I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
Courage is a large and powerful word. It is defined as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”
Courage is a major trait that people need to use in order to make changes in their lives. In my office, people need a great deal of courage in order to improve the quality of their lives. In fact, the entire journey is filled with many courageous steps. Let’s examine the process.
Almost all prospective clients start their counseling process by either calling or emailing. They inevitably state three words that are hard to say “I need help.” They schedule an appointment. They need to show up for the appointment that they scheduled. (You may or may not be surprised, that there is a percentage of people who cancel that appointment and do not reschedule.)
During that first appointment the person now says out loud and face to face, what their particular struggle/ problem/difficulty/ is that they are facing. The person describes it in full detail, the duration, the intensity, the consequences and implications of this issue. On one hand, this is overwhelming disclosure; on the other hand there is relief. Someone now knows.
To illustrate how much courage is required, here is a small sample of some of the issues that came up in my office this past week:
- A person who wants to stop drinking.
- A person who wants to get out of a marriage.
- A person who is dealing with an abusive ex-spouse.
- A person who is dealing with family issues and lots of family dysfunction.
- A person who is going to their first 12 step meeting.
- A person who shares about a traumatic event. I am the first person to hear the details.
Yes I get to meet with some very courageous people!
The question that comes to mind is how do people find the courage and perseverance to make these changes? Some people would say that they are just motivated to improve. And while that is obvious, the bigger question would be how did they get so motivated to improve?
Tony Robbins states “Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.” Courage to change would then occur when there is no way out; I will have to do something better than what I am currently doing. Although immensely scary, the path of change has to be better than the path that I’m on. If I keep walking on the path of change, I will recognize that the pain gets smaller, the intensity and duration are less. Does this happen instantly? Of course not! Nothing worthwhile is ever fast and quick—fast food may satisfy your immediate hunger, but won’t help you in the long run. Your commitment to change will require a constant re-evaluation of your courage.
Two other components of courage, are a dedication to change and a hopeful belief system. At times during therapy, there were opportunities where it would be easy for my clients to stop coming due to the myriad of life stressors (kids, jobs, cars etc), but they kept coming. When they were asked how they managed to keep coming in spite of their pain or fear or discomfort, they expressed the hope that they could and would be better. This belief about their futuristic change combined with their dedication led them to quality of life changes.
It seems to me that when you find your courage to change and believe that your changes are indeed possible, you change. Find your courage today in order to make the changes that you need to make!
Change is possible.