Six types of courage to cultivate in tough times

Updated: Oct 4, 2021

For those of us in lockdown areas, it feels like there is an end in sight, albeit still a bit of a way off, and remembering there's many a slip between the cup and the lip as the old saying goes!

It's good to have hope and something to look forward to which is something we all need in our lives - what are you looking forward to, whether in lockdown or not?

One thing I'm looking forward to is the publication of my first book Cultivate, which is for rural leaders. It's about the urgent need to bring a human-first approach to our workplaces, industries and communities. The old ways of high performance (leading to a mental health and burnout epidemic) and top down, do-as-I-say leadership is no longer fit-for-purpose for the complex world we are now living in. My book shares the latest research from neuroscience and positive psychology in the form of stories from many of the wonderful clients I've worked with as a facilitator and coach. So many of my clients have shown great insight, learning and courage that we can all learn from.

It's with the editor now and I'll keep you posted on how it's going - it should be out early next year all going well. I'm really excited!

I've always been interested in the power of emotional courage - the ability to feel all our feelings and sit with them rather than push them down, run away from them or not even be aware of them in the first place. Peter Bregman, the author of Emotional Courage says, "If we are willing to feel everything, we can do anything". I firmly believe this is the case.

In undertaking research on courage for my book, I was excited to discover that there are actually six types of courage we can draw on as leaders. Authors Jennifer Armstrong and Lisa Dungate wrote about them in their parenting blog Lion's Whiskers.

  • Physical: to keep going with resiliency, balance and awareness despite fear of physical harm

  • Emotional: to allow ourselves to feel the full spectrum of human emotions

  • Spiritual: to live with purpose and meaning and face up to spiritual questions that may be uncomfortable, a threat to your own identity as a spiritual person, or undermine your own spiritual beliefs

  • Moral: the courage to stand up for your convictions and do the right thing despite the sense that it may end badly for you or is uncomfortable or unpopular

  • Intellectual: the willingness to learn, relearn and unlearn and expand our horizons

  • Social: the courage to be yourself unapologetically and expose yourself to social situations where you may be vulnerable to embarrassment, ridicule, or discomfort.

In Australia, we are very comfortable with acts of physical courage. I believe being a self-cultivating person involves broadening our understanding of courage to embrace the other five types of courage.

When I reflected upon how these types of courage are showing up (or not showing up) in my life right now, I realised tapping more into my physical courage is just what I need to give myself a boost.

Lockdown has seen me doing lots of walking with Alfie but since the gyms have closed I haven't been doing much huff and puff. My action to dial up my physical courage was to sign up to the Couch to 5km app and Alfie and I have regularly been getting out and working up a sweat. And I feel so much better for it - it's just what I've needed.

A gratuitous shot of Alfie included to provide you with a dose of joy!

I think many of us in lockdown areas are drawing on our moral courage at the moment - trying our best to show integrity by sticking to the rules and doing our bit as responsible members of our communities.

When writing my book I started writing about high performing teams and then realised that I wanted to write about something totally different - the humanisation of our workplaces with well-being at the centre. I had to show intellectual courage by letting go of my plan and to be open to reassessing, relearning and recreating. This was painful, uncomfortable and took a while to sort through but I am so glad I did it as the book is so much better than what it would have been and is far more relevant to today's world than my initial concept.

In my work I see the other types of courage in action every day with the leaders and teams I work with. It takes great courage to self-reflect and uncover uncomfortable blind spots. It takes courage to have an honest conversation with someone. It takes courage to be vulnerable and authentic and not wear a mask or be someone you think you need to be. To speak up against the tide and say that particular behaviour is not OK. To sit with complex feelings, connect with them and deal with them. To let go of the need to be right all the time and accept there will be things you don’t know that you can learn from others.

It's useful to expand our emotional vocabulary and dig into the nuances of different words. For me deepening my understanding of courage means I can use this to identify practical ways to apply courage in my every day life. Right now, when lockdowns have been going on for so long, I've found it helpful to reflect on the six types of courage and I'm using this to help me approach the next few months in a more resourceful and empowered way.

What about you? What type of courage could you draw on over the next few months in the lead up to Christmas? Let me know if there's anything you might need or if you'd like a chat.

Thanks so much for reading! xxx