To be authentic, to express and live as the person we truly are in our heart, takes courage. Courage is not a trait given to a few select or random individuals at birth while denying others. Courage is a character trait, a quality and behavioural habit that can be gained and developed equally by everyone.
While our brain prefers predictability - continually choosing familiar responses as the quickest and safest route to eliminate fear and relieve stress - courage requires we step away from our automated programmed responses.
It demands that we explore new pathways and try new things. It requires that we face our fears and whatever else is trying to keep us deadlocked in our automated "safe-mode" responses.
Fear itself, is not something to be "feared". Fear, as an emotion, is a signal that we've been given the opportunity to experience major growth. It is the catalyst that awakens and stimulates our greatest force, courage.
Winston Churchill states that: "Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all the others."
Our virtues of authenticity, humility, honour, integrity, confidence, compassion, passion and strength all take negative hits when we ignore the impulse to be courageous.
When we push back and shelve our authentic self in favour of automatic responses that provide the quickest relief to any anxiety we initially feel, we get caught in the trap of avoiding responsibility and begin opting into playing the victim role.
We no longer honour our authentic self, and the values that live in our hearts. And, sadly, playing this victim role has become an epidemic.
Courage is not for the faint of heart. In fact, there are times it can be downright hard to act in accordance with what our hearts are asking of us. But that's where its power lies.
To compound the issue, most of us have been trained to immediately focus on and get our logical minds wrapped up in all the ways that things can go wrong (we throw our attention to, and immediately don the "protective hat").
Our logic begins scanning its files for solutions to have in place "just in case". In this process of self-protection, we've forgotten there is an opposite player to the negative scenario – how things can go fabulously right.
Displaying courage means acting in accordance with one's inner value and belief system, despite the "seeming" danger and that usually means taking some form of risk.
It does not mean we are invincible, nor does it imply that everything will go exactly as we planned.
It won't automatically delete all the self-doubt that surfaces either. But what it will do is give us the gumption to "step to the plate" and cultivate our "inner force of bravery" to face and move through these self-defeating protective doubts.
Fear as a protective force, is a thief that doesn't know when to stop. It represents itself in various, sometimes very subtle, disguises, such as procrastination. When we find ourselves procrastinating about any one issue, we need to recognise that it is pointing us to the very issue that needs our attention, the one we're trying to avoid.
Courage is the opposite force. It re-energises in the face of the unknown, gets our blood pumping and sends oxygen to the brain. It's the energetic wave that permeates every cell and atom with a heightened sense and the force that opens new doors of opportunity and stimulates creativity.
To accept our present level of courage as our only option, is a cop-out and our first indication that we are living a limited, programmed life dictated by our fear files.
Courage is not staid, it is trait that can be built on, expanded and grown into a huge force for our good. Consider it a character-muscle and like other muscles, it requires use. Every time it is exercised, it grows bigger and stronger.
A courage workout, just like our gym workouts, is the key to building a healthier, stronger and more resilient mind, body and spirit – one that is aligned and expressing authentically.
Just like a sedentary lifestyle silently but slowly destroys our body's strength and physical health, a sedentary "courage muscle" will do the same to our mental and spiritual condition, eventually taking its toll in all areas of our lives.
It's time to exercise this character muscle, move past our mental roadblocks and procrastinating nature and begin tackling the many decisions we've put on the back-burner.
It's time to be authentically, uniquely who we are and answer the call of our hearts, no matter what type of logic, limitations or protection our brain tries to convince us of.
Brave souls are busy inventing their futures. They are decisive individuals that see and value the reward/risk ratio of the unconventional path. What the timid see as obstacles, they perceive as opportunity. They know they have built a strong inner courage muscle they can rely on and call upon to navigate.
We can join the ranks of these brave souls. We can focus our "mind power" and transmute distorted fear energy into a power force/fuel of courage that moves us forward into the unknown with self-assurance, confidence and tenacity – the building blocks of greatness.
Once this flame of bravery gets lit, it becomes a self-perpetuating force as each spark of courage we display contributes to the expansion and growth of this inner force/flame.
Just as a toned and strong body takes hours of dedicated practise, repetition and challenge, so too does our character muscle of courage. But the rewards are a life filled with exploration into the unknown, daring adventures, new pathways of fun and excitement, success in areas we never believed possible and ultimately happiness and contentment with life.
• Carolyn Hansen is co-owner at Anytime Fitness.