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March 17, 2015 12:01 AM EDT
Barker is the author of Barking Up The Wrong Tree

In his book The Courage Quotient: How Science Can Make You Braver, Robert Biswas-Diener shows how we can use science and research to be more brave.

He explains that there are two factors to courage:

  • Fear
  • Willingness to act

They can both go up or down. Courage = “Willingness to act” divided by “Fear.”

To increase bravery you must either:

  • Reduce fear.
  • Boost willingness to act.
  • Do both of the above.

What steps can we take in the moment to be more courageous?

1) Reduce uncertainty

The more we understand about a situation, what could realistically occur, and our position in it, the more able we are to think clearly. We are consumed by worry and fear when we don’t understand what is going on, don’t know what to do and or how to get control:

via The Courage Quotient:

2) Relax

You need something to calm your body so you don’t panic. Interestingly, this was also one of the techniques the Navy SEALS used to increase passing rates:teaching “arousal control.”

Yoga, prayer, meditation — anything that helped people keep calm proves valuable.

via The Courage Quotient:

3) Get angry

I’ve posted before how anger focuses attention on rewards, increases persistence, makes us feel in control and more optimistic about achieving our goals. When we want to be courageous, that’s exactly what we need.

via The Courage Quotient:

4) Alternately, accept the possibility of failure

If it’s life or death, anger might be great. If it’s just public speaking, rage may not be an option. So we must shift from a defensive “prevention focus” to a reward-oriented “promotion focus.” And that means accepting the possibility of failure and seeing life as a learning opportunity.

via The Courage Quotient:

People performed best at public speaking not when they feared making mistakes or even when they were willing to forgive their own mistakes. They felt great and were rated most highly when they took a “novelty” perspective: deliberately making mistakes and then incorporating them into the presentation.

via The Courage Quotient:

Can these types of strategy really work? 82% of the people surveyed who had committed acts of bravery said they used some sort of courage-enhancing strategy before their big moment.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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