Anyone with children understands that those munchkins have some gusto. They look at the world through a fresh pair of eyes and the only fears many of them have are fictional. Jumping from couch to couch, learning cartwheels and flips on a trampoline, and running at full speed with no fear of falling shows their fearlessness has not been trampled yet — they still feel indestructible.
Unfortunately, as we age many of us start to fear pain and failure, so we stop trying to push ourselves to learn new things or venture into the unknown. Somewhere along the line we lose our fearlessness. Psychologists say that this isn’t a bad thing. After all, realizing fear is a healthy survival tactic that has kept humans safe for years. But the problem isn’t fear itself. It’s that somehow, at some point in our lives, we stopped analyzing the things that scared us to determine whether or not they were worthy of our fear.
Courage is defined as the “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear or difficulty.” I’m going to venture a guess and say that each and everyone of us has something in our life we need courage to face, may it be personal or professional. In BJJ and martial arts, we call such tenacity “the fighting spirit.” While you can take those words literally given the sport, it mostly acknowledges the ability to face the unknown and walk towards it despite not knowing the outcome.
My life spent practicing BJJ has led me to believe that everyone is born fearless and with a sense of courage, but with time we are conditioned to succumb to fear. That means that we can relearn how to be brave, and I have seen it thousands of times on and off the mat. Like any skill or characteristic, bravery and courage take time, and failure, to master. We cannot always come out on the other side of a challenge as a winner, but we do come out stronger and more knowledgeable. The more often we face fear head on, the easier it becomes to walk towards it.
If you’re interested in building your bravery and courage, consider taking a martial arts class. If that’s too much of a leap for you at the moment, start out small by making a list of things that you’re scared of or fear doing, like speaking in public, asking someone out on a date, or talking to your boss about a promotion or raise. Take the time to develop a plan to tackle each fear and then put it into action. Fighters do this each and every day while preparing for an opponent. Research, plan, and perform. Crossing out your fears will help you to see that all bravery needs to thrive is a consistent step in the right direction.