Joni Eareckson, throughout her childhood and adolescence, led a healthy life with no physical problems. Yet a diving accident changed her life. Joni became a quadriplegic. She was no longer able to use her feet and hands. She did not, however, let her handicaps overcome her heart’s desires and aspirations. She started expressing her artistic talents through drawing, but with no hands available, she used her own mouth to hold the brush. Joni did not stop there. She started a radio program and she wrote books. Today, Joni is known for her artistic expression, books and radio programs more than her handicap. (Joni, by Joni Eareckson)
You have probably heard many stories like this one of people who overcame their handicaps to become great achievers. The underlying element, which causes these people to act differently, is called courage. Courage is the opposite of despair, but it is also acting or moving in spite of despair.
Here are seven practical ways to develop courage. First of all, get to know your strengths. Instead of looking at your weaknesses, try to remind yourselves of the things that you can do well. For example, if you have a skill for fixing machines, think of that as a strength you have. Or, if you have the skills to do farming, consider that a strength you have.
Secondly, look at the bright side of your life. There are definitely many things in your favor, even when you are going through the worst period in your life. The family you have, the friends you have, your physical health, your education (no matter how little or how much), the connections you have – these are all examples. When was the last time you looked at the many things that are going for you, instead of looking at all the disappointments in your life?
Next, allow yourself to think affirmatively. In other words, think about what you are going to do and what you want to see happen instead of thinking about what you may do and what may happen. When you concentrate on what you want to see happen, you will make it happen. Let me repeat this line gain. When you concentrate on what you want to see happen, you will make it happen.
Next, start with simple tasks and work your way up to bigger and more challenging tasks. Success in each little task will lead you to greater successes. If you see your situation as one giant obstacle to conquer, it may threaten you. On the other hand, if you look at them as small pieces of a greater puzzle to complete, and work on it piece by piece, you will surely accomplish your goal. Eight years of college education may sound like a monumental task, but if you can look at it as only one semester that you have to deal with at any given time, and begin to work towards your goal, you will get there.
The fifth principle is to look at the many facets of possibilities, instead of dwelling on the vulnerability of your problems. You will find that there aren’t very many problems that cannot be solved, but the hardest task is developing the right attitude to start the process of solving them. Become a possibility thinker. When President Gerald Ford was leaving the presidency, he was asked by a reporter to state one thing that he was going to miss from the presidency days. The president stated that he would miss those days in the capital when each day he looked forward to the challenges that he had to face. Life is challenging, regardless of what vocation we choose. The point is that we should be willing to accept the challenges, regardless of how big or small, deal with them the best way we know how, and accept whatever the outcome may be.
The sixth principle is to be persistent. The old saying that a “winner never quits and a quitter never wins” is very true. Life with its multiple problems can be grounds for victory for the self-determined, self-motivated, and hard working individuals. The difference between an amateur and a professional performer is that the professional spends fifteen more minutes practicing, while the amateur stops at five minutes of practice.
You have, I am sure, heard of people who have led expeditions to Mt. Everest. There was an expedition in the early 1920s, led by Mallory. In spite of their great preparation for the worst, they failed two times to conquer Mt. Everest. Finally, during their third expedition, Mallory and most of the crew were killed in an avalanche.
When the remaining crew returned to England, they were saluted in a great banquet. There were pictures of all who were killed on the walls, and there was also a huge picture of Mt. Everest on one of the walls. As the leader of the remaining crew stood up to receive applause from the people, with tears streaming down his face, he looked at the giant picture of Mt. Everest and said: “I speak to you, Mt. Everest, in the name of all brave men living and those yet unborn. Mt. Everest, you defeated us once, you defeated us twice, you defeated us three times. But Mt. Everest, we shall some day defeat you, because you can’t get any bigger and we can” (Adapted from Robert Schaller’s Life changers)
That was courage. Mt. Everest became smaller and smaller as human skills became better and better. Problems that are bigger to us now will become smaller as our skills to conquer become better and better. What we need, however, is courage.
Now, the most important point. Find your source of courage in God. Many hundreds of years ago, a young lad by the name of David, looked at a giant Goliath, who was backed by a Philistine army, and said: “This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand… for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:46-47)
Paul the apostle said: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The Bible presents many such examples of people who acted courageously in the midst of troubles. When we analyze the secrets of their success, we will notice that all of them drew courage from the same source – from God – the source of all power. Isaiah 40:29-31 says, “He gives power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary and they shall walk, and not faint.”
Kondoor V. Abraham, M.A., M.A, Th.D., Psy.D.