A Practical Approach to Living Courageously

Is there something you’ve been wanting to do, that you know will be good for you, but you just can't get up the courage to act? If so, there is good news. Recent studies in neuroscience show that courage can be strengthened - just like a muscle, just like willpower - and it is relatively easy to do.

Before we go to the science, let's look at the concept of courage itself. What do we mean by it? Interestingly, the word "courage" comes from the Latin word “cor,” which means “heart.” The link between heart,  emotion and courage becomes clear in the Middle Ages, when the word corage comes to mean “what is in one’s mind or thoughts.”  If someone has heart – if they have bravery and strength of character – then they have corage. Built into the word itself is the concept of a strong heart.

Fast-forward to today: Even though we place much more emphasis on the brain as the center for thought and emotion, we still think of courage as “strength of heart.” Willpower, a relative newcomer compared to courage, can't do all the heavy lifting (we'll examine willpower in another post). When we are doing the hard work of life transformation, heart strength - courage - is needed to take big steps forward.

So what is the scientific technique for improving your strength of heart? Neuroscientists have studied how the brain reacts when we feel courage and fear, and their research suggests that taking small risks transforms the way we experience larger risks in the future. The more we take safe and manageable risks, the more we want to continue to take risks. In other words, we become naturally more courageous because we innately enjoy challenging ourselves and expanding our abilities through risk-taking.

Now let's look at the thing you've been wanting to do. Assume you are able to act with courage today. Envision your life a week, month, or year from now. Do you want to make your vision a reality? Try the simple actions below - and stay tuned for more tips and tools on your Path4Change. 


  • When I have more courage, I will...
  • What I want to do right now is...
  • My next step to strengthen my courage, if any, is...