Feel Everything, Do Anything: Understanding Emotional Courage

Peter Bregman | Leading with Emotional Courage

Developing emotional courage (the willingness to feel uncomfortable feelings) is the root of all success. If you’re willing to feel everything, you can do anything.


“Emotional courage, it’s not a talent that some people are born with and others aren’t. It can be developed. Emotional courage isn’t just an idea, it’s a muscle and like all muscles, it grows with exercise. Each time you follow through on a task you might be avoiding. You are working your emotional courage muscle, building it, and helping it grow stronger. Everyone feels things deeply. In fact, that’s why we let feelings stop us through experience. We’ve learned that some feelings like shame, embarrassment, rejection and others are painful, so we do our best to shut those feelings down mostly by restricting our behavior so that we don’t do things that might invite those feelings, but that strategy is flawed. It makes us much smaller, much more contained, much less powerful in the world.

Think about a hard conversation you know you should have with someone that you haven’t initiated yet. Why haven’t you followed through on this conversation? The main reason we put off these conversations is because of fear. In those moments, your heart rate quickens, your adrenaline flows. Your sweat rises to the surface. What if they lash back or get defensive or blame you? What if they stare at you and get passive aggressive? What if afterwards they’re meaner to you? What if they gossip to others and your relationships suffer? Or maybe you’re afraid of your own response? What if you lose control and fly into a rage and do things that you’ll regret later? At the very least, any of these consequences would be uncomfortable because they’d force you to feel things that you don’t want to feel, whether you believe it or not. That’s what holds you back. Any gap you have in emotional courage limits your freedom to act. When you avoid feeling, it’s a huge drain on your productivity and your…”