Overcoming the Cowardly Lion Within

Let’s admit it: there is a little bit of The Wizard of Oz’s Cowardly Lion in all of us. Whenever there is something that we are scared to do, the easiest thing to do is run. However, as the Cowardly Lion discovered, that is neither the best nor the healthiest way to cowardly lion live life. But other than going off to see the Wizard (which really wasn’t even necessary), how do we find the courage to do what must be done? Alfred Adler once said, “We must understand that courage is a social function, because only the person who considers himself [or herself] as part of the whole can have courage.” Keeping that in mind, below are seven ways to help develop your sense of courage.

1. Commit to something larger than yourself

Courage requires doing things for the social good, so educate yourself on the various problems we currently face. Find out what groups are tackling these problems and work with them. Being with other people who feel the same way you do will be helpful as well.

2. Develop firm personal convictions of right and wrong

Courageous people have solid principles that they live by, so figure out where you stand on moral and ethical issues. If you are uncertain, read books on moral and ethical decision-making. Talk to your spiritual or religious adviser. Start living by those convictions.

3. Take risks

Demonstrating courage means doing things that have no guaranteed outcome, so practice doing things that scare you. This does not mean taking stupid, unnecessary risks (like risking your personal safety for a dare) but instead confronting your own fears. Tell yourself that you can do this, take a deep, calming breath and then begin.

4. Be compassionate

Courage means doing things for the greater good, so put yourself in the place of others on a regular basis. You can practice this by asking yourself what various characters in the book you are reading or show you are watching are feeling. Hold conversations about different points of view with your family. Take turns being in different roles. It will be good for everyone!

5. Think outside the box

Courageous people have vision, so work on seeing, feeling or realizing that different things can be done. Practice your brainstorming skills. Whenever a problem arises, list as many solutions as possible without any limitations. Then try to figure out what will work.

6. Practice determination

Courage requires purpose, so make plans and stick to them. Motivate yourself to follow through with things. I find that breaking plans down into their smaller parts is helpful because it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. You can motivate yourself by giving small rewards along the way.

7. Be persistant

Courageous people do not give up, so work on achieving goals despite obstacles. If anything, obstacles can harden people’s resolve as they determine that nothing will stand in their way.

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