There is a commercial on United States television for Nestles’ Coffee-Mate which features a woman who is concerned about how she looks for her first day back to work. Her husband tells her she looks really nice. She says she wants to look better than nice so she removes her wig to reveal a bald head. Her husband then tells her she looks stunning. A tagline for the commercial says, “Today is a good day to stir up courage.” The implication in the tagline and with the woman is that she is returning to work after having undergone treatments for cancer.
This commercial touched my mind and my heart. I thought about the change the cancer diagnosis introduced to this woman’s life. I thought about what it takes to keep moving forward when unexpected change enters our lives. And, I thought about what courage it takes to face change head on and positively deal with all the unknowns. There is a lesson here for any of us who deal with major or seismic change (and most certainly, a cancer diagnosis brings a seismic change to one’s life).
So, what is courage and why is it an important quality to have when dealing with change? Courage is the mental or moral strength to face fear or danger or to persevere in the wake of adversity (and some may substitute change with adversity) with confidence and resolution. And, when one is courageous, they are brave; they are not deterred by danger or pain. Since change usually rocks our world in some way (even change we choose), courage (having the strength to face fears or to persevere in the wake of adversity) may be just what it takes for us to face the new environment and to put things back in order after our world is rocked.
Courage – where does it come from? As the characters on the journey in the Wizard of Oz learned, they always had within them what they were searching for. The Cowardly Lion was in search of courage. Instead of an external search, the Cowardly Lion just had to unlock it within himself. It is the same with us. If we are anticipating a change and feel we need courage for it or when change blindsides us and we need courage to face the changed environment, we should look inward to discover our reserve of fortitude.
We can “stir up” our courage by:
Acknowledging the fear we feel, but moving forward and doing what needs to be done to deal with the change. We can’t let the fear paralyze us. Confront it. Work through it.
Moving past worry. Someone said, “Worry is a total waste of time. It doesn’t change anything. All is does is steal your joy and keeps you very busy doing nothing.” Worrying robs us of energy; of strength. In effect, worrying strips us of our courage or keeps us from being able to bring it to the surface. The rule of thumb is: If the situation/issue can be solved, no need to worry about it. If the situation/issue cannot be solved, what is the use of worrying?
Letting go of the familiar. French writer and 1947 Nobel Prize winner for literature, Andre Gide, tells us “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” It is only when we move out of our comfort zone that we learn exactly what we are capable of doing. Outside our comfort zone is where true learning occurs. So, if we let go of what is we may be able to discover what can be; we might just uncover the depth and degree of our courage.
Believing in ourselves. We can do this. We can get through this. We just need to trust in ourselves.
Persevering. Keep trying. Don’t give in or give up. Maintain hope.
Viewing the situation as an opportunity. There is a lesson in everything that comes our way. Don’t be overwhelmed by the situation. What is the situation/issue “telling” us? What can we learn from what is happening?
Reflecting on past successes. We were able to handle some things in the past. Think about those times and recall what was done to deal with those issues/situations. We can deal with whatever we are now facing.
Reinforcing ourselves for our successes. Each time we face a fear or deal with something difficult (especially something we’ve been avoiding), we need to give ourselves a pat on the back (or treat ourselves to something meaningful – me time, a good book, chocolate – whatever makes us feel good).
Talking to someone. We need to use the “touchstones” in our lives, our friends and our family to discuss what is happening, what concerns us, of what we are afraid. Talking things through will help us discover the strength needed to deal with whatever we are facing.
When change of any kind enters our lives, we may need to ‘stir up some courage’ in order to effectively deal with the change. We all have a reserve of courage within us. So, when things get tough, we all need to draw upon that reserve to help us deal with and overcome any challenges that we may face. As Mark Twain, the American writer and humorist, tells us, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”