How to Find the Courage You Need

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Life can really beat you up, I’ve noticed. When you’re beaten up, on the ground, how can you find the courage to get up and fight again? It’s easier said than done when it seems like all of your efforts are met with shapeless hostility from the world.

Courage Matters, and You Must Believe It Does

When enough things go wrong in a row, it’s tempting to throw your hands up and stop trying. After all, nothing you do has seemed to help thus far, so why would it suddenly start working? Because that’s how life works!

There are two types of failure. One type of failure is permanent. No matter how many times you try to operate an electronic device without a power source, you will fail every time. The other type, the one we face most often in life, is chance-based. For example, a qualified candidate can be turned down for a job. A talented writer can write a great book that doesn’t sell. An excellent parent can raise a dysfunctional child. A healthy person can face health problems at any time.

We need to find the courage to keep trying because it takes a lot of attempts to get one victory in this unforgiving world. It is worth the effort! If you can believe that your effort and courage to move forward matter, they will. And there’s another thing that will help guide you…

Courage Is the Only Way

When Ernest Shackleton’s crew on the ship Endurance became trapped in pack ice on an expedition in 1915, they were hundreds of miles away from civilization. It was a veritable death sentence given the circumstances. But incredibly, all 28 men survived after a grueling year fighting against the elements.

After floating aimlessly in the pack ice, Ernest Shackleton ordered the crew to abandon ship on October 27, 1915. It was a concession of defeat of their original expedition intent, but also a new beginning of courage.

“There was even a trace of mild exhilaration in their attitude. At least, they had a clear-cut task ahead of them. The nine months of indecision, of speculation about what might happen, of aimless drifting with the pack were over. Now they simply had to get themselves out, however appallingly difficult that might be.”

~ Alfred Lansing (Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, p. 80)

You will naturally find the courage to move forward when there is no alternative. Courage is often the only way forward. So you must simply choose to move forward instead of giving up or moving backwards.

Before they abandoned ship, the crew of the Endurance were in limbo. Could they escape the pack ice and sail their way to safety? Would they be trapped in the ice until they died? Would they abandon ship? They welcomed the most dire outcome because it gave them clarity and courage.

If you are in a difficult place, do whatever you can to gain clarity about your situation. Without clarity about what to do next, you will struggle to find the courage to move forward simply because you won’t know what that looks like. The Endurance crew gained clarity and courage when they accepted how dire their situation was and abandoned ship.

Some people think that denial is courage. If you deny the harshness of your reality, however, you won’t find the courage to face it and make progress. Take an honest inventory of your situation. The worst of it will create the best opportunities to show your true strength in adversity.

Humans are Tough

Humans are tough and resilient by nature. But you won’t find out just how courageous you are until you’re in a position in which you have to be. Thus, you may wonder if you are courageous. You may fear that you will crumble under the pressure. But I know you won’t.

Courage is a choice, above all, to move forward. Think of the men of the Endurance. How incredible that all 28 of them were courageous! What are the odds of that? Well, it speaks to the innate courage of humans. They had no choice but to be courageous and move forward, as will you when the time comes, whether that is now or later.

This is not to say that cowardice is impossible or that all people are equally courageous. It’s more the fact that all humans have the innate ability to be courageous. To find the courage is to understand what it means. Courageous people move forward in the midst of storms. Courageous people continue to try even when the whole world is against them. It’s that simple.

Take a step forward today, even if you’re afraid. Don’t give up. You’re closer than you think.

“The rapidity with which one can completely change one’s ideas . . . and accommodate ourselves to a state of barbarism is wonderful.”

~ Frank Worsley, Captain of the Endurance (Diary)

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