Getting courage into every day

Recently I have written  on why we need to choose to practice courage and how we can face our fears. I spent the last months figuring out how I can remind myself to make this choice and how to actually be more courageous everyday.

Implementation intentions

Whenever we want to integrate a useful idea into our lives, we need to become really specific how we want to live that out. Otherwise it will just be lost in the ether of good intentions. Good intentions are not a good place to stop. Implementation intentions are a much better. So how does this work?

Breaking it down

I figured out that being courageous means 5 things to me (I suppose I found this list somewhere in Brené Browns work, however, I did not write down where exactly I stumbled upon it.)

  1. Ask for what you want.
  2. Speak your truth.
  3. Own your story.
  4. Set boundaries. – What’s ok and what’s not ok.
  5. Reach out for support.

This is a much more concrete intention of implementing. Each principle starts with an action verb. However I found that this way I still got lost, it is not specific enough.

When-Then lists

Then I discovered When/Then-lists in the “Heavy Mental” coaching program. This means that you identify a specific observable trigger (when) and then define a specific action.

Maybe you have had the situation where you had a burning question inside you, but you did not ask it. This is a major opportunity to practice courage.

The trigger (“when”) trigger is having a question inside me. My preferred response (“then”) is to ask the question. So this is what it looks like in my list:

  1. Ask for what you want.
  • When I have a question inside me, then I will ask it.

I identify three specific situations for each item on my list. For example:

  1. Speak your truth.
  • When I want to speak, then I will speak my truth.
  • When I doubt something, then I will question it.
  • When I want to share something, then I will share it.

This is pretty vulnerable stuff, it means showing myself as I am and not hiding behind anything. It requires practice to integrate it into my life.

Physical reminders

Practicing something difficult and new can easily drift out of our awareness, if we are not intentional in setting up effective reminders.

1. Spreading cues

We can set our environment up to support living out what is important to us. I leave quotes reminding me of courage around on the mirror and at places in my flat that I frequently look at. I have a playlist of songs that are about living brave. As we encounter these reminders by chance, it helps to hold on to our pursuit.

2. Reading my When/Then-list every morning

I read my When-Then list every morning as part of my morning routine. This helps me to remind myself, how I specifically want to put this into practice today.

3. Tracking successes

What gets measured gets managed.

  • Peter Drucker

I also found it helpful to measure new habits until they are an automatic part of my life. I have tried different things.

There are habit tracking apps like Habit Bull. If you prefer an offline solution, you can also just create a simple tracking sheet or make a mark on your offline calendar. Simple works. The point about tracking is, that it needs to be so simple that you can will stick to it.

My most recent tracking solution

Currently I am testing a different tracking mechanism. Courage will always be something that I have to make a conscious choice for. So I thought it might be helpful to track it on multiple occasions throughout the day. I did not want to use an app, since I want to use my phone less.

Finally I have found a solution that I really like. This counter was made for counting golf shots:

I put it on my key. Whenever I apply one item of my When-Then list, I will move one of those little balls. It is really simple to do and doing this physically adds a little extra awareness and celebration to that moment of being courageous. I am convinced that those little moments count in shaping our character.

All in all I have ten balls. After ten moments of being courageous, I quit counting for the day. Each morning I put all the balls down and start new.

Because no matter how courageous I was yesterday: Courage cannot be bottled up for later, it needs to be practiced everyday anew.

What does it mean for you to be courageous? What is one specific situation where you can be courageous? What is your trigger (“when”) and what your preferred response (“then”)? You can let me know in the comments below.

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