Emotional Courage

I read an article recently on emotional courage that struck a chord with me as it is a leadership trait and topic I don’t believe gets enough credit. The ability to persevere against challenges, roadblocks and simply the word ‘no’ and rise above that to find new ways of doing things is an invaluable skill and one that sets apart leaders from the rest.

The answer ‘no’ should be looked at as an opportunity, and not a roadblock. Because that is truly what it is. In my own career, the word ‘no’ has been prevalent over the years, as public relations is sometimes synonymous with it! For example, when a reporter says no to a story angle – it is an opportunity to craft an angle that will result in a story. It is this growth mindset that spells success for leaders who are willing to use challenges as opportunities to use creativity to turn around a situation or fine the answer.

Here are some of the ways I’ve learned to cultivate a sense of emotional courage in career (and life) over the years:

  • Use it as a motivator: Sometimes challenges can be so scary that they become crippling. But rather than see the challenge, change, or defeat as scary, use it to fuel your motivation – and courage – to make a change.
  • Focus on what you can change, not what you cannot: This one is big for me. As a self-professed Type A control freak, adjusting to change or defeat is difficult. Sometimes the small changes you are responsible and accountable for actually do substantially affect the big picture.
  • Be flexible: This is another tough one for me. My ability to ‘go with the flow’ is limited at best. But in a world where everything is fast-paced, always-on and right now, being nimble to adjust priorities and focus builds emotional courage, too.
  • Practice fearlessness: Take smaller opportunities to leap at challenges that are presented to you, so when a big leap opportunity comes your way, you are mentally and emotionally prepared and strong enough to make that change. By practicing courage, it’ll become ingrained in you versus insurmountable when faced with it.
  • Nix negative self-talk: It’s easy to focus on your own downfalls because we are often our own worst (and best!) critic. By telling yourself you can’t do something, you are afraid to do it or you aren’t good at something, you’re already in that crippling mindset that will defeat you. Boost yourself up mentally and it will go a long way.

It is intrinsic to react to challenges emotionally, but I have personally been trying to step back from knee-jerk, emotional responses, taking time to formulate a rational, well thought-out response instead. It is amazing what perspective you gain by stepping away from your computer, the telephone or your office and coming back to the situation with a refreshed sense of perspective. I can guarantee your response to your issue will have a renewed sense of clarity and you’ll likely be more successful at overcoming the challenges that come your way, and gain a little more emotional courage, too.

  7 Comments   Comment

  1. Well written. Good lesson (I’m still learning) to just step away, take time to rethink the situation and respond with a better attitude. When we are on a treadmill to rush and respond quickly to every situation, we are not giving it our best.

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  2. Mark Mirsky

    Jolene, I enjoyed your post on emotional courage. You share an excellent reminder to focus on what we can control/change, not what we cannot.

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  3. Great write up Jolene- I can so strongly relate to the advice about getting away from your desk to get a fresh perspective. I was advised the same by a senior couple of years back, and it works beautifully for me: when a conversation is not going right, esp over mails- write all that you want; BUT save it In draft and then just go for a coffee break or take a small walk. Come back, delete the draft and start afresh 🙂 It’s amazing the perspective you can get sometimes by emotionally dis-connecting from the situation, and looking at it as a third person.

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  4. Jon Mayes

    It’s great to see an article that highlights that ‘no’ can be a good word – coming from either direction. It’s good to be able to say ‘no’, but also to have that emotional courage to take being told ‘no’ as something to work with rather than be knocked back by.

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