We live in a world that recognises and respects courage: the military hero, the policewoman who dies in the line of duty, the fireman who dashes into a burning building and emerges with a child in his arms. We are familiar with this kind of bravery as a result of our long patriarchal past.

With personal development, however, courage takes on new forms—and there is a place for them in our toolbox. The courage required to push ourselves to the next level falls into two kinds: outward directed and inward directed.

Outward directed courage

Outward directed courage is the closest to the traditional military-valour type of courage. This is the courage to step outside your comfort zone and do something you not only haven’t done before but also—more importantly—haven’t felt capable of doing.

That place outside our comfort zone is scary. We don’t know what happens out there. We don’t know how others will react to us stepping into that twilight zone. Just the thought of it induces an unpleasant feeling between our legs, makes us squirm and look for the slightest reason not to do it.

Conscious evolution is a continual expansion of our comfort zone. So get used to it. Courage is the tool we need to take the next step.

In my experience, conscious evolution is a continual expansion of our comfort zone. So get used to it. That stomach-rumbling feeling you get when you’re about to step outside your comfort zone is something you will become familiar with. Courage is sometimes the tool that we need to take the next step.

Still thinking of avoiding it? There’s a saying in spiritual circles, “that which you resist persists.” Damn right it does. When you fail to expand your comfort zone, all you’re doing is prolonging your own misery.

I can’t say that it gets easy, but it does get easier. You’ll get to know very clearly when you need to step up and you will learn the futility of resistance. Instead of putting off crucial changes and letting issues fester, you’ll get better at knocking them out of the park as soon as they show up.

Inward directed courage

The other kind of courage is inward directed. That’s the courage to expand your ‘inner comfort zone’.

For men, this might involve the courage to become softer and abandon macho posturing and violence as problem-solving methods. In a society built on the concept that men should be physically and mentally strong (and, implicitly, emotionally inflexible), letting go of this paradigm is a very courageous step.

It might mean finding the courage to attend a Tantric massage workshop and do some painful work to integrate your disconnected heart and genitals… it takes a lot of courage for men to be vulnerable.

For women, it might be the opposite. Step into some angry masculine energy. Give that dysfunctional family of yours a damn good shake. Watch the closet doors tumble off their hinges and the skeletons come rattling out… pick up the carpet the family’s dirty secrets have been swept under for generations and watch the creepy-crawlies come scuttling out.

No one may thank you, but you’ll know with utter certainty you have done the right thing—and they’ll know with utter certainty you are not to be messed with.

It might mean finding the courage to stand tall, like a lighthouse, and resist something that threatens to sweep over you that you know is wrong.

Like any tool in our emotional toolbox, when you use courage properly you will be left with the warm glow of knowing you have taken another step along your own path—and made the world a better place.

Photo by Tina Rolf on Unsplash