Most of my clients and students are facing a scary challenge of one sort or another: A high-profile leadership role. Major commitments to investors and employees. A huge professional opportunity that will inevitably take a toll on other aspects of life. They face plenty of daunting challenges on a smaller scale as well: The tough conversation at work. The tough conversation at home. The impact of big, demanding jobs on health, relationships, and peace of mind. And I'm right there alongside them, wrestling with all sorts of difficulties that generate uncertainty, anxiety, and outright fear.
What allows us to face these challenges? Courage. But when we quaver in the face of a challenge, when we lose our mojo, and our palms start to sweat, and we want to run away and let someone else slay this particular dragon, we often make a colossal error in judgment: We think that courage comes from confidence, and we interpret our lack of confidence as the absence of courage. This is profoundly mistaken--a lack of confidence need never prevent us from finding courage.
We may utterly lack confidence--we may even suspect that failure is a near-certainty. But that determination has no bearing at all on our ability to be courageous in the face of those long odds. The issue isn't the likelihood of failure--the issue is the relative cost.
The key to untangling this confusion lies in understanding these two qualities and how they differ: Confidence is a calculation of the odds of success. Courage is a calculation that the cost of not trying is higher than the cost of failing.
Photo by Dmitry Stepankov. Yay Flickr.