What comes to mind when you think of bravery?

We have a cultural tendency to think of bravery on a grand scale; to look at it through the lens of magnanimous acts of raw strength and fearlessness where you don’t think before you act. You just do. You react.

Think: running into a burning building or pulling someone from a crashed car. Or, the young man in Paris who tapped into his inner “spider-man” and scaled a building to rescue a toddler dangling from a balcony.

If you have ever been the hero in a similar situation or know someone who has, then you’re familiar with the spontaneity of the moment: There’s an emergency and you spring into action. Thank God for people (civilians and professionals, alike) who don’t think twice when they are needed the most and much is at risk.

But I want us to expand both the definition of and the circumstances that describe acts of bravery. Why? Because, contrary to what our culture may want us to embrace, bravery isn’t limited to dramatic gestures.

As Buzz Aldrin said, “Bravery comes along as a gradual accumulation of discipline.”

In my experience, the same is true for success. However you define it, it is a gradual accumulation of discipline, too.

Micro actions, big difference

If you’re reading this, you are probably of an age where you’ve experienced a seemingly insurmountable setback (or two). (Heck, you might even be in the thick of such a moment right now!) And if I may be a bit presumptuous, the process of getting through it to the other side feels more like a matter of survival. (I know…I can relate!)

Here’s what I find interesting: Once you’re firmly on the other side and can look back and “trace” the choices you made and actions you took, you can more clearly see your daily, non-glamorous attention grabbing steps for what they were/are: acts of bravery.

And that’s great! Because viewing bravery through this prism does a couple of things: It reminds you that:

  • Bravery is a skill that can be practiced, cultivated and strengthened;
  • The more you notice your daily acts of bravery, the more you can acknowledge and invite your inner hero or heroine to emerge; and
  • Bravery can look like so many different things.

So…what did you do today that you’d describe as brave?

Were you brave enough to…

  • Say “no,” when someone else expected you to say “yes?” Mostly because that’s what you’ve always done in the past – even when you didn’t want to.
  • Take an unpopular stance because of something in which you believe?
  • Ask for help?
  • Keep trying, even after several failures?
  • Break an unhealthy family pattern?
  • Start a conversation with a stranger?
  • Confront a bully?
  • Leave an unfulfilling relationship?
  • Start a business, especially when odds don’t seem favorable?
  • Start the process to switch companies or industries?
  • Send that email or make that phone call you’ve been avoiding?
  • Submit that proposal?
  • Go back to school?
  • Set some boundaries so you can protect your time, energy, and other resources?
  • Express your anger?
  • Try something new?
  • Give yourself credit?
  • Make a committment?
  • Really, really trust yourself?
  • Say “yes, more please?”

Sure, I could keep going because the list of ways you can be (and are) brave everyday is endless. But here’s what I’m super curious to know, and it goes back to my earlier question: What comes to mind when you think of bravery?

Was your answer more in the vain of a dramatic, grand scale moment or event? Or, does it look similar to what’s listed above – aka: micro choices and actions that eventually add up to make a big difference?!

Please don’t underestimate the power of those everyday micro choices and actions. Because making them requires a helluva a lot of and from you – especially in terms of discipline!

Just think about the self-control it takes to do things even when you don’t feel like it; to do things even when you feel fearful; to step up and forward, when you’d rather shrink back into what’s most comfortable; to remain steadfast about the outcome, even when the process is frustrating or the anticipated reward seems so far, far away.

There’s a reason some, if not all, of these examples feel familiar. It’s a juggle none of us can escape…it’s called life.

That said, what would it take to shift from not only noticing your moments of bravery in the rear-view mirror? In other words, what would it take to purposefully create more opportunities to be brave? Do you find that question as intriguing as I do?

The staying power of everyday bravery

I ask it because I’ve reached the point where I believe the more you notice when you’re “practicing” everyday bravery, the more intentional you can be about being brave. The more you can use it to take the reigns to boost your confidence and self-esteem. The more you can use it to give yourself credit for taking a chance, stepping up and standing out.

You can use bravery to discover your untapped knowledge, resources and talent.

You can use bravery to discover your untapped power.

You can use bravery to be more resilient.

You can use bravery to amplify your self-awareness and self-trust.

Maybe you can even use bravery to practice being more discerning.

Another endless list in the making…

Plus, the way I see it, bravery is always present when you raise your hand and say, in word and deed, “This is who I am and what I want to be known for.” To me, these represent answers to the question that titles this post.

What say you?

p.s. Exploring the intersection of bravery and success is the theme for June’s Comfort Circle™ dinner. I hope you’ll join us; it’s Monday, June 18 at 6:30pm in midtown Manhattan. You can learn more and RSVP here.

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