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Description: Recognizing and overcoming the emotional fears that restrain your decisive or creative actions.

The root of the word courage is ‘cor’—the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage had a very different definition than it does today. Courage originally meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, this definition has changed, and, today, courage is more synonymous with being heroic. Heroics are important and we certainly need heroes, but I think we’ve lost touch with the idea that speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we’re feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) is the definition of courage. Heroics are often about putting our life on the line. Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line. In today’s world, that’s pretty extraordinary.
— Brene Brown

Thinking Partner Notes

What’s the fiction: You’re either born courageous or not. 

What's really true: Courage is a capability that you strengthen in increments through embracing adversity. 


Example: Stephanie, like many people was terrified to do a presentation to the SR. Management team. She had over prepared and knew the content thoroughly, but every time she actually thought about presenting, she became noxious and went down the mental rabbit hole of imagining all the ways she would fail; ways the Sr team would challenge her and how she’d be put on the spot and look incompetent. During her Thinking Partnership call we focused on past experiences when she had felt courageous. As she described each scenario, we collected the essential elements that bolstered her courage. The checklist  included things like seeing the presentation room in advance, making sure she made eye contact as she began with at least friendly face to relax her, wearing her power heels ( most of them were at least a foot taller than her) All important, but what we worked on the gave her the most courage to walk in the room was to practice strategies for what to do if she lost courage while she was presenting. She had spent so much time preparing for how to make her presentation look/sound great, but not how to make it through adverse moments: what to say if a manager asked her a question she didn't know the answer to, what to do if someone came across in an argumentative way, of she had a technical malfunction. By practicing the things that she was actually afraid of, she cultivated the needed skill of how to harness courage in the moment and confidently handle a variety of challenges as they arose.


Things to try: 1) Practice thinking about scenarios that frighten you; 2) Practice imagining how you want to respond these scenario; 3) Practice exposing yourself to these scenarios. 

Next steps: 1) Consider once-important goals that you’ve reprioritized downwards, beneath more “sensible” goals; 2) Of these goals, consider which ones fell by the wayside due to practicality and which were forgotten due to your fears; 3) Pick one of the discarded goals and spend a few minutes thinking about how you could break down this big goal into smaller milestones; 4) List each milestone beginning with the one that would require the least amount of courage; 5) Imagine how you want to respond to the feelings of apprehension triggered in each milestone -  a response that summons all of your calm and courage; 6) Write about your courageous responses, focusing on the beneficial outcome of this brave act.

Additional Resources



Cultivating Courage

What good looks like when you're gathering courage and how you can master this capability.



Cultivating Courage Media

Dive deep on courage through articles, podcasts + more.