If courage is a muscle, would you want to strengthen it? Is courage something that you use only when you have no other choice? When you do need it, is it weak and flaccid, unable to do the job properly?
Maybe it’s not courage, but maybe it’s something else that you’re not exercising enough. Humility, patience, advocacy, forgiveness, moderation, being present or acceptance? We all have something we should work on, whether we admit it or not.
So if courage or virtue X were a muscle, how would you strengthen it? The muscle analogy is not a bad one. After all, we’re not born with strong and toned muscles. Even if we were, if we did not use them regularly, they would get smaller and weaker with time, just like my abs right now. When we want to get back in shape, it’s hard work. It’s not easy. It hurts.
Yep, that’s pretty much how it goes, right?
But we can do it. It just takes practice and commitment. We set aside time intentionally for our workouts and practice. We commit to doing it in that time period and for the length of time required. We mix it up, doing different types of exercises to work those muscles instead of the same type of repetitions every time. We seek trainers or coaches if needed. We stretch afterwards. That muscle becomes more powerful, more resilient if injured, and just more effective in general when we make the effort to develop and grow them.
We don’t assume that we should just be able to have a strong muscle without exercise and practie. Magical thinking doesn’t work with muscles, and it doesn’t work with courage or patience either. I would argue it’s harder to change an emotional habit, but the rewards are long lasting and pervasive, which is something I cannot say about toning my abs.
We also don’t assume it’s going to be perfect. That muscle will not always work the way we want it to work, or when we want it to work, especially when in the learning stages. We will sometimes also miss a session or two, but we get back into our routine if meaningful change is important to us.
What if, instead of circuit training at the gym, we exercise a circuit of strengths and virtues we wish to cultivate? Today I’m going to do rounds in humility, patience and serenity. Tomorrow I’m going to do serenity, inspiration and joy. What would my emotional muscles look like 6 months from now?
All: Don’t forget to send me questions or topics you’d like for me to discuss. Go either to this blog, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or to the Talk to Susanna link on the left. Thanks! Look forward to hearing from you!