To recognize everyday courage, it helps to distinguish the various facets of courage. There is physical courage (the one our culture identifies with the most), political courage, leadershipcourage at work courage, moral courage, and personal courage, to name a few. Some of us manifest certain types of courage well but come up short in other areas. In this article, I will expand on the concept of spiritual courage, and how it works to become an inside job both at work and home.


Courage at Work

What is your definition of courage? Do you know the origin of the word? Courage comes from the Old French corage, meaning “heart and spirit.” In other words, courage is an innate, internal quality that resides within the core of your being.

Unfortunately, most people do not recognize their everyday courageous actions as significant; but if you look around, you will begin to notice the courageous people you encounter. At work, they are the people who seize (or volunteer for) the tough assignments outside their comfort zone and the employees who are willing to speak the truth, share an open heart and then hold themselves completely accountable for their “courageous conversation.” It becomes obvious to peers that if their job does not honor the convictions of their heart, they will quickly exit the position rather than have their courage on a short leash.


Many times, some form of selfless service becomes a foundation of purpose such as being an advocate. An advocate is a person who encourages the advancement of someone else or takes the time to write an email introduction. These examples support the heart consciousness found in courage. Some people call these examples as “going above and beyond” while other people prefer status quo found in the adage “don’t rock the boat.” We cannot learn courage by doing something we already know!

Courageous people control their own destinies by standing up for their heart-felt values. This is very different from coming from the mind or emotions. Are you able to define what you stand for? In personal life, courageous people bring warmth and love to situations. Even though “love” is often shunned as a forbidding word in corporate America, their love is demonstrated by acts of thoughtfulness and kindheartedness, the antithesis of forms demonstrated by corporate greed masquerading in outsourcing. American poet and writer Delmore Schwartz expresses love and courage this way: “Love is the most difficult and dangerous form of courage. Courage is the most desperate, admirable, and noble kind of love.”  

Unless you have reflected intentionally in silence into your own heart and spirit, you cannot know your true Self. Silence breeds insight. Insights augment learning. What you think you stand for may turn out to be nothing more than spiritual bankruptcy disguised in complacency or conformity (courage killers). Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz showed courage branding when in a speech he said, “No seeds of mediocrity can enter the doors.” Living courageously is not so much about what you are doing as who you are being! The actions of self-aware leaders are founded on their courage branding as they articulate an international call for courageous leadership.

There is virtually nothing that encourages us to reflect on ourselves, on our inner lives and motives. We are encouraged in school to give the right answers. We are not encouraged to expand our imaginations, live in wonderment and curiosity or ask probing questions. The word encourage means “to inspire (someone) with the courage or confidence (to do something).” What inspired you to stop and read this article?

What is Spiritual Courage?

Spiritual courage is defined as a journey that requires you to be in the present. You become a “witness” to your attachments and learn to self-correct. You surrender your ego to a higher level of courage consciousness by setting a “Declaration of Courageous Intention”—that’s what spiritual means. To become courage-conscious is a gift to the spirit. As all this happens, humility steps in to replace arrogance and righteousness. Demonstrating humility comes from something beyond the ego and the mantra that transcends the C-Suite and the cube: “I am so busy.” Soon you begin to exemplify higher levels of courage-centeredness portrayed by “where courage meets grace.” The sacred within awakens, informing us with Spiritual Intelligence (SQ).

The integral levels of courage consciousness lives in Spiritual Intelligence or wisdom—the path of the heart—the missing link at work and home. SQ is used to deal with existential problems such as when you feel stuck in emotional ups and downs or when you fall into a pothole only to find the same old scripts are squeezing the life out of your spirit. The only way out is to cultivate a contemplative lifestyle. It’s a simple choice because simplicity (living with love) is in union with contemplation.

If you have a curiosity about SQ, develop your self-awareness so that you can stand against a crowd (or yourself) in your true Self (true Self means the courageous action to fully develop your individualization). This is how you ascend the spiritual ladder. Kent Thiry, CEO of DaVita understands workplace SQ when he said, “An organization must talk about a strong spiritual purpose, not superficial rhetoric.” Kent believes “a spiritual practice is what you are doing right now.” SQ guided leaders include Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Gandhi, Thich Nhat Hanh, Father Thomas Keating, The Dali Lama, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King, Jr. What is the promise you are willing to make to enhance your spiritual courage, and what is the best approach to start the journey?

Next posting will discuss how to cultivate a contemplative life that blends both professional and personal actions with everyday courage and how to recognize the biggest trap to this lifestyle choice. 


Sandra Ford Walston is known as The Courage Expert and innovator of StuckThinking™. She is an organizational effectiveness consultant, speaker, trainer and courage coach. She is the internationally published author of bestseller COURAGE The Heart and Spirit of Every Woman (2001), the follow-up book STUCK 12 Steps Up the Leadership Ladder (2010) and the recently released FACE IT! 12 Obstacles that Hold You Back on the Job (2011). She is certified in the Enneagram and MBTI®. Please visit


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