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Choose Courage

Over the last seven years of my solo extreme running career I’ve learned a thing or two about what seems to be the fine balance between fear and courage. I started mulling over the whole theme after numerous people commented on my great courage. Men and women alike referred to how brave I was to be able to face and conquer such extreme endeavours, and what’s more, to face them solo.  I didn’t think too much about it at the start, but as the years and challenges rolled by I began contemplating what on the face of it seemed obvious – the relationship between fear and courage. The fact that I was facing and undertaking what for many were terrifying challenges must obviously mean that I was brave, right? The thing about people’s perception about courage is curious. Many think that a courageous person lacks fear. In actual fact, bravery or courage is the ability to do something that frightens you.
We spend far too much time in life trying to avoid fear – I should know, I spent my first 37 years doing anything I could to avoid feeling fear – when in fact this is a complete waste of our time and energy.

It’s natural to feel fear – everybody does, men and women alike. From the weakest of us to the most powerful, fear is present in all our lives. Fear is part of our innate survival mechanism. Fear is not bad. Fear, if used correctly, can allow us to clearly assess risks and therefore take preventative measures.

Now, of course there are varying degrees of fear, and when I am referring to it here I’m not referring to phobias and extreme terror, just good old simple fear: that unpleasant emotion brought on by a threat (real or perceived) of danger, harm, or pain. The problem is, though, that today’s society thrives on fear – fear is what keeps us all in line, fear is what turns us into obedient followers, all willing to toe the line. Far too many people let fear take too much of a hold on them. If we let fear dictate how we live our lives we will never evolve, we will stagnate as individuals and as societies.

Learn to use fear – allow it to highlight potential risks, and then close the door to it.

I have learned one base truth about courage and fear: You cannot avoid fear, but you can overcome it. When fear comes knocking, let it in, see what it has to say, use your intellect to assess the truth in what it says, take preventative action, and then bid fear farewell and step out into whatever endeavour it was that brought fear to your door. Dare to look fear in the eye and then choose to overcome it. Take your life into your own hands, courage is a choice not a state, so choose courage: evolve, innovate, and learn to fly!

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