Belief Experiment #6: Courage is the Best Tool

Structure of the Belief Overview

I will assess the following questions (this section is more detailed in the Belief Experiment #1 write-up):

(1) What perceptual points will best take me back to this belief? (2) What do I take this belief to mean?

To clarify, the first question asks, How can I recreate the perception this belief gives me? I could also state it as, What stands out when I hold this belief?

There are two parts to 2: (a) Where/how this belief logically fits into my current belief system (if it does so), and (b) If and how the belief is important to me: what I have learned from it, how it has led me to behave differently, etc.

I’ll start with (2a), then address (1), and finally (if needed), (2b).


What is the Context for this Belief?

Context for the Belief: The biggest limiting factor on the full expression of human life is fear.

The Belief: Courage- the defiance of fear- is my best tool.


What is the Experience of the Belief?

I haven’t suddenly decided to go free solo climbing or hop in James Cameron’s submarine to travel to the bottom of the Marina Trench, but there certainly have been noticeable effects. There have been two, in particular: I’ve been more inclined to (1) display my interests more openly; and (2) make decisions based on courage.

(1) means two things: that (1a) if I want to do something but feel hesitant because other people are around, I do it anyway; and (1b) in conversation I’m more likely to directly state something I want to do.

An example of (1a): When in the woods today I wanted to slide down the hill I was on top of; then, from the stream I would land in, climb up the next hill. Most people stay on the trails, and I think we’re technically not supposed to go in the water. I was a little nervous because I knew someone was on top of the other hill, but, well, I did it anyway. Woo-hoo, brother.

An example of (1b): When asked where I’m going to school next year I said I probably am not, as opposed to the usual “Uhhhhh I don’t know… University of Mars?” It’s not the most daunting statement to make but I suppose it counts. (1b) also means that I’m likely to share something even if I’m not asked about it.

(1b) could certainly use more improvement than (1a), but for two days a noticeable improvement isn’t too shabby.

(2) mostly takes the form of me asking, Which option would require more courage? Sometimes this is a little tough because I can’t be sure what my fears will be few hours from now, but I suppose what matters is what I’m more afraid of now.

What’s also a bit confounding is facing fairly reasonable fears, such as the fear of wasting time. I mean, what do I want myself to do, watch paint dry for an hour?

Of course, I’m not sure that any fear can be called reasonable, except for fear in the moments during a chase (say, from a bear) that helps you to run faster. I suppose this fear is basically adrenaline. But surely I can conclude that something is dangerous, such as jumping off a cliff, and avoid that thing without fearing it. Let’s be honest: do I really need fear to help me make rational decisions? Maybe just to avoid life-wasting activities, if anything. :P


What does this Belief Mean to Me?

I felt a tad uncomfortable when I first wrote out this belief because I didn’t really think courage is the best tool out there-- you know, like, number one. It’s certainly an excellent tool, but is it really the best? I thought that exaggerating the belief a little bit by saying “the best” instead of “an awesome” tool would help, but that may have backfired. So I’m wondering if that bit of doubt might have hampered this experiment, but I’m not certain.

Anywho, the most important aspect of courage to me is the honesty inherent to it. If you’ve read some of my earlier articles you may know that I’ve struggled quite a bit with honesty, but I aspire to become the honesty-master.

It does seem a bit silly to me that most of my fears are socially-related, though I don’t seem to be alone in this. If many people really do fear public speaking more than death then surely I am not alone by any stretch of the imagination.

I usually don’t lie outright— instead, I withhold certain significant details. I also try to water down my feelings and attitudes, so that I don’t seem to care about something as much as I do. I don’t think I have to put on a drama every time I’m asked for an opinion, but I’m sure that whatever I share will be more valuable if it’s honest and complete rather than shreds of supposedly-acceptable information—in other words, vanilla content that people probably hear all the time.

