The Month of Courage

We are just finishing the second month of the Year of 12 Virtues experiment. This has been the month of courage, and the volunteers chose their own goals to help them practice this virtue. They have some great stories to share- these are some of my favorites:

I planned an intimidating lesson for my high schoolers and had the courage to present it. I dressed up as a Puritan judge (wig, robe, and hat), and I forced them to reenact a witch trial. It was intimidating to stand up in from of 115 seventeen year olds and willingly make a fool out of myself–and I felt a little sick about it the day before–but it ended up going great. The students loved it, and they really lost their own inhibitions because I was willing to lose mine. I’m sure some of them thought it was stupid, but I’d say the majority were much more engaged than they would have been if we had simply READ about the trial. And they will probably never forget it!

A small goal, for sure, but a worthwhile one just the same…it’s so easy as a teacher to get “stale” and stop having fun with your students. To be honest, I felt too tired to plan and execute such a lesson, but I am glad I did!

That is awesome Rachel! Your students are lucky to have such a great teacher.

Here was a comment from Tiffany who made a goal to share her beliefs with 20 other people:

#1. I took my sister to church for the first time in about 7 years. This took a lot of courage on my part, because it’s been so long. During the meeting, I stood up and bore my testimony to her. This in turn inspired a number of old friends of hers to do the same thing. She sang the hymns with me and then I was blown away when she offered to stay for the full 3 hours. We stayed, and it turned out to be one of the most spiritual meetings I have been to in a long time. She even told me after that she would like to go again. It was such a great experience.

#2. My dad is in jail. I haven’t seen him or spoke to him since I was fifteen years old. I wrote him a letter explaining what I believe, and I sent him a copy of the “Book of Mormon” and a book entitled “Our Search for Happiness.” I am also sending him some pictures of his grand-daughter Maddie, who he has never met. This scares me to death because its been so long, and I have hardly shared anything with him. Now, to share this will be interesting to say the least. I hope it brings him happiness.

Good for you Tiffany, often in life the hardest things we do are the most important.

Susan, who is the President of a not-for-profit had this to say-

I have spent this past month trying to get sponsors for the preparedness expo our community is putting on at a local mall. Boy it is hard to get out of the house and go ask people to do things. This is the kind of thing I like to put off. It was easier if I just scheduled a day and didn’t come back until I had made the rounds. What I learned from this experience was that I needed to keep my courage up. I just couldn’t give in to the feelings of failure. I kept saying to myself “failure is not an option” and “just do it.” It often took two times speaking with each business or organization before they took me seriously. You should know that I am not in sales and do not make a living doing this kind of thing, but it gave me a lot of confidence to figure out how to make it work. Thanks for the challenge. It helped that I had to get back to you with some kind of success.

The common theme running through all of these experiences is that when people strive to have courage, they are able to accomplish things that are incredibly meaningful to them. Hopefully their stories have inspired you to make a goal of your own for the Month of Courage.  This Thursday we will talk about the virtue for the next month, kindness.

The Month of Courage: Overcoming the Fear Factor

“There is an infinite quantity of confidence available in the universe- feel free to take all you like.” -unknown

What is the one thing that terrifies you more than anything else in the world? What great things could you accomplish if fear was not holding you back? Why are you afraid?

Fear. Just hearing the word causes a visceral reaction. What are we so afraid of?

This past month has been the month of integrity, and I am confident in saying that the Month of Courage will be much more challenging. It is not easy to develop integrity, but at least we understand it. We know what it means to be honest, for the most part, though living honestly is a challenge. Courage is different. Both courage and fear are such abstract concepts that they can be hard to wrap our minds around.

For us to understand, and properly implement the month of courage we must eliminate the fear factor. The more you try something that terrifies you, the greater your capacity to beat with that fear. Here are a few pointers to help you overcome your fear, and set good goals for the month of Courage.

1. Sometimes it helps to scream. I used to love jumping off of cliffs in Lake Powell, Utah. When the cliffs were higher than 30 feet, it was impossible to convince myself logically to jump. But, if I screamed some goofy quote like, “the only thing to fear is fear itself” or “give me liberty or give me death” as I jumped, it would help me override my natural instincts. Our natural instincts are very powerful, but they are extremely outdated.

Think about the lest few thousand years of human existence. They have been filled with famine, war, and numerous other terrible threats to our lives. The vast majority of these threats have completely vanished. When you stand up to give a speech in front of a hundred people there is zero chance you are going to be mauled by a tiger, or harpooned by a rival hunting gang (although I don’t know the actual statistics on that), yet your mind doesn’t get that- it still sends you this fight or flight response. You need to scream (even if it is silently to yourself), and use that adrenaline to give you strength to override your fear.

2. Abandon irrational fears. As a society we have been programmed to fear all strangers. This becomes a huge liability for us. Say I am taking an elevator up to the 8th floor of my building, and there is a man in a suit standing next to me silently- why on earth should I be scared of this person? It makes no sense. I should not be afraid to strike up a conversation. So I speak to him. The same holds true with talking to strangers in almost any context, what is the worst that could happen? If you try and start a conversation with a stranger, or even someone you are hoping to meet, and it doesn’t go anywhere, what have you lost? What did it cost you? This is the month of courage, so stop fearing strangers.

3. If we are prepared, we will not fear. Have you ever done a group project where one member of the group does not want to practice the presentation out loud? They make an excuse like, “I will be ready, I just don’t like to practice in front of people.” If they are too afraid to practice in front of their own group, how will they possibly be ready for the real thing? Practice out loud over and over again if you are making a presentation, sales pitch, or important call. Before I give a talk I practice out loud as many times as possible within 24 hours of the presentation. There is nothing that helps overcome our fear of speaking more than being prepared.

Hopefully this provides everybody with some good ideas for their April goals. Good luck, and I hope the Month of Courage can be a meaningful one!