Tuesday, October 12, 2010
The Courage Companion: An Interview with Nina Lesowitz
With National Face Your Fears Day coming Wednesday, October 13, this week marks the release of Nina and Mary Beth's newest book, The Courage Companion: How to Live Life with True Power, which contains stories of extraordinary fortitude. These true tales not only invite us to "tap into—and hold onto—our inner strength when times get tough and when we're feeling all alone," but also act as guides to inspire anyone to just do it, whatever that "it" may be.
From world-class athletes to business and humanitarian leaders, and from cancer patients to ordinary people who took extraordinary action to transform their lives, these courage warriors show us how to turn apprehension into action. If ever there was a time for courage, it’s now. That’s why I was especially excited to talk to Nina about this book.
Shelly Rachanow: What was your inspiration for The Courage Companion: How to Live Life with True Power?
Nina Lesowitz: Growing up, both of us were inspired by novels about courageous girls: Nancy Drew, Jo in Little Women, Mary in the Secret Garden, and others. Later in high school we learned about men and women with tremendous courage – Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Park, Martin Luther King Jr., and so many more.
We started thinking about our heroes and people today who are risking their lives to fight for equality and justice. And we thought about how much courage it takes just to survive and thrive in day-to-day life when facing the unknown. Like today: with double-digit unemployment numbers, people losing homes to foreclosure, wars in the Middle East, the threat of climate change, lack of health care coverage, many Americans are feeling more stressed out than ever.
How do people battle fear and tap into their inner power? We decided to find out. We interviewed people throughout the United States and Canada to try to define courage. From those interviews, we selected a range of stories that we feel epitomize qualities of bravery and gutsiness. We share their stories of inner strength for readers so that in tough times they know they are not alone. They can read these stories and tips, and actually learn how to become unafraid.
Shelly Rachanow: Why is this book especially relevant today?
Shelly Rachanow: How can boosting our courage quotient help us to live life more fully?
Nina Lesowitz: When you live in fear, afraid for your personal security, you are not living your true life. But the good news is, you can make the choice to become more courageous. You can choose to live out the rest of your life feeling secure, or you could tap into your inner power and take the first step toward living a fulfilling, exciting and, possibly dangerous life.
When Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” he was saying that the emotion of fear, rather than the reality of what we fear, is what causes us anxiety, stress, and unhappiness. When you boost your courage quotient, a whole new world of possibilities opens up for you. Just think what would you dare to dream, or be, or do, if you weren’t afraid of anything in the whole world?
Shelly Rachanow: Can you give us some practices and tips?
Nina Lesowitz: Fortunately, the habit of courage can be learned just as any other success skill is learned. To do so, we need to address our fears, while building up our courage quotient. We can use techniques to change our self-perception and develop courageous states of mind.
Positive thinking promotes positive outcomes, and pessimism begets negativity. So to generate a courageous attitude you have to train yourself to start thinking more positively. Create a mental picture of the person that you would like to be, performing the way you would like to perform. Try saying three positive self-statements out loud before you go to bed each night. Think about all you did well that day. Or create a positive affirmation(s) and carry them with you each day, referring to them when you need them:
“I know I can handle all that comes my way.”
“I am in control of my fears.”
“Challenging my fears helps me grow and makes me stronger.”
Also, do one little thing outside your comfort zone every day. It doesn't have to be a big step, just something different from what you normally do or say. And take inspiration from courageous people, some of whom pay the ultimate price to stand up for their beliefs. You can tell yourself, “Speaking up for myself will NOT cost me my life, but if I don’t speak up, it may haunt me for the rest of my days.”
Shelly Rachanow: Tell us about National Face Your Fears Day, happening October 13.
Nina Lesowitz: National Face Your Fears Day is the brainchild of Steve Hughes, a presentation skills trainer who marveled at the sheer terror that people faced when giving a speech in public. He noticed that when people actually thought about it and took some action, suddenly public speaking didn't appear as menacing. After all, no has ever really died of nervousness during a speech. (Well, nothing has been documented so far.)
Since 2007, the second Wednesday in October is your day to confront your fears and begin the journey to put them behind you.
Shelly Rachanow: And last, the 'If Women Ran the World Blog' question for everyone - What would you do if you ran the world?
Nina Lesowitz: If I ran the world, I would take money from each country’s war chest and create an International Council whose goal would be to completely eradicate child and animal abuse. Just as international government agencies work together to eliminate global health threats such as SARS, AIDS, and Avian Influenza, I would direct even more resources to call attention to – and fight against – any type of hurtful behavior toward children and animals.
Mahatma Ghandi said, "A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members," and if I ran the world, we would start by mandating the humane treatment of animals and children. The benefits would then “trickle up,” because societies would not be generating psychologically damaged people who grow up and create cults, start religious wars, or perpetrate “ethnic cleansing.”
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