How to Build Your Courage Little By Little

by Shamsul
Build Your Courage
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Build Your Courage

In our modern societies, the notion of courage may seem far from everyday life. Many of us consider it limited to certain professions, even fiction. And yet, you don’t need to put your life in danger to be considered brave. This virtue translates into a wide variety of greater or lesser magnitude behaviors. There is a wide range of possible actions between personal courage and universally heroic action.

Resisting peer pressure, intervening in the face of a stalker, managing a serious illness with grace, defending a social cause, and reporting an unethical action at work, even if it means losing your job, can all be described as brave.

What is Courage?

To be courageous is to face challenges, threats or difficulties. And it also means having strong beliefs and goals that guide our actions, even if they are not popular1. A central element of this virtue is facing one’s fears rather than avoiding them. It is about becoming aware of the risk and acting to achieve a goal rather than being paralyzed or running away.

Courage is Thus Defined in Relation to Several Parameters:

The 5 parameters of courage as the symbol of Risk.

Courageous Acts:

Courage requires the presence of danger and potential loss, risk or injury. Without this “peril”, there is no bravery in an action. Courage is valuable because it allows people to inhibit their immediate response to danger and engage in appropriate behaviors.

The Fear:

Courage involves the mastery of fear rather than the absence of fear. Unlike recklessness, where the individual feels no fear and acts, the individual takes action despite the fear felt.

The Assessment of the Situation:

Courage involves judgment, that is, understanding the risks and accepting the potential consequences of action.

Voluntary Actions:

Forced action cannot be called courageous. Courage implies a conscious choice following the evaluation of the consequences of the planned action.

Noble Goals/Beliefs

A person is considered courageous when the purpose of their action is positive when it is “worth it”.

The Different Levels of Courage:

Of course, courage is expressed at different levels, which range from the intimate to the universal. Voluntarily acting in dangerous circumstances despite fear to stand up for something positive can be expressed on a personal level and in plain sight. Any courageous action can therefore be situated on a continuum with the following ends5:

Staff. Actions are seen as courageous in relation to the context of the individual.
General. Actions more “imposing” than anyone will consider courageous.

Thus, we speak of general courage if everyone sees the situation as threatening or frightening. When it comes to situations that only cause fear in the person involved, the term “personal courage” is used. Exposing yourself to your phobia to overcome it will lean more towards the “personal” pole while saving someone from a burning building will be more about general courage.

The Four Types of Courage

Finally, courage varies according to the risks incurred and the goals pursued. There are, thus 4 types of courage.

Physical: This is about putting his physical integrity at stake, as firefighters can do.

Psychological: This courage is expressed when we tackle personal problems (mental, emotional, etc.). This often involves admitting one’s vulnerabilities and difficulties to others and, if necessary, asking for help.

Social: In social courage, the risks are linked to the esteem that others have for the actor. Assuming one’s choices, even if they are unpopular, can be a form of social courage. Age and certain personality traits (e.g., perseverance, proactivity) are correlated with this type of courage.

Moral: This translates into speaking up for what is right, even if there is opposition. Standing up for those who cannot speak (or are unlikely to be heard) and standing up for the rights of a group are examples of moral courage.

The 4 Types of Courage as Icons. It’s not unusual for people to show only one form of bravery. A veteran may thus be afraid to take risks in his personal life, and someone fighting for social justice may not face his own anxieties in a relationship.

Moreover, courage can emerge depending on parameters related to the personality and the environment. So no one is always brave (or cowardly).

The Effects of Courage

Understanding courage is one thing, but what are the effects? Beyond the moral value that can be attributed to courage, what are the benefits? Several studies shed light on the subject. For example, studies on soldiers show that a higher level of courage is linked to lower stress and optimal performance. More generally, courageous people have greater well-being, more satisfaction in life and more easily manage episodes of depression and distress.

To sum up, many works identify strong links between courage and the following dimensions:

Perseverance and the ability to defer gratification
Prosocial behaviors
Self-efficacy and self-confidence
Action orientation
Stress management
Satisfaction in life

There are many reasons to seek to be more courageous on a daily basis!

Cultivate Courage:

No one is born brave. We built it. Like any other dimension, courage can therefore be cultivated. And since we are all sooner or later confronted with personal or professional situations that require us to face our fears and take risks, this work is not useless. You might as well develop this aspect in calm weather to be ready when circumstances require it. This is what will allow us to act according to what seems right and important to us when the time comes.

7 Ways To Raise Your Level of Courage:

1- Develop Moral Courage:

Fostering this type of courage requires moral awareness. And to develop it, we can simply go through simulations that involve moral dilemmas. To do this, you can see the example.

Ask yourself what you would do in the place of such a character or such a decision-maker in the same situation.
Study a role model (someone you admire) and seek to understand the reasons for their courageous actions. By reading his biography, we often become more aware of the extent of his courage. For example, you can also be interested in closer models within your community or your family. They can allow you to find inspiration, embody noble values and invest in meaningful causes.

