Dan Sullivan (of 10X Talk) used the term “courage-avoider” recently to refer, as a sort of umbrella term, to bad habits, destructive practises and some addictions. It was one of those words that was a revelation in and of itself. I felt, having heard it, that I’d never think about bad habits in quite the same terms again.

Brené Brown describes courage as choosing what is right over what is easy, being brave not comfortable, and living by your values instead of just professing them. To be courageous, she says, is nearly always to be vulnerable, and to be vulnerable is often to be courageous.

This has really got me thinking about the range of courage-avoiders we use in everyday life, some so highly esteemed that we wear them as a badge of honour. How many times do we falsely attribute our bad or destructive habits to something other than what they are – habits which enable us to avoid being courageous? I’m not suggesting that all bad habits are courage-avoiders, but I think some are, and simply asking the question of whether they are or not really re-frames the problems they create.

  • Do you have to be so busy? Or is ‘being busy’ your courage-avoider?
  • Do you need to stay late at work? Or is ‘staying late’ your courage-avoider?
  • Are you unavailable to talk about this? Or is ‘being unavailable’ your courage-avoider?
  • Do you really want to say “yes”? Or is ‘saying “yes”‘ your courage-avoider?
  • Does that latest commitment need you? Or is ‘another commitment’ your courage-avoider?
  • Are you actually interested in that distraction? Or is ‘being distracted’ your courage-avoider?

How often do we legitimise our courage-avoiders in day-to-day life? How often do we simply fail to recognise them for what they are?

Courage Avoidance at Work

I think recognising our courage-avoiding practices at work can be powerful and liberating. Whether your work is paid or unpaid, relational, physical or mental, seen or unseen, I know that making your contribution to the world takes courage. It’s hard to show up, day-after-day, and create something new. It’s hard to keep connecting with people who don’t give much back. It’s hard to keep fighting for better solutions when you know you could get away with less.

So often, instead of facing head-on the task that is looming, we turn to avoidance. We make ourselves busy, we invite distraction, we build barriers, we procrastinate – till we don’t have the time, energy or inspiration to do the real work we are called and committed to doing. Both Dan Sullivan and Brene Brown argue that procrastination, for example, is not best fixed with discipline. Procrastination is often much more a form of self-protection and courage-avoidance than it is a sign of weak willpower. The solution to procrastination may, in fact, be courage.

What would our days look like if we faced our fears head on? What destructive courage-avoiders could we eliminate, by dealing with the root causes that led us to develop them in the first place? What kind of contribution could you make to the world if you showed up courageously in your work place, wherever that may be?

The Next Step

Courage isn’t easy or comfortable, but it is worth it. Courage allows me to turn, exposed, to the realm of potential rejection, because I believe that it’s the only way to make meaningful work. I believe it’s the only way to forge intimate, lifelong connections with the people I love. I believe that it’s by far the best way to make a difference to the people I have the opportunity to serve, and I believe, too, that it is the fastest way to my own healing and growth.

Courage isn’t easy but that’s what it takes to stop avoiding the next step – and that is enough. Taking the next step is always enough.


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Due credit to Dan Sullivan whose idea this concept of “courage-avoiders” is. His insights on 10x Talk are simple, profound and unique. Due credit also to Brené Brown whose work, as any reader of this blog well knows, I am deeply inspired by.

Featured Image by Death to the Stock Photo