How to channel courage

Feb 25, 2021

"Courage is the most important of all the virtues because, without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently."- Maya Angelou

In March 2020, South Africa had to come to terms with the global pandemic when the announcement came that, like much of the world, we were going into lockdown. That announcement threw us into a VUCA environment, where Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity would thereafter inform our new normal.

During this time, many of us were forced to face personal fears. The worry for our personal health and well-being, and for that of our families and loved ones. We feared exposure and safety, and we knew people who were stuck far and abroad unable to travel. Numbers climbed and rumours flew around social media. Many feared isolation and loneliness. Economic effects were sometimes the scariest fears of them all.

Then came the fear of taking a school and all its learners online - not only did many of us have to grapple with all of the above (and then some) but we had to tackle change and security of purpose! Like so many schools, ESCA Wanderers and its teachers had to face the uncertainty of a new way of teaching, the technical challenges, and the panic when someone couldn’t connect. For parents and for students, it was a fear about achieving in the face of it all.

I think it's safe to say that we all have channelled our inner courageousness through all these fears - we have done things that have scared us and faced them head on - how much more courageous can one be?

However, the thing about courage is that it grows stronger the more regularly you have to use it!

The world has changed, and in the face of a time which continues to present fears to overcome, it is important that we continue to practice our inner courage, one of ESCA’s core values. Here’s how:

  • Courage means being afraid and acting anyway. Start off with identifying what you are afraid of - this will give you the information you need to overcome the fears. Then, face your fears! Exposing yourself to your fears is a great way to overcome them. For example, if you are afraid of volunteering to answer a question in class, try understanding why you are afraid. Are you afraid of being wrong? Are you afraid of being judged? Once you’ve identified this fear, face it by doing the very thing you’re afraid of - you will probably realize that the imagined outcome is far less scary than you once thought it would be!
  • Practice Practice Practice! Courage works like a muscle - it grows stronger the more you use it. Most of us aren’t born courageous, so we shouldn’t expect to magically acquire it without practice. If you always aim to at least try solving a difficult and intimidating Maths problem, for example, the more courageous you’ll be when solving difficult problems in the future.
  • Focus on what you’re standing up for. It’s easier to be courageous on behalf of others than it is for your own sake. Focus on things that are true to you and be courageous with those things.
  • Find courage in numbers. It’s much harder to act alone... Find a group of people who feel the way you do and be courageous together.
  • Think positively. Many of us have a “negativity bias” that causes us to pay more attention to disapproval than to positive reinforcement. Be aware of this and gently steer your mind to positive stimuli.
  • Find role models. When you’re trying to stretch yourself beyond your limits, there’s a part of you that wonders whether it's possible. A role model is a constant reminder that the answer is yes! Channel your role model until it feels natural to channel yourself.

Stay Safe. Stay Healthy.