66 Ways to Build Your Courage

Written by Christine Kane

“Excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.” – Aristotle

Courage is like a muscle. Just as you wouldn’t go into the gym for your first time and lift a 100-pound dumbbell – you don’t have to begin building courage by running for President. (Though, lots of people would probably vote for you at this point.)

People often think that courage has to be big. Like sky-diving. Or giving a speech to a thousand people.

Those things do require courage, yes. But in some ways, that’s baby courage. It’s obvious courage. I call it Bungee-Jumping Courage. Bungee-Jumping Courage is convenient because it lets us define ourselves as “not courageous.” When you set your stake that high, then you never have to approach it. You simply get to say, “Hmm, I must not have courage.”

I’m not letting you get off that easy.

Why?

Because there’s a deeper level of courage. It makes you stronger with each move you make. It makes you fall in love with yourself. It makes you fall in love with your life.

That’s because, at its core, courage is about strengthening your relationship with yourself.

In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” I encourage you to do many things you think you cannot do!

Here are 66 ways – little and big – to build your courage. Some of them seem completely foolish. But they’re not. They’re just uncomfortable. And that’s the whole point!

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1 – Paint your nails green and leave them that way for a week. If you’re a guy, you get extra credit for this one.

2 – Look at your life as an experiment. This takes the ego out of new things you try.

3 – If you’re always spontaneous, plan something in advance and stick with it. If you’re a meticulous planner, do something spontaneous.

4 – Quit your job.

5 – Start a blog.

6 – Sign up for a Retreat.

7 – Take a painting class.

8 – Learn a new language.

9 – Join Toastmasters.

10 – Begin yoga.

11 – Do something ridiculously tourist-y in your own town.

12 – Get up in the morning after having a bad day yesterday. Encourage yourself to begin again.

13 – Give money away.

14 – Invite your friends over for dinner and don’t use silverware.

15 – Look into people’s eyes when you’re in public – on the street, buying groceries, etc.

16 – Hire someone to do a regular task you can’t stand doing. (i.e., mowing the lawn.) Use that time to write or draw.

17 – Play music more. Watch TV less.

18 – Get rid of everything in your home that’s not an Absolute Yes. Everything!

19 – Put on a goofy smile and look at other drivers when you stop at lights.

20 – Write a novel in a month.

21 – Think of one thing you’d love to ask one of your heroes, and then call her office – and ask her the question. (The goal is not necessarily to get through – but to let go of the fear of not getting through!)

22 – Ask for what you want – rather than complaining about not getting it.

23 – Go bowling.

24 – If you never host parties or dinners – invite friends over once a month for dinner.

25 – Teach a workshop on something you know how to do.

26 – Start a mastermind group with at least two other people.

27 – Learn to invest your money.

28 – Decide that your desire to be happy is an adequate reason to say no to requests of your time. (I knew someone who had cancer who said, “The best part about cancer is that now I get to say no to things and have a great excuse.” Don’t wait until you have this kind of “excuse.”)

29 – Be bad at something. Do it anyway.

30 – Make requests. Don’t complain.

31 – Join a writer’s group.

32 – Hire a life coach.

33 – In a social situation, sit in one place and allow people to come talk with you instead of running around the room “networking.”

34 – Worry less. Act more.

35 – Take a last-minute trip overseas.

36 – Enter a writing contest.

37 – Start your own business.

38 – Ask someone out on a date.

39 – Start a podcast.

40 – Sign up for my January Great Big Dreams e-Seminar. (Email christine@christinekane.com for details.)

41 – Make a business card for yourself.

42 – Eat at an ethnic restaurant you never considered before.

43 – Respond. Don’t react.

44 – Get some music from another culture. Sit down and listen. Really listen.

45 – Listen more. Talk less. Especially to your kids. (Remember that listening doesn’t mean waiting to say your piece.)

46 – Take a swing dance class.

47 – Hire a physical trainer.

48 – Start a book club.

49 – Test-drive a luxury car. Act as if you could buy it if you wanted it.

50 – End a relationship that drains you or hurts you. You deserve to be happy.

51 – Start a prayer list – and pray every morning.

52 – Go to a nursing home and visit people who need company.

53 – Quit smoking.

54 – Take different routes to work each day.

55 – Get lost on purpose. (When I first moved to my town, this is how I learned my way around. On Sundays, I’d drive into the downtown area and give myself an hour to get lost and then found again.)

