How to create a courageous mindset

Every day, we have the chance to act courageously. Courage is the willingness to pursue a noble goal or purpose despite risk, danger, or fear. According to Dr. Albert Schwartz, courage helps us get to where we want to go while bringing out the best in us. It's looking in the mirror and deciding you can do hard and worthwhile things, and then doing them.

Some people are more predisposed toward courage. These people tend to be more open to experiences, have a higher level of empathy, and tend to act in conscientious ways.

Does that mean that a courageous mindset is out of everyone else's grasp? Not at all. There are five other factors that psychologist agree play into courage.

Our emotions are a large factor. Anger, joy, fear, and other emotions can fuel acts of courage. Our values and identity also feed our courage. If we see ourselves as capable and confident, it's much easier to be courageous. Outside, social forces may play a role in our courage.

Lastly, and most critically, is the situation. What exactly is happening in this moment that asks you to act courageously? Is it worth the risk or danger? 

All six of these factors play into our choice to act courageously in any given moment. But we do have the ability to cultivate a courageous mindset, making it easier to act with courage when the need arises. 

We often hear people who are awarded for their bravery say they were just doing what they were trained to do. And that is the key to building a courageous mindset. Training. Practice. If-then scenarios. Making a conscious decision every day to act with courage, however small.

Courage isn’t in doing what comes naturally. It is rarely about one grandiose, beautiful self-sacrificing gesture. And it isn’t about doing what’s right when success is a sure thing. Courage is doing what is awkward, tedious, annoying and inelegant in the face of uncertainty. It is stepping in to cover for someone else because someone must. And it is taking small, incremental steps every week, every month, every season, every year until it becomes a habit. 
— Alexandra Dufresne

Ask yourself why you want to be more courageous

If you're reading this post, I think it's safe for me to assume that you want to develop a courageous mindset. But why?

Take a few moments to consider this. Fill in the sentences below

  • I want to build a courageous mindset because     
  • Being more courageous will mean      
  • Acting with more courage will change my life in the following ways     

What obstacles stand in your way

Usually, when it comes to acting with courage, the biggest obstacle is ourselves. But there may be other things standing in your way. Maybe you're not clear on your intentions, your goal, or your values.  Take a moment to fill in the following sentences.

  • When a situation arises that requires courage, my biggest obstacle is   
  • If I could remove one obstacle to acting courageously, it would be    
  • I could make acting with courage easier by   

Make acting with courage a habit

Habits are automatic behaviors that begin with a cue (or trigger) and end with a reward. Let's consider brushing your teeth. For me, turning on the shower in the morning is the cue. While I wait for the water to warm up, I brush my teeth. I don't really have to think about it. There's no deciding, no contemplation. I just do it. The reward - fresh breath and clean teeth.

Putting on a seat belt is the same. I sit down in a car and I automatically put on my seat belt. Cue= sitting in a car. Reward = less anxiety and a feeling of safety.

So how do you make acting with courage a habit? 

First decide on the type of situation that you most want to build a courageous response to, such as making small talk with a stranger.

Next, determine a cue. For the above example, the cue may be each time you stand in line at the grocery store.

Last, know what your reward is. That really goes back to your WHY. What are you hoping to feel when you act courageously? When you talk to the stranger, take a moment to assess how you feel. Does that feeling support your why? And how does that make you feel right now? How about an hour after the interaction?


If you're looking for ideas on where to start, consider the 100 days of rejection challenge.  Yes, it sounds painful, but I can't imagine how someone could finish the challenge without a great deal more courage.