How to Build Your Courage Muscle

5 Nov

Have you ever made a commitment and then asked yourself, “Why did I say yes to this?” Fear, panic and nerves set in; you have a moment that hovers between sending that email (or picking up the phone) to cancel the commitment, and yet something holds you back. Why?! Why put yourself through the drama? Okay, alright, fine! I’ll tell you since the question is burning up your curiosity (as it must be on a Monday morning). In that moment of restraint, you are flexing your courage muscle. And in this blog post, you’re going to learn how to flex that courage muscle so in no time flat you’re lifting up elephants and punching through walls.*

We’ve been talking about victims and heroes here on Sister Leadership, and for the next while we’ll focus on Jeanne d’Arc. But how timely that as we jump into a discussion on courage, Remembrance Day approaches, and I’ve just returned from an incredible trip to Normandy. If you will allow me, I’ll dedicate this week to the theme of courage, and honouring the people who went into battle on our behalf, not far from the same areas where Jeanne herself went to war.

So what is courage? I strongly believe that courage above all is a value. It’s a core belief in the values that define us, and courage added to those values becomes game changing in our world. And on of the most significant things about courage is that in the present moment of action, it often doesn’t look like courage to the one acting – that ‘bigger picture’ can be blocked from view by the fear.

The Merrian Webster Dictionary defines courage as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” To venture, to persevere, to withstand . . .

There was a time when I was totally uncomfortable with public speaking; it was an agonizing obligation. But if I was going to share my expertise and later become a coach, avoiding public speaking just didn’t fly. So what is there to do? I was in that “Why did I say yes?” situation with the sweating before presentations and complete dread throughout the day as I pushed forward despite the anxiety (all in itself a form of courage, because I gave the presentation, but the muscle wasn’t strong at all). So who wants to feel total dread when they are doing what they love? Not me.

Instead I decided to strengthen my courage muscle. I did a HUGE “Why did I say yes?” and joined Toastmasters, and through practise and aligning my actions with what I knew was right (in this case public speaking and sharing such powerful knowledge with the world), bit by bit it became easier to speak in public. Now Toastmasters is one of my passions. Can you imagine, I went from total dread to total passion.

And you can do it to. What are you scared of? Let’s start to tackle that right now:

Sister Leadership Exercise – Strengthen Your Courage Muscle

  • In 30 seconds, make a list of four things that scare you most. Go!
  • Now you have your four things, I want you to circle one that is stopping you from living your values & beliefs to their fullest expression. Circle it now.
  • Okay, next up – On the bottom of a fresh page, write your fear, and on the top write your passion.
  • Now starting from the bottom upward make a list of actions you can take to help strengthen your courage muscle and give strength to your value and passion. Start very small, build to bigger acts.

For example:

Fear of public speaking (on bottom of the page)  Sharing powerful tools with the world (top of page)

Steps in between might be:  acknowledge the fear itself,  – practice public speaking in front of the mirror, – record myself speaking, – attend toastmaster’s open house, -attend toastmaster’s meeting, -tell people I want to be a public speaker, -volunteer to give a talk in front of my toastmaster’s team, – keep giving talks at meetings, -say ‘yes’ to giving a talk about Conflict Resolution to a group outside of my Toastmasters, etc. And practise, practise, practise.

Do your best with this exercise, and remember we’re here to support you if you find this difficult or want some guidance.

Now I can’t imagine that the young men who ran into battle for their country had all kinds of time to build up their courage muscles . . . I can’t imagine they felt full of courage at all as they looked at the choppy water and up at the cliffs exploding with gun fire. But nevertheless their values brought them to that moment, and while so many died – their impact of their effort has nevertheless persevered in our world.

This week we’ll take a closer look at our Canadian Heroes. But for today let’s be content with strengthening our courage muscles. These are the core values that need to strengthening, so that when the larger challenges call upon us we’re ready to charge forward.

If you try the exercise, we’d love it if you left a comment or somehow shared your experience. Sharing is a good thing! And if it makes you nervous, then maybe that’s a place to start working.

Also, if you enjoyed this post, please share it on your social network. There are sharing buttons at the bottom of our post to make it easy-breezy for you to add it to your facebook page or link it through twitter, etc. Thank you so much.

Till next time,


Camille Boivin is founder of Sister Leadership, bringing her knowledge of resilience, perseverance, and changing perception to others. Camille is currently accepting applications for the Women’s Executive Network  Senior Executives Wisdom Peer Mentoring program. Applications to this exciting and knowledge-sharing program are available here.

Read more from Camille as she aspires to  help women explode their success. For more posts and experiences, join Camille at her Sister Leadership page, connect on Twitter, and follow on Facebook.

*figuratively speaking, but you know – this is powerful stuff!

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