56 – Wake up at 5am and write.

57 – Assumptions are the enemy of success. Question them often.

58 – Excuses are the enemy of action. Stop making them.

59 – Admit when you are wrong.

60 – Write a fan letter to someone who’s not famous – a teacher, a grocery store clerk – anyone who delights you or touches you.

61 – Pick one incomplete in your life (cluttered attic, article you want to write, craft you want to begin) and do it for 15 minutes a day. It’s more courageous to do something for a small chunk of time and do it again the very next day – than it is to sit back and say it can’t be done because you don’t have enough time.

62 – Participate in an open-mic night.

63 – Join a spiritual circle – a church, a center, a class. Don’t worry if it’s the “right” one – just try it out.

64 – Go vegan.

65 – Pay the toll of the person behind you. (Or for their coffee!)

66 – Run for President.

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{47 comments ... read them below or add one}

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{47 comments ... read them below or add one}

Todd Schafer December 19, 2007 at 1:29 am

Some of the things on the list require a larger courage muscle than the others.
i.e #’s 62, 58, and 50 are difficult.
Having said that I commit to doing #52, and posting my results here afterward.

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Jay, writer MemberSpeed.com December 19, 2007 at 5:36 am

This is certainly one long list! While I will never run for president, I think I’ll indulge myself with some. The green nails sounds hilarious. But one of the most difficult tasks might probably be to be bad at something. We all spend a good half of our lives not trying to mess up. Whether it be at school or work. We’re all afraid of failing. But we also have to remember that failure is only the stepping stone to success. A lot of people would probably benefit from not being afraid of failing.

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m December 19, 2007 at 7:09 am

ok my courage thing was to apply for a job – I’m quite good at quitting not because I’m a flake but I have a low tolerance level of being unhappy or unappreciated.

Glad to see that I’m doing several of these already. I’d love to go on a retreat but its a bit far to come from Scotland! I’ll just have to design my own.

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Helen December 19, 2007 at 7:14 am

I love this, it’s a great inspiration !

Funny, how the things I do or have done seem good to me (though I didn’t always think it was courage at the time, but foolishness or social unadequation or whatever lol) and the ones I don’t, seem really really spooky (No. 65 for example)! :o)

According to recent studies, No.54 is supposed to enhance you IQ.

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Elaine December 19, 2007 at 7:31 am

M – The retreats are fantastic… I’ve been twice and I live in Dorset UK (and off again in March 2008!!)…so if you ever change your mind I’d love to give you any help/advice on planning your journey etc! Courage :-)(…and the exchange rate is brilliant at the moment too!)

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Elaine December 19, 2007 at 7:35 am

P.s. Great list Christine! You’re so right about courage… I’m still working hard on this one – thanks for the great ideas!

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Linda December 19, 2007 at 8:10 am

Since I live in France, the rest of my life is devoted to trying to learn a new language. It is something I will never be good at-#29- and courage isn’t the problem, it’s the boredom of trying to keep doing something that is not a gift or something that I enjoy.
Number 44, listening to music from a different culture,is something I did by accident last night. I can listen to music via our TV and saw a station from Corsica which, while near to France and a part of France, has it’s own language and, it turns out, music. I loved it while not understanding a word. Sometimes it sounded Celtic, sometimes Spanish, sometimes religious with a little jazz twist. Makes you wonder how it all evolved.

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Deb December 19, 2007 at 8:44 am

Boy, where would I begin because this is right where I am.

@Todd – absolutely some things take bigger muscles than others; and even more profound is that what took/takes a big muscle for me might be a tiny muscle for someone else.

I have done some of the things on the list already; and I did them this year…w00t.

Have been thinking about doing a workshop though I’m not sure how that comes about but I have a little side list of things that it might include (if I ever really do it).

Thanks.

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Christine Kane December 19, 2007 at 9:17 am

hi all – deb, “what takes a big muscle for me might be a tiny muscle for someone else” – that’s the key thing. and it could even apply to linda’s comment about being bored with learning a language… is it courage to stick with something through boredom? i’ve often considered myself courageous to finish writing a song when I was less-than-thrilled with it. on the other hand, linda, maybe you just don’t WANT to learn a language – or maybe you need a different method involving a group of people…?

and todd – for some, those numbers don’t require courage at all! and oddly enough – #1 could require lots of courage – or at least a willingness to feel stupid. (which, sometimes, is courage – let’s face it!)

jay – yea, it’s all about not being afraid of failing. i got to a point where i was more afraid of arriving at a particular age and not doing anything challenging!

