It was wonderful on Sunday morning to wake up to the possibility of snow, the different light in the bedroom an indication that something was different and sure enough pulling back the curtains there it was. Happy days.

Over the summer we welcomed four young hens to our home and this was their first experience of snow. The normal reaction on opening the pop hole is a flurry of activity and feathers as they burst forth to greet the day. Sunday morning was different, yes the usual jostling to be first out but then the hen at the front put on the brakes, the hen behind her clambered over her head and then both of them launched themselves into this new world. The other two however were somewhat more reticent standing and looking, turning round and retreating, coming to the door for another look, a bit of clucking and eventually tentative steps were taken into the unknown.

For a number of reasons I have been thinking recently about courage and  I came across a quotation from Mary Anne Radmacher which begins, ‘courage doesn’t always roar, sometimes it is the quiet voice……..’ it was the juxtaposition of ‘roar’ and ‘quiet voice’ which hooked me and came to mind as I watched the hens, especially the two taking more tentative steps but still, in the end, going for it.

What comes into your mind when you think about courage, do you think of it in terms of the ‘roar’, people doing great acts of bravery or facing/overcoming extremely challenging situations? How would you answer if I asked you to tell me about the courageous things you have done? If that a difficult question to answer is courage a characteristic you ascribe to other people rather than yourself? Maybe our own courage is difficult to connect with as we tend to think of it in terms of the ‘roar’ and yet courage is defined by the Oxford English dictionary as ‘the ability to do something that frightens one’. Thinking about it in this way puts a different slant on it doesn’t it? If I was to ask you to tell me about the times you have done something which frightens you I suspect the answer would be different.

Why am I thinking about this at the moment? Making the decision to embark upon a PhD, to give your first presentation at a conference or walk through the door into your viva all require courage. Maybe not of the roaring kind but be assured that they are courageous acts. When we are frightened the volume of our self-doubt and inner critic can get turned up to full blast filling us with self-doubt, warning us to back away, drawing our attention to all things that would be challenging and frightening about what we want to do or who we want to become. Our attention is drawn away from the times we have acted courageously, when we have overcome our fear, the very things we can draw on to give us confidence.

Get to know your acts of courage, really get to know them, visualise them and relive them to embed them, what were you doing, where were you, who was with you etc. Next time you are thinking about doing something which feels frightening tap into those feeling and tell your inner critic, “yes I hear you and thank you for the warning, I know it is frightening but I also know that I have the courage to try this’.