08/02/2015 09:22 EDT | Updated 08/02/2016 05:59 EDT

What Courage Really Means

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Portrait of young woman outdoors

When we think of courage, we see a soldier, a fighter, or an athlete.

Over the last few centuries, courage has been associated with masculinity, outward strength, and yang energy.

This view has caused us to overlook some of the best parts of courage. So many of us are focused on appearing strong. Instead of dealing with our emotions and pain, we suppress them. We put up walls. We hide how we really feel. We neglect who we really are.

Fake strength imprisons us in our comfort zones. Imagine being stuck on an elevator between floors. When we are honest with ourselves, we know we have closed the door and locked ourselves inside. Our souls want to go up. Grow. Expand. Our fear wants to go down. Stay small. Hide. In this space, we claim, "I just don't know what to do." The truth is we know exactly what to do, but we're afraid.

The massive conscious awakenings happening on this planet today are begging us to have a more balanced understanding of courage.

So what are the yin qualities of courage? The word courage actually comes from the latin word "cor," which means heart. And the French word, "corage," which also means "heart" and "innermost feelings." So the history of courage has a much softer side.

Courage is not just an outward display of manliness. Courage is an internal process too.

Today's common definition of courage is Susan Jeffers' statement, "feel the fear and do it anyway." But Susan said this 28 years ago.

It's time to uncover a deeper layer of courage.

Let's look at my new definition. Courage is the ability to move forward boldly and authentically, guided by your intuition, despite fear, pain, or uncertainty.

We can't just focus on the actions we take, but the drive and intention behind those actions. When we are aligned and connected to our most authentic selves, it becomes easier to be courageous, bold, and daring.

Inner courageousness allows us to follow our hearts, listen to our intuition, and lead soulfully satisfying lives while having all of our needs, desires, and goals met.

Here are three ways we can cultivate inner courage.

1. Take those chains off the door.

Fake strength is like a chain that locks the doors to our authentic self. It looks pretty, shiny, and strong on the outside, but it throws our hearts into hibernation. The chain prevents pain from coming in. But it also blocks all the juicy stuff too. Stuff like love, ecstasy, and passion. Practice being vulnerable. Love openly. Don't be afraid to explore and let life get a little messy. Release control. Let life flow. The pain of heartbreak will not kill you. It will shift and shape you into the person you were meant to be. If you let it.

2. Lean in and listen.

Stop giving everything away.

Every moment of your day should not be spent serving others.

I want you to be selfish -- not for your ego's needs but for your spiritual needs. This does not mean hoarding your good. But it means saving a little piece of your day to nurture your soul. Take time to build your spiritual connection to yourself, the world, and your higher power. This little bit of effort, compounded over time, creates a magnificent, "feel good" life.

When you learn to lean into your intuition, listen, and then act, you'll be delighted by how well-orchestrated life can be.

3. Commit to your joy.

Have you ever felt so much joy bubbling up inside you, you wanted to run away?

I don't think we allow the full capacity of joy to overwhelm our lives.

When was the last time you laughed from your gut? When was the last time you let joy shake you, rock you, and fill you up?

Committing to your joy feels like sending a note to that boy or girl you liked in grade school asking, "Do you like me back?" It looks like you're standing on the edge. It feels like anticipation. The more you seek to control this uneasiness, the less pure joy you will experience. Have the courage to let joy unnerve you and rock your boat.

It's a lot more fun to open up and let go. Trust me. Trust yourself. Fully commit to feeling good.

If you start with these three things, you'll notice your courage muscles begin to build. It may hurt in the beginning. But if you keep going, you'll get stronger. And not the fake strength that relies on hiding our emotions. But real inner strength that grounds you in inner knowingness, confidence, and certainty.

Cultivating real courage makes us better people. And better people create better worlds.


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