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3 Surprising Ways to Be Courageous

October 4, 2018

“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”

-Walt Disney

Bravery is often defined as having courageous behavior or character.  When you think about courage, you might envision a traditional hero. He slays the dragon; he gets the girl. But whether you’re starting your own business, making a big career move, or even making changes in your personal life, being courageous might look a little different than a hero’s quest. Instead, being courageous might actually come down to the way you think before it affects the way you act. Here are three sometimes-overlooked ways you can be courageous sans the sword and shield.

1.     Think Differently

Sometimes the mere act of raising your hand and being the dissenter is all it takes to earn your stripes and be courageous. People don’t like changing the way they think, especially if they’ve been stuck in their ways for a long period of time. Having the courage to come up with new solutions or create a new way of thinking is scary for some, but it has an enormous impact on direction and action.

It doesn’t even have to be a mind-blowing change, either. It’s about having the courage to question the way you’ve always done things and brainstorm ways to be more effective.

2.     Define Your BHAG

Written about by Jerry Porras and James Collins in their 1994 book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, your BHAG—Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal—isn’t just a five-year plan. Instead, it’s a goal that is so big that it actually scares you. Defining your BHAG might be something strategic, like increasing revenue 10 percent over the next year. But more often your BHAG should be something big picture, like growing your company over the next five years. You can definitely have more than one BHAG; you might have a few smaller ones and then one overarching BHAG for your entire company.

Defining a BHAG can be scary because there are so many unknowns. The market might change. You might get more competition. You might get an offer you can’t refuse. But to simply define your main goals is a courageous act in and of itself. You’re committing to something big and you’re willing to put in the work to achieve those BHAGs.

People are always saying things like “be realistic!” when in fact, realism can be a tool of the meek and reactive. It’s easy to see everything at face value and react accordingly, but dreaming big takes real courage.

Believe me: it took real courage to start a business in 2017, but the amazing thing about dreams is that you can put the pieces in place to achieve them. Instead of just wishing for my own business, I’m rallying the right people, thinking strategically about growth, and banishing the negative self-talk that can sometimes creep in when you’re trying to be courageous. It’s one thing to dream big, but you need to put real action behind those lofty goals to see a difference.

So, while you might not be slaying dragons or jumping off of cliffs, your brand of courage could be just as enviable. By thinking about the big picture and pushing yourself to the edge of what’s possible, you won’t need a medal to prove your mettle—just real results.

Kerry Preston is a Co-Author of ENHANCING YOUR EXECUTIVE EDGE: How to Develop the Skills to Lead and Succeed (McGraw Hill, June 2014), The book explains that your executive presence – the executive edge – is what puts the promotion within reach. And the good news is, it can be learned!