Playing video games that incorporate moral dilemmas. For example, a game like Papers Please suggests making this type of choice and observing the short- and long-term consequences.

2- Act Courageously When There Is Time For Reflection:

In order for courageous actions to bear fruit, they can also be optimized by analyzing the situation. To increase your chances of success and avoid reckless, irrational or unproductive behavior, you can rely on 6 distinct processes.

1- Establish main and secondary objectives. What would success look like in the risky situation being assessed?
2- Determine the importance of achieving these goals. What will be the moral, personal, social and material consequences if we do not act?
3- Tilt the balance of power in his favor. What relationships and supports can make our courageous action more likely to bear fruit?
4- Assess the benefit/risk ratio. What are the negative consequences of success and failure? What are the benefits of the action?
5- Choose the right moment to act. When will our action have the most impact and relevance?
6- Develop contingency management plans. What unforeseen events can occur? What to do in case of failure?

3- Work On Your Sense of Self-Efficacy

You can only be brave if you believe in your ability to have an impact on the environment. Developing courage, therefore, requires working on one’s self-efficacy or sense of self-efficacy. This requires success and awareness of them. Modeling or vicarious experience also makes it possible to develop this dimension. Of course, encouragement is also important for increasing one’s sense of self-efficacy and therefore fostering courage. I invite you to read this article which details these tracks in more detail.

4- Expand Your Comfort Zone

Developing courage requires taking risks, as we have seen. However, getting out of your comfort zone regularly to expand it little by little is one of the obvious actions to do this. This will allow you to maintain control in uncertain situations better. You will find examples and proposals for making this work in this episode of the podcast and in this article.

5- Set Goals And Identify Values

Having an ultimate goal, which is beyond us, also allows us to develop courage. When you know what you want to achieve, why you act and how it will bring positivity to yourself but also to others, it is easier to face your fears. Setting clear long-term goals and regularly reminding yourself of them is a great way to boost courage.

Identifying your values also allows you to know what matters to you. This can help us identify what deserves action to defend them. You can work on the subject by consulting this article.

6- Learn to Manage Stress

Courage requires taking risks in situations where you feel fear. Being able to manage stress better to prevent it from blocking us is a very good way to create space for courageous actions to take place. To avoid being paralyzed or running away, you can learn to better channel your stress via several methods presented here or here.

7- Cultivate Courage in Relationships

Relationships are an entirely appropriate “ground” for developing courage. If you want to work on this dimension in your interactions with others, you can explore the following avenues.

In a close relationship (or one that we would like to develop), we can use courage to give compliments. This may indeed seem difficult or uncomfortable to some. In this case, the objective is to focus on the positive experience of others and not on one’s own nervousness.
Consider discussing one of your relationship fears with your partner (eg, fear of intimacy, fear of being left, etc.). If this seems too difficult, start by using the courage to explore this fear in writing, such as in a journal.

Pay attention to something that worries you about a friend of yours and affects their well-being. Use the courage to share this with him or to think about how you might share it. If you do, use other character strengths like social intelligence, perspective, and kindness to help you present your concerns constructively.


Despite the representations we may have on the subject, courage is present everywhere in our daily lives. It is a strength of character necessary to improve and maintain personal growth. It bridges the comfort zone and the growth zone. And the means to develop courage are not lacking. It can be promoted by practice, for example (modeling) or by developing certain personal (eg, self-confidence) or collective (eg, group cohesion) characteristics.

Of course, working on your courage is not always easy: to win without danger, you triumph without glory. So build your courage little by little; no need to turn into a superhero overnight! You will see that despite some failures, this substantive work will bring you many benefits.

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Niemiec, R. M., & McGrath, R. E. (2019). The power of character strengths : Appreciate and ignite your positive personality. VIA Institute on Character.

Goud, N. H. (2005). Courage : Its Nature and Development. The Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development, 44(1), 102‑116.

Wang, J., Sun, D., Jiang, J., Wang, H., Cheng, X., Ruan, Q., & Wang, Y. (2022). The effect of courage on stress : The mediating mechanism of behavioral inhibition and behavioral activation in high-risk occupations. Frontiers in Psychology, 13, 961387.

Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues : A handbook and classification. American Psychological Association ; Oxford University Press.

Norton, P. J., & Weiss, B. J. (2009). The role of courage on behavioral approach in a fear-eliciting situation : A proof-of-concept pilot study. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 23(2), 212‑217.

Howard, M. C., & Cogswell, J. E. (2019). The left side of courage : Three exploratory studies on the antecedents of social courage. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 14(3), 324‑340.

Fowers, B. J., Novak, L. F., Calder, A. J., & Sommer, R. K. (2021). Courage, Justice, and Practical Wisdom as Key Virtues in the Era of COVID-19. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 647912.

Gibson, E. (2019). Longitudinal Learning Plan for Developing Moral Courage. Teaching and Learning in Nursing, 14(2), 122‑124.

Reardon, K. K. (2007). Courage as a skill. Harvard Business Review, 85(1), 58‑64, 124.

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