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stacey December 19, 2007 at 9:17 am

I have done some things on this list and didn’t think they were courageous at the time, thanks for letting me on the secret that they are! But of course there are many more to try… I have always wanted to write a book… maybe not a novel, but a book… I even have the title… but one month seems way too short…I start a two week vacation this week (one of the benefits of being a teacher! :)) I will begin then… and let you know how it goes. The book is titled “How to Become”

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Mark P December 19, 2007 at 10:45 am

What a list! Awesome!

A great book I recommend on this subject:

“Courage: The Joy of Living Dangerously” by Osho

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Megan December 19, 2007 at 11:12 am

Thanks for this Christine. My word for the year was courage and as I read this blog I was checking things off! I’m still working on being courageous, but I can see how I have stepped into courage more over the past year. Thanks for giving me the chance to see this. Now, I must decide on my word for next year….

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Kim December 19, 2007 at 11:43 am

What a terrific list! I’ve sent my email for the e-seminar. I’ve been afraid that I just couldn’t put as much into the seminar as it deserves. But putting nothing in is not getting me anywhere. Hah!

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Caren December 19, 2007 at 12:53 pm

I love the coffee video, and that it started as a way to change negative energy.

A courageous thing for me to try: I’ve had several experiences lately that were more… spiritual in nature. (Hard to find the right word) I’ve wanted to write about them on my blog, but I’m so afraid of being judged! When I write the entry in my head, it’s full of apologies for all the Christian references. That’s NOT how I want to blog, so I just haven’t written it. I used to be… anti-Christian, also, before I discovered what being open-minded truly meant, but many people are still stuck there. I don’t want them to think “Oh – another Christian homeschooler!” then not read any more. Oh, wait – if they thought that, and didn’t read any more, that would be OK, because I just have to be true to who I am, right? I’m not Christian, but if someone were to judge me because they thought I was – well, whose problem is that? OK – I’ll stop blogging in your comments – but this is what I thought of when I thought of doing something courageous.

Dang! Guess I have to do it, now. lol

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Susanne December 19, 2007 at 2:15 pm

It’s a great list and I just marveled at how many of those things I’ve already done. (I didn’t run for President though.)

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Joy December 19, 2007 at 2:36 pm

for me courage is not feeling so well (physically) and just sitting in front of the fire reading and relaxing. everytime i think of my to-do list i feel anxious and a strong impulse to start “doing.”

i think my word for 2008 may be “boredom.”

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Stacey December 19, 2007 at 2:41 pm

About a month ago I made plans for my family (husband and 2 1/2 yo son) to travel to Guatemala. We leave in 2 weeks and will live with a local family and study in a school for 2 weeks. Last week I started having all these fears about it, “Finn (my son) is just starting to use his potty consistently – what will taking him away from it do to this pleasant new habit? What if he cries at night and bothers the family? What am I thinking, taking my non-vaccinated child to a third world country?!?” Talk about Law of Attraction – I just kept attracting one fearful thought after another until I realized what I was doing. Then I got really clear about my intentions: I love this country, after many trips I haven’t been back since 2002, and very much want to share it with my husband and son. My husband wants to learn Spanish and I want to improve mine. I know we will have an amazing time and will always be grateful that we had the *courage* to do it. Courage turned out to be finding the better feeling thought and finding that the next one and the next one were right behind it. Now I just keep riding that wonderful energy and I get more and more excited.

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zach December 19, 2007 at 9:50 pm

Well, I’ve never run for president, but I was once a campaign manager for someone who did! And by President, I mean Class President. Still, that counts for something, right?

I’d like to work on #55. It’s been a while since I got good and lost.

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Peggi December 20, 2007 at 10:17 am

I love the idea that courage needs to be practiced. Even something small like telling the truth when you really would rather avoid it is courageous. Can I use this list on my blog? I will include credit of course as well as a link the the 66 items. Thanks either way,
Peggi

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Debra Roby December 20, 2007 at 2:15 pm

Damn, a long list! Many of these things I already do, or have started doing. The ones that are left are the biggest scariest ones. This year, I think.

