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Lessons from the Cowardly Lion


There is some evidence that I am courageous. The first piece of evidence is that my Strengths Profile tells me that Courage is a Realised Strength (I'm good at it and it energises me). The second piece of evidence is some 360 feedback I received from friends, colleagues and family a while back. It appears that most people that know me well, see me as "brave".

But am I really courageous? And are you courageous? And does it matter? I'd like to know.

To answer that, we probably need to examine a bit further what we mean by Courage.

What is courage?

The Strengths Profile definition of Courage is: "you overcome your fears and do what you want to do in spite of them". Generally speaking, people with a Realised Strength in Courage get excited by participating in activities that make them feel nervous and scared. They "feel the fear and do it anyway" (thanks Susan Jeffers who wrote the book which I talk about in a previous blog).

I identify with this definition. Courageous, to me, feels like a "close my eyes and jump" sensation; it's a bit thrilling. It is the feeling that I had when I first ditched my arm bands and swam down the centre of the swimming pool, when I played the lead role in the school musical, when I did a bungee jump (literally terrifying and exhilarating in equal measure!), when I decided to retrain as a coach and start my own business.

However, these are all very shiny and thrilling moments. I think that there's another kind of Courage which is quieter and gentler and, for this, I turn to Brené Brown's heavily researched definition of Courage. She points out that courage is a heart word. The root of the word is 'cor', the Latin word for heart. In one of its earlier forms, the word literally meant 'to speak one's mind by telling all one's heart'." This, according to Brené, is ordinary courage.

Hmm. This sounds a lot harder to me.

Am I courageous?

From a Strengths Profile / Susan Jeffers point of view, then yes, I can see that in myself. I value it because it helps me to move past barriers and around obstacles. I always have to make sure that I don't overplay it as that can look like taking unnecessary risks and thrill seeking!

From a "speaking my mind" perspective, then I'm much more of a work in progress. And I'm happy with that. I recognise my shortcomings about expressing my emotions and I've been doing some coaching work (on the receiving end) this year to improve in this area.

Are you courageous?

Where does Courage sit in your Strengths Profile? Even if your Strengths Profile has Courage as a de-energiser (Learned Behaviour / Weakness), do not feel disheartened. This does not mean that you can't do courageous things. It just means that you don't get energy from doing them. HOWEVER, you can do courageous things by using a blend of your energising strengths to make them happen.

And, do you speak your mind by telling all your heart? If the answer is no, as I suspect it is, then you're in good company.

Does it matter?

If an absence of courage is holding you back from achieving your goals, then you should really think about doing some work on it.

  • Where is your courage currently on a scale of 1 - 10?
  • Where would you like it to be?
  • What would one step better look like?
  • What can you do to get there?

However, I'd also like you to think about how you perceive your own "courage". In the book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Cowardly Lion appears outwardly fearful and accompanies Dorothy on her journey because he wants the Wizard to give him the gift of courage. However, during the journey, the Cowardly Lion carries out many brave deeds and is by far the most courageous character (just as the Scarecrow is the smartest and the Tin Man the kindest).

We don't always acknowledge courage in ourselves, perhaps because it's an innate strength or we diminish it, or we don't think others would perceive it as courageous.

So, a final question to ask yourself: What is the most courageous thing I have done this month?

This could range from having a difficult conversation with a friend, making a small step towards creating your ideal career, doing a bungee jump or swimming without arm bands. It's all relative but I'd like you to acknowledge your courage. Well done you!

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