Brave Heart!

Four strategies for living courageously

While living in Japan, Antoinette Jackson got a divorce and had to find her way back to the United States with her two young children, Ky’a, 9, and Michael, 6. Once back in the U.S., Jackson struggled to work several jobs, pay bills, and take care of her family. Unfortunately, within the next five years, she lost the house, and the family became homeless.

Luckily, a relative with children of her own took in the Jacksons, but space was tight. As humiliating as the experience was, Jackson pressed on, encouraging her children and assuring them that things would get better. But her life took a turn for the worse when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1984, a debilitating disease that took her eyesight and confined her to a wheelchair. Despite the challenges, Jackson maintains her independence and remains active in her community.

“God blesses me to find the courage I need to do what I have to do,” says Jackson, 55, who now resides in a nursing facility in Pennsylvania.

Life coach and author Sophfronia Scott (www.creativecoach ingplans.com) says we can all be courageous. “Taking courage is about doing what you need or want to be done, despite how fearful you are of doing it,” she says. Scott explains that while fear can be paralyzing, it’s important to identify ways to manage your fear — whether that involves closing your eyes, taking deep breaths, saying a prayer, or getting support from a confidante.

In her book Stand up For Your Life: Develop the Courage, Confidence and Character to Fulfill Your Greatest Potential (Simon & Schuster; $13), author Cheryl Richardson says facing fears builds the confidence and emotional strength needed to make a positive difference. Whether ending an unhealthy relationship, fighting a life-threatening disease, pursuing a dream to start a business, or standing up for heartfelt convictions, Scott says that the everyday opportunities to take courage are endless.

Here are some tips to get you going:
Surround yourself with courageous people. Associate with them, talk with them, read about them, and study their acts of courage. A perfect example is Francine Ward, a former drug addict and prostitute turned lawyer, author, and motivational speaker who writes, “Until I had the courage to dream of a better life, I wasn’t able to have one. And, as far back as I remember, I was afraid to dream.” That kind of insurmountable courage, detailed in the book Esteemable Acts: 10 Actions for Building Real Self-Esteem (Broadway; $23.95), gave her the impetus to move forward.

Think courageously. Resist the urge to worry about what will happen if you do what you fear. Instead, ask yourself, “What will I lose if I don’t?” Jackson believes that she would have lost her children to the child welfare system, the criminal justice system, or to a life on the streets if she hadn’t worked so hard to provide for her family and keep them together.

Speak courageously. Eliminate the words “try,” “maybe,” “hope,” and “wish” from your vocabulary. These words rob you of your

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