“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore” William Faulkner
In the hallowed world of human qualities, courage is frequently considered one of the most admirable and desirable. Plucking it up often helps us overcome fears, leap into challenging situations and even embrace our unusual quirks. Courage often helps us start new ventures and as we enjoy the early sensations of something different, it is hard to foresee interest fading. However, when the grinding and grafting begins, it is easy to accept what we have obtained and move on to something else. I know I have been guilty of learning a new language or skill and fading away when I was no longer enjoying it or succeeding as much. This could be due to a lack of stimulation from the subject matter or perhaps it is a lack of determination to push through. In Finland this may be frowned upon as they pride themselves on having ‘Sisu’: a dogged perseverance and grit in the face of adversity. Taking that first courageous step is a challenge in itself and maintaining focus and drive through to the end can be equally difficult, but also equally rewarding.
Among his many words of wisdom, Winston Churchill once said “When you are going through hell, keep going”. However, what are the consequences of actions like these? A handy example of this mantra is the recently retired basketball player Kobe Bryant. Fighting off fatigue, broken bones and muscular strains, he willed himself and his team to reach the playoffs in 2013. Despite succeeding, he ruptured his Achilles tendon in the penultimate game of the season and this triggered a decline in his playing ability which his broken body simply could not reverse.
To individuals like Mr Bryant who display stereotypical Type A traits, this “do or die” mentality is both the making and breaking of them. On the one hand it often leads to high levels of success, but on the other, this sheer willpower can cause serious harm. For those nearer the type B end of the spectrum who display courage and perseverance in perhaps less public but equally daunting ways, it is hard to imagine such an imbalance. Perhaps the challenge lies in finding enjoyment in the process and appreciating what it will reap. If this does not occur, it may be worth changing tack and pursuing a new adventure!
“It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.” Mark Twain
Additional reading for those interested