Why Courage is Crucial to Personal and Professional Development

When we are working on developing ourselves personally or professionally, this starts with courage. Developing means change, and change takes bravery. But it’s not just the courage to face change. You have to be willing to look in the mirror. I mean REALLY look in the mirror. There are many “mirrors” available that will show our reflection. How we look through our own eyes will only give us one perception. There are many.

Looking back on my personal and professional growth, there were aspects about myself that I just couldn’t see. Some, I just didn’t WANT to see. It was only when I truly considered the perspectives of others that I realized how I was self-sabotaging myself at times. This included qualities that were seemingly positive. I have a very strong sense of fairness and I tend to be very protective of the underdog. Both of these sound pretty good, but if I felt someone was behaving unfairly, or mistreating an underdog, I would get all salty about it. This translated to others that I was judgmental, as they could feel my disdain for their actions.  None of us like to be judged and giving this perception was something I needed to be aware of if I wanted to connect personally and advance professionally.

Having immersed myself in the personal and professional development sphere for over 25 years, I’ve seen how courage is a game-changer for those looking to improve. I’ve also seen how the lack of it delays development. I can’t count how many times someone has said, “That’s just the way I am.” These are dangerous words and an even more hazardous mindset. We all have the ability to change any aspect of our behavior that we wish.

When we look in the mirror, we have the benefit of knowing exactly what our intentions are. We KNOW we’re coming from a good and logical place in everything we do. Other people, however, do not have access to our intentions. They know what we say those intentions are, but they can only really view us based on our actions. It takes courage for people to share those perceptions with us. Feedback like this can be delivered really tactfully or in a way that seems really hurtful to us. But if you take feedback as “data points” and try to let go of the delivery method, there is much to be discovered here.

Take for example various feedback a person, I’ll call her “Jane,” may hear. Jane beats herself up for always waiting until the last minute and stressing herself out. Her friends jokingly complain she is always late. Jane’s boss asks that she work on prioritizing better to meet deadlines. A co-worker is overheard asking that he NOT be partnered with her on a project because he knows he’ll have to do all the lead work. It’s only when Jane has the courage to face all this feedback and address it that she will improve.

I can’t stress enough the importance of considering each of these criticisms as data points. Just the facts. First, the more we can remove any drama around this, the better. If Jane starts thinking that Sylvia made the comment about her always being late because Sylvia is a control-freak, then she has lost the valuable data point for herself. Secondly, when you are collecting data like this, you are ultimately looking for clusters of the same data. The example of Jane shows that planning or time management may be a challenge for her. There were 4 data points on this topic alone (hers, her friends, her boss’s, and her co-worker’s). But if some random comment is made by a person saying she’s selfish, but she has not heard that before, that one data point is likely just that individual’s perception and not a repeating data point for her to worry about.

The problem with feedback is not everyone is comfortable giving it. That means we have to be willing to use that same courage to ask for feedback. You can ask friends, family, supervisors, co-workers, etc. one question to start the ball rolling: “Can you share something I do or don’t do that could be perceived as negative by others.”  This question is genius in that it’s not asking the person what they think, which makes it safer for them to answer. Take the feedback with a smile, and give a sincere “thanks” to them for sharing it. Don’t try to justify it or explain it. Just take the data point and start plotting your responses. Don’t forget to include your own perspective, too.

The point of personal and professional development is not to bend to the expectations of others. Rather, it’s about being clear about how you are perceived and taking control to make sure you are viewed only the way YOU want to be.

Share in the comments section a time being courageous helped you grow personally or professionally.

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email April@AuthenticLifeChronicles.com 


  1. Love the question. I’m going to use it.

  2. Great words of wisdom April

  3. I like your insights on considering each of the constructive criticisms as data points. Given construtive feedback takes courage and those who do are really care about us. Take these suggestion as data points will help us grow. Thanks for another great post!

  4. This is such a great post, and a good way to ask for feedback! I will definitely use it! It is not always easy for others to give constructive criticism and I think this question prompts it well. Thank you!

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