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The New Year often brings hope, expectations of new beginnings and resolutions for change.

What if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to be more courageous, to be more true to yourself and stand up for what you believe in?  We know that most New Year’s resolutions fall by the wayside by February so what can you do to truly become more courageous?

Here’s some practical advice to help you become more courageous in 2014.

1) Expect to not be perfect.

None of us are perfect all of the time and this applies to courage; more so than to any other behaviour.  The trouble is that very few situations are ever clearly right or wrong – if you think they are then you’re probably missing something!  Therefore, expect to miss opportunities to be courageous, expect to make mistakes, expect to take decisions that in hindsight might have been better done in another way.  Recognise that while we may think we know how we might respond in a certain way when confronted with a courageous situation, many of us aren’t quite so sure when theory becomes reality!

However, don’t look back but use these mistakes to become smarter, learn more about what is important to you and how you want to live your life.  Over time, you’ll make fewer mistakes and get better at behaving in a way that you want to, not how you think others expect to.

2) Look for (and expect) opportunities.

How many times have we all looked back at situations and realised it was an opportunity to be courageous?  That we behaved in a way that while it made sense at the time, in hindsight we should have done things differently.

Rather than living life in regret (see point one above), start to look for opportunities to be courageous before they occur.  Use the knowledge that you learn from your mistakes to spot the signs.  Then you’ll be more prepared for what might occur rather than getting ruffled as it occurs or worse, looking back with remorse.

3) Mentally rehearse your actions and how you will respond.

As you look for opportunities to be the person you want to be, mentally rehearse how situations might occur, how others might respond, what the consequences might be.  By mentally preparing for how others might respond to you (positively and negatively), you get the chance to practice the words and meanings you might want to relay to them.  Not only can this reduce the nervous you will be feeling (that’s why it’s called courage!), you can actually build you confidence.

Take this step one stage further if possible and discuss your courageous thoughts and potential reactions to trusted friends and complete strangers.  There is no better way of clarifying your beliefs than having to explain them to others.

4) Practice, practice and practice again.

Courage is a competency – the more you do it the better you get.  Therefore, practice as much as you can. 

The wonderful news is that courage is also catching!  The more you do it, the more likely it is that others around you will feel empowered to do the same thing.  All large changes in social values (from the Enlightenment to Emancipation to the wide acceptance of homosexuality) were started by a few individuals who didn’t accept the status quo and sought to persuade others to change their views. 

Make 2014 your year of courage.  Become the person you want to be.