Finding your inner courage 


Last month, we wrote some tips on making plans for the year ahead, but if you’re like many people, you might not necessarily feel raring to go in January. There are a number of reasons why we might be feeling shaky at this time of the year, such as the feeling of festive cheer being replaced by a time of year traditionally associated with weight loss and giving up drinking, or our friends being less likely to want to socialise because they’re burnt out or spent too much money over the holiday season. If you work in an industry that pays workers earlier in December, you might already be feeling like January’s paycheck is so far away. And then there’s the fact that it’s still horribly cold in many parts of the world right now. 


January is a time of year that tends to bring reflection in both the good sense and in the bad sense, and for many of us it tends to invite introspection over choices we’ve made in our lives, and where we are presently. And even if you’re not concerned by your own situation, it’s hard to ignore the difficult state of the economy in many places, ongoing high inflation, high-profile lay-offs, controversial return-to-office mandates, extreme climate events and other turbulent developments throughout the world. Even if your focus is outwards rather than inwards, it’s hard to look at the world in early 2024 and be filled with optimism. But that’s where this month’s ‘Mindfulness and wellbeing’ article comes in. 


In this January installment, we’ll be thinking a bit about how we can find inner courage in times of uncertainty, and continue to face up to challenging situations. If you have other advice, we’d be more than happy to hear it in the comments, so please feel free to share your thoughts with us.


Courage shows itself in different ways, for different people


It’s common to think that courage means actively seeking out challenging situations, but there are a lot of different ways to live courageously. Of course, being brave in the face of danger or helping to protect other people are laudable examples of courage. But there’s also a quieter type of courage that comes with facing up to difficult situations or withstanding challenges for protracted periods of time, and that in itself is admirable. 


Likewise, we all have different things that we’re afraid of, and different areas of greater confidence. The same person that confidently travels the world on their own might be afraid of having to make small talk at a dinner party. Lots of performers are, paradoxically, very shy people when not on stage. Sometimes it’s the relatively banal aspects of life that actually require the greatest courage, such as getting to grips with tax affairs. Other activities, such as driving, tend to trouble some people but barely ruffle the feathers of others. 


It’s great to be inspired by other people’s courageous behaviour, but your version of facing up to fear might be different from someone else’s, even though both of you are courageous. We all feel brave in the face of different things.  


We can’t be equally courageous all the time 


In the same way that treating every day as a gift can be exhausting as well as inspiring, try to remember that in the real world it’s not necessarily practicable or desirable to be constantly rising to face difficult situations. We all might have times where either we have to compromise, or we don’t handle a situation with the bravery we wanted to. Sometimes the best we can do is see an experience as a learning opportunity and resolve to handle things differently the next time. As the old cliché goes, nothing in nature blooms all year round, so if you’re feeling unsure of yourself now, believe that the feeling will pass and you’ll recover your courage later. Try also to seek inspiration from courageous people that you know, or read some of the many online posts that have been written about everyday courage.


Remember that courage is always with you 


When we look back over our life, sometimes the times we are most courageous is when we have no other choice but to be. In situations of extreme adversity, we often realise that we have more reserves to draw on when we think. And even if we falter, the fact that each of us has come through every other challenge until the present is a testimony to our ability to somehow muddle along. Even withstanding some of the worst events in life is courageous, like surviving extreme money difficulties, or living with illness, and while we can’t change the situations we face, we often unknowingly show great courage in facing them. Even if you feel you’re not actually doing anything, surviving in itself is an act of courage. You’ve survived many other situations, so you’re stronger than you think you are. 


Celebrate small acts of courage


If you’re feeling unsure of yourself or you’re doubting in your ability to tackle the big challenges, think of the many ways you’ve shown courage in the face of smaller, more everyday challenges. If we move away from the idea that ‘courage’ means running into a burning building or successfully talking down hostage-takers, it’s easy to see that many everyday challenges involve having to sum up some level of courage. In its own way, getting out of bed on a freezing cold winter day with no heating on is courageous. Going into work and doing a job that you don’t particularly like is courageous. Making an appearance at social events where you are expected but you feel uncomfortable is also courageous. 


Focus on what’s practical 


Remember that sometimes worrying about something, particularly over a prolonged period of time, can sometimes be more stressful than actually taking action, and while it’s important to think over life choices carefully, if you have the sense that something needs to change then it’s worth starting with something small and seeing where that takes you. If you’re unhappy at work and you want to look for another job, you could try updating your CV and LinkedIn profile, even if you decide that you won’t start job-hunting immediately. If you’re worried about filling in a tax return or writing an essay, even just opening a new spreadsheet or document and giving it a title is a first step on the road to getting your task accomplished. 


Lastly, enjoy small moments in life and try not to feel overwhelmed by its challenges. And if you have any more tips on finding courage, we’d love to hear them. 


Courage, força, ganbare, and until the next time!


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