Book Review: The Courage Habit
Desire is a central feature of the human experience and yet we are so often held captive by it. What we want is often just out of reach, and the more unattainable, the more desire seems to grow. Yet, according to Kate Swoboda, what keeps us from getting what we want is not anything outside of us. It is our fear that holds us back.
In her new book, The Courage Habit: How to Accept Your Fears, Release the Past, and Live Your Courageous Life, Swoboda, who is a blogger and creator of YourCourageousLife.com, shows readers how to face themselves, overcome their fears, and live the life they have always wanted.
For Swoboda, the recognition that she needed to change her life didn’t emerge suddenly.
“I had felt the call to change my life for a while, and I had been pushing that truth away for a long time because the call always came with a healthy dose of fear,” writes Swoboda.
Yet like many others, Swoboda only worked harder to distract herself from the feeling that she was not living the life she really wanted.
“To make myself feel better, I got little highs off being busy and the praise that came from colleagues who remarked on how hard I worked,” writes Swoboda.
Fear, discontent, and unhappiness are signals that our lives need to change. And as much as we try to cover them up, compensate for them, or deny them altogether, they direct our lives – that is, until we face them.
The exhaustion, resentment, anger, and joylessness are important signals that are worth paying attention to. And our desires are valid.
“What we want for our lives matters, whether the things we want are simplistic or audacious,” writes Swoboda.
Getting those things, however, means first facing the patterns that keep us safe.
“If we want to make bold, courageous life changes we need to also understand how our habitual ways of being are either supporting or stopping us from change,” writes Swoboda.
Courage, however, can be cultivated. Through understanding how fear regulates our behavior and drives particularly entrenched habits, we can then learn strategies to practice and build courage.
Swoboda suggests an exercise called “liberated day,” in which “you sit down and map out a bold, full-tilt day where you’re living in exactly the way that you wish you were living, with nothing held back and incredible detail about every nuance.”
To practice the steps of courage, Swoboda suggests finding a primary focus of just three areas to shift, and then becoming aware of the cue-routine-reward patterns that act upon these areas.
“In any given moment, when our self-doubt is loud and intense, we are hardwired to try to get to the fastest possible release of tension even when that option is counter to our larger life desires,” writes Swoboda.
Our fears also follow four predictable routines – perfectionist, saboteur, martyr, and pessimist. A person stuck in a pessimist routine, for example, sees the world through a lens of doubt, is convinced things will never work out, and thus avoids taking responsibility.
Knowing the routine that fear follows, however, allows us to change it.
“Life will always have its cues, but if you can shift the routine part of the cue-routine-reward pattern, then you can shift the entire pattern itself,” writes Swoboda.
The first step is slowing down the nervous system response so that we keep fear sensations from escalating. From there, we can learn to listen, without attachment, to that harsh inner voice that often stops us in our tracks.
“I compare it to if you have encountered a drunk person on the street who was insisting that you’re a bad person. You might hear the words the person was saying, but you ultimately decide not to lend any authority to his words,” writes Swoboda.
By reframing our limiting stories, we can then shift our perceptions of ourselves, our abilities, and what is possible for us.
“Examining your stories so that you can consciously chose those that are more positive or supportive of your goals isn’t naïve. In being willing to believe that options are available, you’re more likely to find them,” writes Swoboda.
The result is not only a courageous life, but one that connects us through courageous relationships, habits, goals, and purpose to the world around us. The ripple effect that follows is a central part of reinforcing the habit of courage, and one that extends beyond ourselves, often powerfully influencing the lives of those around us.
Drawing on her own inspiring story, as well as the many clients she has coached, Swoboda offers a useful and practical guide to better understanding fears and building the powerful habit of courage that helps us to overcome them.
The Courage Habit: How to accept your fears, release the past, and live your courageous life
Softcover, 197 Pages