#28
#32 because I need to do:
#50 with my spouse, which means
#37 and
#58

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Cara December 20, 2007 at 3:28 pm

What a wonderful post! There’s some synchronicity at work here because I’ve chosen “courage” as my word for 2008 (2007′s was “kindness,” and it’s yielded amazing results). I love this list! I normally wear blue nail polish and never thought of it as particularly courageous until I realized that it IS a bit offbest. Green sounds like even more fun. Thanks for giving me some great ideas for next year.

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Judy December 20, 2007 at 10:39 pm

Christine, You never fail to inspire. I love the Eleanor Roosevelt quote, I will have to write that one down, and maybe post it in my studio. Your muscle analogy is perfect…it does get easier to do once you step outside your comfort zone,…and addictive! I haven’t worn nail polish in years, but I am wearing pink shoes,…perhaps that counts. :-) For me, breaking out of my comfort zone was going on an Outward Bound course after a year or two of lots of things going my way. I knew it was going to be hard for me, and I might fail…alot! But it opened up the possible to me in so many ways.

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Tim December 20, 2007 at 10:55 pm

Christine:

Awesome list!! I’ve been thinking about #4 a lot lately. I’m going to have to study this list closer, there’s some great stuff here. I’ll add one more (kind of related to joining Toastmasters) – take an improv class.

Tim

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Christine Kane December 21, 2007 at 9:41 am

hi everyone – i’ve had two performances as well as teaching creativity this week – so i’ve gotten behind on comments obviously! peggi – absolutely link to this on your blog – that’s one of the great things about blogging. outward bound and improv – those are definite adds to this list for sure!

and really – more of you need to think about running for president!

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Peggi December 21, 2007 at 10:51 am

Thanks Christine. Here’s the link on my blog to your entry: http://habets-studio.blogspot.com/2007/12/build-your-courage.html.

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Peggi December 21, 2007 at 10:54 am

Sorry, it’s http://habets-studio.blogspot.com/2007/12/build-your-courage.html

The extra period at the end made the link invalid.

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Martie December 21, 2007 at 7:26 pm

Ironically, I quit my job and started 2 blogs in the last couple of weeks. These choices have been both scary and invigorating and every emotion in-between. Thank you for writing your blog. I read it every time I need a little pick me up, which has been several times a day since my big change. Thank you, thank you!

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Lisa December 22, 2007 at 1:05 am

this is the most awesome list EVER. I’m printing it out, and I am going to see how many things I can check off. I love it. i’ve already done some of these things – quit my job, start a blog, go vegan, but it’s gonna be fun to go down the list and see what happens (write a novel in a month!) ha. That will be fun.

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Kay December 22, 2007 at 2:00 pm

Hey, I don’t know about the rest of you but I am still clearing out the zippy bags. Great list….great challenge. Love the quotes and this blog. Thanks Christine!
Here’s to a great 2008!!

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Regina Clare Jane December 22, 2007 at 7:17 pm

I am visiting here from Lisa’s blog, Gorgeous for God, and I have to say, this is an inspiring list! I’ve done quite a few already but it’s interesting to see how brave I am with certain things and other things… not so much! I actually did participate in NaNoWriMo (write a novel in a month) and completed my 50,000 words the last two years in a row! It’s a great feeling! Now, onto some of the things I still have yet to do! Thanks and this is a great blog!

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Cynthia Martyn December 22, 2007 at 11:38 pm

Great list!! I just started a new blog for creative women entrepreneurs at http://mindingherbusiness.typepad.com/ . One of the biggest stumbling blocks that I hear from my clients wanting to start new businesses, is finding the courage to do so. One must have courage on so many levels, and I think this list is what many need to read – I am going to share it with my readers today!

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Deb Smouse December 23, 2007 at 11:16 am

It’s so funny that you are talking about courage. As I was setting my goals for 2008, I did the “one word instead of resolution” thing you talked about (over achiever that I am, I chose 3 words) – and Courage is one!

Thank you, as always….

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Marilyn December 23, 2007 at 2:30 pm

GREAT list!! re #41…earlier this year I made a ‘tag cloud’ business card for myself…listing all of the (creative) SELVES I want to be…

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pam December 26, 2007 at 3:29 pm

Wow!!! I think you can read my mind! I am not a courageous person but I can’t believe how many of these things I have done – or intended to do if I have the time or money to do them. And the the highlighted ones – I just told my husband earlier today that I would like to quit my job (not going to happen), I have wanted to go on a retreat for a long time (not going to happen), I have been getting rid of alot of stuff around the house (I have about 5 large boxes of stuff sitting in the garage waiting to be hauled to good will), I have never thought about writing a novel.
pam

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tracy December 27, 2007 at 6:41 pm

christine, you performed at my college circa 1994. it’s a pleasure to come across your blog and see how much you’ve expanded your career and identity since that time. i took a big leap a few years ago by leaving a relatively secure career (related to that college degree) to enter an art therapy program. recently i’ve been aware that there are a few more necessary leaps on the horizon–the career change was a fantastic move but it doesn’t mean i’m done learning to be brave. your “66 ways” has inspired me to start a list of courageous steps, to meet some of my other creative needs.

