Build Courage: 3 Strategies to Overcome Fear

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "High Performance Habits" by Brendon Burchard. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is courage and how does it affect performance? Can you build courage into your character?

Courage is the willingness to take purposeful action in service of a goal despite fear, danger, or adversity. Courage is not an inborn trait and anyone can build courage.

Keep reading for more about courage, its role in performance, and what you can do to build courage into your character.

What Are the Different Types of Courage?

Courage is the willingness to take purposeful action in service of a worthy and sincere goal despite fear, danger, or adversity. These actions don’t have to be bold to be effective. Any step toward overcoming fear or embracing the uncertain is a courageous act. Courage doesn’t include actions that harm other people or encourage needless risk. 

There are four primary types of courage:

  • Physical: courage in which you put yourself in danger for a worthy cause
  • Moral: courage in which you stand up for your beliefs in the face of adversity
  • Psychological: courage in which you overcome a personal fear or anxiety and grow
  • Everyday: courage in which you maintain positivity in the face of uncertainty

Even if you don’t know the ultimate outcome, try and act with tendency towards action over discussion. This allows for quick decision-making and decisive action, boosting your performance. This is not to say that you shouldn’t strategize and plan. The point is that you shouldn’t get lost in talking about something.

How to Build Courage

Courage requires a mindset of gratitude, a tendency for action, and the willingness to face your fears. These qualities allow you to embrace risk and live confidently. To build courage into your character, consider these tips: appreciate the hardship, share your dreams, and fight for someone.

Appreciate the Hardship

People are always searching for the “easy way” to do things. Whether it’s getting rich or getting fit, people don’t want to put in the work to achieve their goals. But aversion to hardship prevents people from developing healthy habits and taking risks. To build courage, you must change your mindset on hardship:

  • Embrace the challenge. Learn to enjoy taking on and overcoming obstacles. This will help you change your fear to excitement. 
  • Accept that difficult and unappealing tasks are essential to growth. There is no “easy way” to high performance. Remind yourself that the frustrating tasks you’re facing are helping you grow as a person.
  • See the light at the end of the tunnel. Always remember that there are better times ahead. Remind yourself why you’re doing what you do and fight relentlessly towards that goal.

Share Your Dreams

Many people refuse to share their goals out of fear of judgment or ridicule. They’ve been taught that expressing your ambition is pretentious and demeaning. This leads people to hide their desires from others and minimize their own accomplishments. 

If you want to build courage into your character, you must talk openly about your dreams and mingle with people who support them. For example, you share your dream of starting a small business with Martha and Kendra. Martha tells you that you should focus on more “attainable” goals. Kendra, on the other hand, immediately starts brainstorming with you about next steps. Because you shared your dream, you now know that Martha is someone who will tear you down, while Kendra is a great source of support and encouragement.

As you start to share your dreams, consider the following tips:

  • Ask for help. The more you ask for assistance, the more opportunities you have to find supportive people to help you reach your goals.
  • Don’t minimize your ambition. If you feel strongly about a goal, share your vision with fervor. This keeps you motivated and helps you connect with high-achievers. Don’t suppress your dreams to make them more “realistic” or “relatable.”
  • Ignore the haters. When you have big dreams, there will inevitably be people who scoff at your ambition or want to bring you down. They’re not worth your time and shouldn’t be the reason that you abandon your goals. Just because they’re not living life to the fullest, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

Fight for Someone

Overcoming obstacles for the benefit of someone you care about goes a long way at helping you build courage into your character, which will in turn encourage you to deliver your best performance. For example, if you want to provide for your child’s education, you may fight harder for a promotion or lucrative project. People are more inclined to go above and beyond for others than for themselves. For example, a mother may not argue with her boss for treating her poorly, but she’ll fight for their child if she sees them being bullied.

Build Courage: 3 Strategies to Overcome Fear

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Here's what you'll find in our full High Performance Habits summary :

  • The 6 habits that high performers have
  • How being a high performer is about more than one big achievement
  • The 3 traps that can foil you, even if you're a high performer

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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