Courage is a towering strength, one that has the revered status of a virtue throughout the ages and worldwide. To many people it represents something quite daunting, but in reality, it is not nearly as elusive as many believe.

Psychological courage propels a person from powerless to robust and increases exponentially the ability to transform an impossible dream into a mission accomplished. Walt Disney, the great dream maker, believes that, "All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them."

I love watching the 150 watt light bulb go on during a person's journey forward, experiencing the epiphany that facing your fears and refusing to be helpless makes you a mighty force for enacting your vision and ensuring the quest to become the best you can be. The process of learning to take risks and act boldly is truly an awesome one, the gift that keeps on giving. This is a gift you give yourself and the one you offer to others by your example.

What do you gain by becoming psychologically courageous? You gain yourself. There is a wonderful freedom that comes from being brave and facing your fears. Unchallenged fear is a prison that progressively depletes your world of choices as you comply repeatedly with its dictates. Avoidance leads to more avoidance, soon leading to a debilitating detour from a fulfilling, fruitful life.

What is malignant to the human spirit is the capitulation to fear. Dealing with fear in proactive, healthy ways is the primary element of psychological courage. Fear is one of the emotional/physical pathways set into gear when the old, non-thinking part of the brain perceives that a situation is life-threatening. The other pathway is aggression. The fear reaction sets the body in motion to run or escape from the threat, while the aggression reaction sets the body in motion to fight. This "fight or flight response" is essential in truly dangerous circumstances to decrease the chance of injury or death.

The key word here is "perceives." The perception that a situation is life-threatening does not mean it is. And therein lies the rub. Most of us have experienced fear in circumstances that do not threaten our safety. But our body is acting like a big old bear is chasing us down a mountain! The response is the same as in the days of the cavemen. It is, however, our interpretation of the situation -- what we tell ourselves about the potential consequences -- instead of a real threat of danger that has become the trigger.

Just as avoidance leads to more avoidance, courageous thoughts and actions lead to more courageous thoughts and actions. As a psychologist, I have worked with so many people whose lives were tied up in knots by their uncontested fears and by the difficulties of not knowing how to manage the stressors in their lives. It is truly a joy to help them unlock the door. There are coaching strategies that can be instrumental in evolving from a fear-based approach to a proactive, self-confident march forward. The psychologically courageous person:

• Manages fear
• Makes difficult/bold choices and takes risks
• Is ready, willing and able to face conflict
• Develops a proactive attitude toward difficulties in life
• Ends unhealthy personal relationships
• Makes important habit changes
• Makes change an ally instead of an adversary
• Pursues goals and dreams

Author's Bio: 

She has served as a hospital staff psychologist and has lectured on topics ranging from stress management, meditation and relaxation training to assertiveness and sleep management. Today, her private practice in San Diego is dedicated exclusively to Positive Psychology Coaching.

Her first book, "It's Your Little Red Wagon… 6 Core Strengths for Navigating Your Path to the Good Life," was Dr. Esonis’ initial contribution to the field of Positive Psychology, presenting proven success factors and strength-building techniques that can lead individuals to a life of purpose, motivation and personally-defined happiness.

In "8 Crazy Beliefs That Screw Up Your Life -- Change These Beliefs and Become a Healthier, Happier Person," Dr. Esonis identifies eight “Thematic Belief Systems” that, in her experience as a psychologist and life coach for over 30 years, prevent individuals from building healthy, long-lasting relationships and extracting maximum happiness from life. She examines these “crazy beliefs” with all their negative implications and offers practical, persuasive arguments for why – and how – they can be replaced with healthy alternatives.

Dr. Esonis is a member of the San Diego Professionals Coaches Alliance (SDPCA) and is a Founding Member of the Centre for Applied Positive Psychology (CAPP).