Why the Difference Between Incidental and Intentional Courage Matters

Woman swinging in hammock above Hong Kong

You are a courageous person.  

I know that because I know that you have done courageous things in your life already.  You were courageous the day your parents dropped you off at summer camp for your first time.

You were courageous as an aspiring thespian in your high school play when the curtain went up and you were staring at 800 classmates.

You were courageous in college when you contested the rotten grade your inept English professor gave you.

It took courage for you to walk into your boss’ office and say, “I’d like a raise.”

Before making the shift from incidental to intentional courage, it’s easy to view life as a series of situations that life dumps on you, whether you’re ready or not.

You are courageous. But, in all likelihood, you have been courageous through happenstance, not intentionality.  It’s not like you consciously sought out the above-mentioned situations just to experience your courage, right? Yours has been an act of incidental courage. Your courage manifested itself as a byproduct for engaging with fear.  Most often you’ve fallen into your courage as a reluctant participant.

White doors and one yellow door

It is healthy to shift your courage from incidental to intentional. All it takes is making a deep commitment to acting consistently courageous, that is, a commitment to living a life of courage. Instead of waiting to respond to situations with courage, you actively seek out opportunities to be courageous. You constantly ask yourself questions like:

  • In what areas of my life do I need to be more courageous?
  • What is the next courageous thing I need to do?
  • Besides me, who needs my courage most?

You answer the “holy question” — what do YOU want?

Before making the shift from incidental to intentional courage, it’s easy to view life as a series of situations that life dumps on you, whether you’re ready or not.

But when you act with courageous intentionality, you become a sort of storm-chaser, actively searching for challenging opportunities in which to apply your courage. The shift moves you from someone who life happens “to,” to someone who makes life happen.

Remember, you are already a courageous person. The question is, are you incidentally courageous or intentionally courageous?

About Bill Treasurer

Bill Treasurer is the author of The Leadership Killer, Reclaiming Humility in an Age of Arrogance, which he co-wrote with Captain John “Coach” Havlik, Navy SEAL (Retired). For the last two decades, Treasurer has worked with thousands of leader across the globe, at such organizations as NASA, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lenovo, UBS Bank, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Learn more at: www.LeadershipKiller.com.

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