This is the first in the "Six Types of Courage" that we will explore in-depth. We hope you've already had the chance to read over our page called "The Six Types of Courage" for a brief overview of our definitions. The examples we give for each type of courage may apply to your children and/or to you —please keep in mind, when you are reading this post, that some of these examples may involve taking "baby steps" on your way to physical courage! Every step towards courage is worthwhile and important.
"If you worried about falling off the bike you'd never get on." Lance Armstrong
"A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer." Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway." John Wayne
Physical courage is the type most people think of first, the one that allows us to risk discomfort, injury, pain or even death—running into burning buildings as a firefighter, facing an enemy on the battlefield, undergoing chemotherapy, climbing a mountain, protecting a child from a dangerous animal. We are right to be wary of pain: pain tells us where our boundaries and limits are. However, sometimes there are things more important than pain, and our physical fear becomes a border to be crossed. Physical fear is often blown entirely out of proportion: pain is often greater in anticipation than in fact, and that dread can become an insurmountable barrier. Physical courage also involves recognizing that your body is how you participate in the world; keeping it healthy, strong, and resilient prepares you for all kinds of challenges, not just physical ones.
This inspiring video from TED.com gives us a great example of a woman confronting seemingly insurmountable barriers through physical courage. It's about seventeen minutes long; if you don't have time now, please watch it later. It's well worth it. Teaser: she rowed solo across the Atlantic Ocean!
Here's another compelling video about physical courage that challenges our assumptions about what it looks like. It's only ten minutes long:
Physical courage looks like:
- getting up after falling out of a tree, and trying again
- entering a dark room or sleeping in the dark
- training for a marathon
- resisting the temptation to eat junk food and reaching for healthy food instead
- breaking a board at martial arts school
- meditating for more than 15 minutes without falling asleep
- exercising regularly
- getting regular medical and dental exams
- enjoying the outdoors, no matter the weather, and exploring the world
- being sexual with an intimate partner (as an adult of course!)
- trying new physical experiences—activities, sensations, movements, sports
- employing all the senses: touch, taste, hearing, sight, smell
Lack of physical courage looks like:
- holding back or hiding
- giving up after one failed attempt
- clinging to unhealthy habits
- being a couch potato
- avoiding physical challenges
- ignoring the doctor's advice to change some of your lifestyle habits
- allowing a prior injury or frightening experience to scare you out of trying a new sport or activity
- shrinking back from a doctor or dentist
- shying away from new foods, activities, games
- using food/alcohol/drugs to dull sensation or feelings
Physical courage sounds like:
- "I'll try it!"
- "I'm okay!"
- "I can do it!"
- "Look at me!"
- "Let's go outside."
- "Can I pet your dog?"
- "I love my hair!"
- "Watch what I can do!"
- "No thanks, I'm full."
- "No thanks, I don't smoke/drink."
Lack of physical courage sounds like:
- "I can't do that."
- "I might get hurt!"
- "Don't do that! You'll break your arm!"
- "It's too hot/cold/wet/dry/squishy/slimy/dirty."
- "Boys don't dance."
- "Girls don't play rough."
- "I just washed my hands!"
- "It's too far/high/deep/big/steep."
- "I'm fat/ugly/slow."
- "I had a bad day—I need chocolate/a drink/a cigarette."
Grab Some Lion's Whiskers!
Here are some tips for helping develop physical courage for you and your kids:
- experiment with food! try some new tastes and textures from outside your usual menu choices
- spend time outside every day
- get really wet: go outside in the rain and let yourself get soaked to the skin
- get really dirty: get in the mud and don't come out until you're coated
- go on that amusement park ride you think might make you sick!
- get really tired: take a day-long hike or help with a community service project that makes you work up a sweat
- set a physical goal, like training for a marathon or doing a three-day canoe paddle or losing ten pounds —and stick to it! Let your kids hold you to account. They will be merciless!
- get down on the floor with your kids and spend the day looking at the world from their eye-level
- sleep outside or on the floor or just rearrange your bedroom furniture
- teach your kids how to meet dogs (hint: ask the owner first!)
- set a physical fitness goal for the whole family and bring all members of the family into the process; if that means losing weight and exercising together so everyone is more healthy it will be a big job, but it's a courage challenge worth doing!
- teach your children life skills such as fire-making, driving, cooking, CPR
- share stories about legendary athletes, explorers, etc.
What are your ideas about physical courage, your parenting tips to promote it with kids, or your favorite physical courage story (fiction or non-fiction)? We'd love to hear from you!
Here's more on the types of courage:
What is Social Courage?
What is Emotional Courage?
What is Moral Courage?
What is Intellectual Courage?
What is Spiritual Courage?
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