Cultivating Courage

Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

― Winston S. Churchill

I dove into the Atlantic Ocean last week and swam as far as I could…

In every stroke, I could feel the blood in my veins shift from freezing, to cold, to bearable to comfortable.

And the moment came where I was completely relaxed, and a tear slowly fell down my cheek.

I am not sure I have felt more alive in my own skin.

Why was I here? And where did I find the courage to dive into the cold unknown? What was my motivation? And why now and why here? Was there something to prove? Or was there a hunger for something I did not know?

My lesson here was it took some bit of courage to step into an experience. It took courage to step outside of my comfort zone and face the fear of failure.

Success or failure, I have found that my true growth comes from my growing edges of discomfort.

This also made me realize that courage is not always about ‘doing’ something. It can also be found in our words and our feelings.

There have been countless times in my adult life that I have had to flex this muscle and learn from every misstep or miscalculation along the way. I have found that courage takes courage to do something that is scary, frightening, and super uncomfortable. Inside my vulnerability, I found bravery, inside my bravery I found my voice.

These lessons below were passed along to my children through birthday letters written with love and the knowing that lessons worth learning are worth sharing.

Reflecting on a few past journal entries, I was able to identify a variety of layers of courage:

Physical courage: (current example of diving in the ocean)

Know your comfort zone and then step outside of it…

Your comfort zone feeds your confidence, and the steps outside of it will fuel your courage and expand the view of your own possibility.  You will find a part of yourself when you become comfortable being uncomfortable.

The art is dancing in-between the two worlds. It is important to know that both will serve you if taken in instinct and truth.

Emotional courage:

Say what you need to say; even if it’s hard…

Find your words and trust your truth. If you are completely honest with your feelings with no ego or agenda attached, nothing or no one can hurt you. Finding the courage and confidence to express your thoughts in a neutral and loving way will be a game-changer for you…and the world. 

Calculated courage:

You know what you need to do and have weighed the odds and calculated the risks.

Some of the components in cultivating calculated courage.

Confidence to stand up, speak up and step up. You know what you must lose, but more so what you must gain. Your voice is crucial and necessary – in relationships, in your community, and in the world.

Courage to trust your instincts. If you are second-guessing your choice, it is probably a NO. Your heart will speak louder than your head.

Strength to keep talking when you are tired or frustrated. Your unspoken feelings and words can become toxic if covered for too long. Keep the conversations alive.

Curiosity to nurture your relationships. Your questions will reveal the details of the past and the possibilities of the future. Stay interested and engaged, it will keep you connected at a heart level.

Commitment to practice being present in every situation. There are zillions of distractions that will hijack your thoughts. Stay awake, alive, and focused on where you are in the moment.

I am finding that every day we are asked to experience courage in some way shape or form. It is all in what we choose to do, choose to speak, or choose to feel at a level that is uncomfortable yet life-affirming.

May we all find the courage to fall, fail or succeed and then do it again, again and again.

Is there something calling to you that requires courage?


Carolyn Lebanowski
Carolyn Lebanowski
Carolyn began her professional career in retail and grew to become an experienced and respected senior-level executive with expertise in strategic development, organizational communication, and executive coaching. After nearly three decades of career growth in corporate organizational development, Carolyn was ready for a career change—and a life change. This led to a new role and the most challenging, enriching, and rewarding work of her life, as a Strategic Business Leader for nonprofit spiritual institutions. As Executive Director and Chief Opportunity Officer for 2 large organizations, it gave her the opportunity to fuse the professional and the personal, aligning her business acumen with her spiritual identity and passion for the development of human potential—in her colleagues, in her community, and in herself. Carolyn is a writer who seeks above all to share from the heart. Her impulse to write began 20 years ago with letters to her children and grew into journaling that was unedited and life-affirming. Today she writes with a focus on raw, authentic, and lived experience, to explore, express, and make sense of the pain and joy, and struggles and triumphs, of life. In all her endeavors, she champions connection, integrity, and radical positivity. Today, Carolyn is a published author and a Columnist/Featured Contributor at BIZCATALYST 360° and is living in Cascais, Portugal.

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  1. To manage complexity, change, insecurity and uncertainty that characterize, increasingly, the current economic environment, it needs the affirmation of the fundamental virtue of courage to undertake new initiatives with enthusiasm and optimism and lead with successful those already initiated. We need courage to act in line with what we believe, not let fear take over our dreams and it takes courage to assert our ideas with respect, while remaining open to the possibility of changing opinion.
    According to Aristotle, courage is the first of the human virtues, because it is the attitude that ensures the realization of all the other virtues and is the right balance between cowardice and recklessness, distinguishing impetuosity and anger.
    Courage allows us to be transparent and consistent in our beliefs, but also to admit our mistakes.
    Even at the base of entrepreneurial initiative is the courage that allows to overcome the obstacles that impede the realization of the “dream” that drives the entrepreneur, which then translates into concrete form in the economic environment.
    There are different shades of courage, ranging from physical strength to stamina, from mental skills to passion.
    Courage must be present in various areas of human experience (the courage to educate, to say no, to start over, to be afraid, to write, to imagine, to create…). In the end, courage is the magical opportunity that allows you to understand the present and build the future.