While at a recent conference, I had the opportunity to experience the ‘Immunity to Change’ process created by Lisa Lahey and Bob Kegan at Harvard University. Theirs is a unique and powerful methodology that guides individuals through a process of uncovering their deepest resistance to change. A room full of two hundred participants, we were led through their methodology during the course of three hours. The insights from this experience could fill a dozen posts, though one seemed most universal. For each of us in the room, no matter what change we wholeheartedly wanted to make (or so we thought), the fundamental root of our resistance was always fear. Fear of failing, fear of ridicule, fear of not being loved or valued, fear we would discover that we don’t really have what it takes, fear of pain, of rejection, of looking foolish.
While it is not typically applauded in our careers or recommended as part of our individual brand strategy to shout from the roof tops “I am afraid!”, that voice of fear is in all of us. Not all the time and certainly not about everything, but often about the things that result in our growth and will ultimately yield better relationships. We’re fearful of that which will help us create more professional and personal success and ultimately open up the possibility to live more authentic lives. And yet, we do not often talk about fear, perhaps most especially in our professional worlds.
What a missed opportunity! Without the declaration of fear we lose our platform for courage. As the writer, Ambrose Redmoon said, “Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.” In fact, this sentiment is so central to courage that many others including Nelson Mandela and Mark Twain have expressed the same notion. There is no other way to see it – without fear, there is no courage.
The original definition of the word courage, (from the Latin word cor, which means heart) was “acting or speaking from the heart”. This definition reminds us that true courage comes from the center of our being — from a clear, strong place inside us. Courage does not come from an external source in the form of challenges, threats, mandates or demands; nor does courage come from righteous indignation, anger, aggression, anxiety or any other emotion to which we sometimes give undue credit.
After spending the last 15 years studying vulnerability, Brene Brown came to this conclusion; “I realized that courage is not something we have or don’t have. It’s something we practice.” What a wonderful reminder about the fundamental values of insight, learning and growth. How liberating to lose the notion of being labeled as either courageous or cowardly, but rather to define oneself as someone who chooses to spend a lifetime practicing courage.
What do you do to help yourself and others to practice courage?
Tricia Naddaff – President of MRG