“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.
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!
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.