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On Courage 

As a coach and consultant, I’m passionate about continuing to learn new techniques to help individuals, teams and organizations become more fulfilled and effective.  I’m passionate about seeing change in the workplace and developing emotionally intelligent organizations.  This winter I enrolled in the ‘Living Brave Semester’ facilitated by Dr. Brene Brown.  I have read all of her books and this gave me a chance to apply the reading.  It has been so impactful on me both personally and professionally that I feel compelled to share some of the foundational elements and encourage you to dig deeper into the material.  The course is based on two of her books, Daring Greatly and Rising Strong.

Values – The course is grounded in our values. The first work we did was to get very clear and grounded in our values.   For those that coach or facilitate with me, you know this is core to my work as well.  I wrote about values in the May 2014 InSight.  Our values need to guide every decision we make and this is key to living and leading with courage and authenticity.  I revisit my core values often to see what is most important to me and where I might be out of integrity.

Vulnerability – The next piece was to get really clear on vulnerability. Why? Being vulnerable is the key to courage, authenticity and true connection with others.  Vulnerability includes uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. We can make bad decisions to get quickly out of uncertainty because many of us don’t like feeling uncertain.  Many may view vulnerability as a weakness but Brown’s research shows us that courage and vulnerability cannot be disconnected.

My husband ran for Mayor of our town last year (he has never been involved in politics before this). Ultimately, he did not win the election but he was the clear winner in my book for his courage and willingness to face uncertainty, risk and even emotional exposure. He truly dared greatly and inspired me and countless others to be more courageous and thus be more vulnerable.

Practicing vulnerability is not a common or easy thing in our culture yet it may be part of the answer to many of our community, organizational and political issues.

Empathy– In my practice, empathy is one of the most important attributes of a good leader (remember, leaders are found in all realms of life – not just at work).  The research in ‘Daring Greatly’ takes the importance and definition of empathy to whole new level.  I believe many people have a hard time understanding what empathy means and how to truly practice it.  While trying to be supportive of others many people miss the boat and use sympathy (“poor you”), minimize others feelings (“oh, you are so strong, it couldn’t have been that bad”), judgment (“how could you make let that happen?”) and other tactics rather than practicing empathy.  True empathy means we are not in it to fix it; we are in it to feel with you.

In my own life, I often have people that I know care deeply about me try to be supportive through these other means.  My first response is that I regret sharing my story and want to change the conversation topic immediately.   During the course, the importance of empathy took on an even greater meaning in my own life and my work.  It also highlighted areas where I need vast improvement in my empathy practice. I’m famous for trying to empathize with someone by saying “at least. . .” and finding something really remarkable in their life to highlight. Unfortunately, this  is also not empathy.

This 2 ½ minute video on the power of empathy does a great job in explaining empathy in a light-hearted way.

Self-Compassion – Another eye opening piece to me was in the area of self-compassion. Often we are our own worst critic, don’t feel that we are good enough and thus decrease our ability to live courageously. We need compassion to have courage.  Dr. Kristen Neff asserts that self-compassion is made up of three main parts:  1) Self-kindness – how we talk to ourselves, 2) Common Humanity – suffering is part of the shared human experience and we are not alone, 3) Mindfulness – paying attention to feelings and then moving through them.

I generally want negative issues to go away right away and often think I’m the only one feeling certain things.  This research provided me a vehicle to begin to shift some thoughts.  I encourage you to visit www.selfcompassion.org and take the free test to analyze and increase your own levels of self-compassion.

The course then moves into further helping us identify what gets in the way of living with courage and helping us become very clear on the different shields we wear to protect ourselves.  It also goes on to teach us how to rise when we fail while being courageous.  It’s amazing and impactful. I’m so grateful this work is receiving so much attention and love watching more and more people live and lead with courage! Where were you courageous this week? Where will you have courage next week?  Until next time. . .

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”

– Brene Brown