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Courage and Freedom

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Volition. It is the first of three core components* of the concept of courage, outlined by courage researcher Dan Putman.

It means that an actor, by her own power and free will, decides for herself.

She neither gets a cookie for doing what she is told to do nor a gold star for doing something out of fear of reprisal—no matter how difficult or risky a circumstance may be.

Courage requires her to choose freely. And freedom requires her to be responsible for personal choice. In this way, courage and freedom are closely linked. But recognizing their connection is much easier than embodying it.

Why? Because acting freely is layered with psychological hardship.

Although most people appreciate their freedom to choose, they don’t particularly like exercising it because of the responsibility that accompanies it, especially if the responsibility means accepting an undesirable outcome. If a person makes a career decision that results poorly, he or she is accountable. So, it’s not entirely surprising that people would prefer to have another person, a company or society make a decision for them rather than choosing for themselves. Entrepreneur Seth Godin commented on this topic in his book, Linchpin.

In every corporation in every country in the world, people are waiting to be told what to do. Sure, many of us pretend that we’d love to have control and authority and to bring our humanity to work. But given half a chance, we give it up, in a heartbeat … we give up our freedoms and responsibilities in exchange for the certainty that comes from being told what to do.

Acting freely, however, can become easier for an actor if she also frees herself from outcome. Author Deepak Chopra refers to this as the Law of Detachment in his book Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. The Law of Detachment clarifies that a person does not give up her intention or desire, but rather her attachment to a result. “In detachment lies the wisdom of uncertainty … The wisdom of uncertainty means that you don’t seek fixed moments when everything is going to work out perfectly. Instead, every moment in life is allowed to be filled with excitement, adventure, mystery.” Detaching from outcome gives an actor more options in life because if an undesirable outcome arises from a freely chosen act, an actor can make another free choice to move on.

Closely connected to freedom from outcome is freedom from expectation. An actor may also more easily exercise her freedom to choose if she detaches from expectations—from family, friends, society or employers. An inability to separate free choice from the expectations of others highlights a fear of rejection and/or failure that can suffocate courage.

Courage of all types is at the heart of authentic choices. – Dan Putman

The connection between freedom and courage is unquestionable. When we navigate through fear of life’s decisions and responsibilities and exercise our personal freedom to choose, we give ourselves opportunities to build an authentic life based upon those free choices.


*The three core components of courage, as defined by researcher Dan Putman, are: (1) a willing, intentional act, (2) substantial danger, difficulty, or risk to the actor, (3) a noble good or morally worthy purpose.

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