Courage: How Do You Fill Your Tank?

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This week a client emailed me something that was refreshingly honest:

I am having ‘one of those days’! Do you have any ‘this is why we put up with this crap…the ultimate outcome will be worth it’ blogs that I could read?

I pondered this idea for a while before concluding that I didn’t have a magic blog which addressed this. However, I became fully convinced that we all need things that can get us through the tough times! As I continued to consider this idea, I found myself focusing on the word encouragement. We all need it and few of us receive too much of it. So where do you and I find this vital source of strength? Where do we go to build courage?

The word encourage is derived from two French words:

en (meaning ‘in’) + corage (meaning ‘courage’)

This simple etymology reminds us that encouragement is something that helps us build courage within ourselves. Have you ever thoughtfully considered your need for courage? We need courage to try something new. I need courage when I face uncertainty. You need courage when you are afraid.

I began to realize each of us has an invisible courage tank. Like your vehicle’s gas tank, the level of your courage tank will vary based on life’s circumstances. Sometimes it will be full, perhaps even brimming over. Yet at other times, it will be so empty that you feel like a hitchhiker with their thumb in the air begging for just enough courage to get you by. This metaphor reminds us that you and I must regularly fill our courage tanks!

Lesson 1: We all must obtain courage! You cannot thrive without it.

The next step in my mental journey was pondering where we obtain courage. If we all need it, where do we get it from? My conclusion was that the source of courage is both internal (yourself) and external (others). As an example, there are times when I alone muster the strength needed for a tough meeting or to make a difficult decision. I must draw courage from my own courage tank! There are other times when I rely on others for courage. My mentors, friends, spouse, and even authors I have never met have all made deposits to my courage tank. These deposits and their advice equip me with courage. In fact, my ability to make courage deposits in the lives of others is one reason that I am hired as a business coach. Therefore, in our quest for courage, we have two sources and we must learn to access both.

Lesson 2: Courage can and should be obtained from both internal and external sources.

Finally, I considered the different encouragement needs that I have, If we are having ‘one of those days’, what exactly will encourage us? I believe that a well-balanced courage diet is derived from more than one source. Just as my sources of courage are different (internal and external) my encouragement needs are also different.

Lesson 3: Courage development is fostered mentally, physically and spiritually.

If we only rely on only one source of courage, we will develop imbalance. During your time at the gym have you ever seen someone with a well-built upper body but the legs of a stick-man (I have!)? This same imbalance will occur if we only build courage in one area of our life. Education will build mental courage but it won’t equip your body to fight a heart-attack. Running each week will develop your physical courage but it won’t provide the same peace that time watching ocean breakers will. Like eating a nutritionally-balanced meal, we must also practice balance in our courage-development.

My client’s question may or may not be answered by this blog. No matter, I value the personal lessons that her email evoked. As you seek to maintain a full tank of courage, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. If your courage tank had a full/empty meter, how much is in the tank right now?
  2. Do you intentionally spend time filling your own courage tank? How?
  3. Who are the people in your life that are equipped to fill your courage tank?
  4. Are you filling your tank with a well-balanced blend of courage (mental, physical and spiritual)?

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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email:


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