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Natalie Gelman December 28, 2007 at 6:03 pm

In 2008 I will have the COURAGE to RELEASE and enjoy the ABUNDANCE of life because of it. :) Love the blog and all the good energy on it Christine and from all the people responding!

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Andrea Hess | Empowered Soul December 29, 2007 at 9:54 pm

Fantastic list, Christine. And as I’m reading it … I’m starting to recognize that I’m, well, kind of courageous!!! There’s a lot of stuff on there that I do already – and I’m willing to tackle a few more. I’m particularly open to doing things badly – pottery being my most recent venture. I find making bad pottery very therapeutic! :-)

Thank you for the ongoing inspiration!
Blessings,
Andrea

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fivecats January 2, 2008 at 12:20 pm

a former co-worker had a sticky note on her mac desktop that read “do one thing each day that scares you.”

it now resides on a sticky note on my mac desktop, too.

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Lisa Petrocelli Krueger January 4, 2008 at 1:44 pm

Continued thanks for providing inspiration and encouragement for almost a decade of my life. I saw one of your performances at The Handlebar in Greenville, SC about the time I was experiencing 3 of the top 5 causes of stress- “Rise” was and still remains a song that makes me feel like I can do anything (more recently followed by “Right Outta Nowhere”. Much about my life has changed since then (all positive) and based on your list, I’m a pretty courageous person already! Affirmation rocks!

I used the Eleanor Roosevelt quote you mention above for my signature line for years which only recently has been replaced by a line from you – “Leap and the Net will appear”. I have one more thing to add to the list though – “complete an endurance event” – it could sort of fit into #61, but I think it has alot of merit on it’s own.

A good friend was diagnosed with lymphoma in May. For a few months, I sat helpless and frustrated because this is her second bout with it. Finally in August, I signed up with Team In Training to run a full marathon in her honor, which I’ll be hopefully completing on January 13, 2008 (2 days after my birthday). I am not a runner by any definition. but somehow I’ve managed to coax my body to “endure” at least 20 miles at a stretch … only 6.2 to go! It might have something to do with the fact that I receive alot of extra energy by my toe nails which are usually painted fluorescent lime green. Those who choose to fight the cancer battle are the real endurance champions – thinking about that keeps me focused while every muscle in my body is screaming. My blog is about the training experience so far – if you read any of it, “Flashing Blue Lights” in the November archive gives you a glimpse of my mindset.

Thanks again for making the most of your talents and touching my life and so many others in such a positive way.

Happy New Year!

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Monica January 30, 2008 at 1:28 pm

Wow… I’m truly surprised at how many of these things I have done… and I consider myself a big chicken! The biggest thing before me now is #4. I know I have to find my own path. I’ve known for 7 years. Er, 10 years. Um, 20 years. I’m setting a lot of things in motion, praying, and taking action. I just need to save some money and invest money I already have. And invest in myself. I need to believe in myself. Stay tuned!

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faith :) February 11, 2008 at 10:01 am

Wow. run for president? Well, so far I’ve done approximately none of the items, so maybe I’ll start with one of them. Not the nails one though; I’m still schooling and the teachers don’t allow that! Love your blog :) Keep writing articles like this!

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Holly Jahangiri November 3, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Great suggestions! I think I’ll pin this up to the board next to my monitor. I found this post through a link from Brandon at TheNextGoal.com.

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Thinker October 3, 2012 at 3:19 pm

This seems like a list of things to do not things that will build courage. I don’t really see how any of these has anything remotely to do with building any real courage.

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Christine Kane Reply:

Awesome, Thinker! Now you have an idea for your own blog post on this exact topic! I’d love to see it!

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rheanna February 23, 2013 at 9:41 am

I love this. I love how the minute that our lives call for courage we either make excuses or completely ignore our needs to move forward. I think we have to do crazy things to push ourselves to the extreme so everything else seems so much easier.

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