In short, dishonesty means that I become boring, and, well, I don’t want to be boring. I suspect it does the same for many other people, aside from those who use dishonesty to bring attention to themselves. In either case, dishonesty usually doesn’t do a whole lot for us except spare us from a bit of short-term discomfort, and short-term discomfort is probably better for health than lies. So there’s really no need for all this lying and withholding business, is there?

This doesn’t mean I’ll share everything with everyone from here on out, but I do think we all could do with more honesty. How different would the world be? Would we have more conflict, or less? Maybe at first there would be more chaos, but ultimately I think it would create more harmony. It’d be far easier for people to connect with what they really want, and they will be more content thus. We’ll be pushed to grow more because our relationships will become more rich and complex—and perhaps our known desires, along with them. At the same time, relationships will be simpler in that we won’t have to search for hidden meanings or covered-up wrongdoings anywhere. That means that failing marriages, for instance, will likely end in relative calm before months of affairs can go on and leave one person embittered for years to come. Wow. J

Overall, courage has provided me with clarity and has made my days more satisfying. I trust it will lead me to do super cool things—perhaps things you, dear reader, can benefit from.

I suppose a blind over-emphasis on courage could result in me facing whacky fears (such as jumping off a cliff) to the exclusion of all other activities, but I think this is unlikely to happen. For one thing, courage isn’t my only tool. For another, overcoming fear is key to personal development. To have grown means to have bested fear (oh yeah, I’m so glad I found a place to use that word). Whether you act because of your fear or in spite of it, to do so means you have awareness-enough to know that fear does not own you.

In different phases of life you are likely to find different fears to contend with. Defying those fears is key to committing to what you value and to being the person you would really like to be. As long as you have fear, remember, you are limited.

Of course, there’s no need to purge all your fears at once, but that’s awesome if you find a way to do that. Becoming less afraid means becoming more aware, and becoming more aware is a process. If a point of relative fearlessness can be reached it might take the rest of your life. But hey, why not start now? If you make it there, you will be unstoppable. And if you don’t, your life will still have been far more exciting and fulfilling than if you chose to wallow in your fears indefinitely instead.

Remember, also, that physically escaping what you fear doesn’t mean psychologically escaping it. If you have an irrational fear of insects, for instance, chances are you’ll feel them crawling on your skin even if you’re inside the world’s most pristine data center (perhaps Google?). You can hope that the undesirable parts of your psychology will just shut off when the corresponding parts of your environment do, but, sorry: it seems that this is not always the case.

Trying to physically confront your fear, likewise, may or may not help you, but usually it’s the most effective way.

Where you can reduce fears without facing them directly is by reducing your fear of death. The fear of death, it seems, is at the root of many fears, such as disease and the dangers of outdoors. Whether it’s also behind the fear of public speaking I’m not as certain, but making peace with death can be a huge step toward relative fearlessness.

If you be your best in every moment and thus feel you have lived life as fully as you can up to this point, then what do you have to fear? Surely there will be things you would have liked to do, but when you look at the wonderful person you have grown into and are still becoming, how can you die bitterly? You rocked the time you were given, and it’s awesome that you were able to do all the things that you did. Now it’s time to wreak havoc in the afterlife. J

So, if you try to insulate yourself from the world, you’ll probably find yourself in the middle of a white, padded room, scared out of your mind. It won’t be long before they wrap you up in the straightjacket, so you don’t have to be afraid of yourself… At least, so they think.

It is up to you, my friend (or enemy, or dog—whatever you are). Shield yourself unnecessarily from the world, conquer it (good luck), or befriend it. For me, the third option is the most fun and fulfilling to take, and it’s probably much easier than trying to avoid all possible danger.

I know I can die at any moment. So, instead of avoiding death, why don’t I try to make my life a courageous, fearless masterpiece?

The next belief might seem either overly-obvious or overly-supportive of free will. I might struggle with it a little, but I think it may resemble subjective reality, which I am indeed familiar with.

Here it goes: Things [I want] do not come to me: instead, I create them.