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Courage is one of those magical qualities possessed by few (but respected by the many); it is found in all great individuals both in and outside of sports. Whether it’s standing up for what you believe in despite its unpopularity, remaining calm and composed under the heat of intense competitive pressure, consistently moving towards your fears and insecurities or maintaining a grace and dignity when you fail miserably, courage wears a number of different clothes. You don’t have to be a mature adult to be courageous; children can sometimes demonstrate far more courageous behaviours than adults. You don’t have to be a world-class sportsman to be courageous, as a matter of fact, you don’t even have to be that athletically inclined or talented to develop and fine-tune this quality, which is one of the cornerstones of mental toughness.

Although you may not realise it, courage is the foundation for other virtues in life, such as honesty and compassion; for example, if someone is taught about honesty but then doesn't show the courage to follow through with it then this virtue will not develop. As drivers it is important that we learn about the importance of incorporating courage into everything we do, on and off the track.

Defining courage?

Courage is the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain etc..... ‘despite’ feeling fear. Courageous acts that are undertaken by someone who does not feel fear are not courageous acts, risk and danger have to be present.

For racing drivers courage is an essential attribute if you want to become a professional driver. Drivers have to face fear of death or injury (perhaps more than many other sports) when driving right on the edge of adhesion, they have to show courage when faced by intense pressure or discomfort, they have to be courageous in defeat and have the courage to never give up no matter what!

Courage / skill balance in motor racing:

Courage and skill are equal – Where a driver’s courage and skill level are in perfect balance is the optimum situation, here they will be driving at a low risk level. The more skilful a driver in this situation the better they will perform and the less stress they will be under so they will be able to perform at this level over a prolonged period.

Courage exceeds skill – Here, the driver will be pushing themselves beyond their skill level – over-driving. This has a twofold effect: 1) The driver will driver slower than their potential, and 2) They will be driving and a higher level of risk so they will not be able to drive like this for prolonged periods without mistakes, spins and accidents.

Courage is lower than or equal to skill - Where a driver lacks courage they will not be comfortable pushing a car to its limits and maximise their learning and therefore skill level - this is under-driving - performing below the car and driver’s potential. To some extent this can be low risk, but drivers who are fearful (lacking in courage) become overly self-conscious in their driving, spending their time avoiding accidents and incidents rather than focusing on the task in hand... and this in turn can lead to mistakes.

How do you develop courage?

Courage as a character trait does not stem from a one-off action; it is a character trait that develops over many encounters with danger and fear in its many forms.

  1. Powerful goals - No driver will take risks and need to be courageous unless they are driven by powerful goals and have great deeds to do.

  2. Study courage – What is this character trait, how much of it do you already have or not have, how does it manifest in the greats, and how can it support you in all aspects of your career? What things make you scared or fearful - both in and out of the car, how do you react in those situations, do your responses need to change and in what way?

  3. Be mindfully aware of your courage – If you are mindfully aware when you meet the crossroads of choice at fear’s doorstep you will have that gap in your thinking that can help you take the courageous choice for yourself and your career.

  4. Train for it – In training, constantly challenge yourself and actively put yourself in situations where you meet the fear driven crossroads of choice.

  5. If all else fails – ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ – This is the title of a very popular book by Suzanne Jeffers, in essence she says that the only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and…do it!

In our sport, championship victories come down to very small margins and these are normally defined by peak pressure points during the season where one’s quantity of courage is the deciding factor, rather than quantity of skill.


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