started:
1. Be honest about pessimistic thoughts, so as to see them clearly.
We often judge ourselves when we cop to the pessimism, so we either try not to think such thoughts, or we force positive affirmations that feel inauthentic. This can be a major energy drain. Instead, get honest: “What exactly am I feeling pessimistic about? What’s the chronic thought? What fear underlies this thought?”
2. Practice the courage to be vulnerable.
It’s hard to watch people suffer, even when they’re far away on the news. Rather than shutting down our hearts, the courageous act is to fully see the truth of their experience. When you’re willing to practice this kind of courage, you discover an astonishing thing: instead of the pain shutting you down, if you work with it, it actually opens you up. The kindness and compassion the world needs stems from honestly looking at the truth of another’s experience.  
3. Confront the pessimism as an illusion.
Even in the face of an overwhelming challenge, such as a health crisis or environmental disaster, it’s an illusion that your small part doesn’t make a difference. Maybe it’s true that you can’t fix your friend’s cancer or stop hunger, but it’s absolutely true that getting bogged down in impossibility puts you in a space of being unable to come up with new, creative solutions.
This is an excerpt of a longer article that will appear in the May/ June issue of The Intelligent Optimist. Become a member or download a free issue.
Kate Swoboda is a life coach and author of the Courageous Living Program. She writes weekly at YourCourageousLife.com.
Follow Kate on Twitter @katecourageous or check out her Facebook

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