There's a lot of macho imagery that swirls around the word courage. The word resonates with us on a primal level. Our receptors fire with screen reels of John Wayne; or frantically fluttering pages of Boy's Own or Commando; or the sight of a group staring down a wild beast.

But I'm not thinking about those this time. There's a much less dramatic demonstration of it that occurs every day, in a million ways, and it has no need for people to enter a burning building.

It's the courage to do the little things, to stand and live by your values. The courage to not surrender to disinclination because you could, or because you know that others would. Elite performance is the sum of the occasions when you exert your will in the face of boredom, or in refusing to sacrifice longer-term momentum for titillation or gratification.

You might be an absolute game-winner but if you are the sort of person who is absent for 90% of the match you need to know that your place, and by extension your long-term opportunities, are limited. The sports analogy not working for you? How about the work one - you are good in the high-pressure, close deadline, crisis environment but hopeless in the humdrum. Or perhaps you produce or sell more than anybody else but you shortcut at every opportunity. There is a place for all this but it comes at a cost and at some point the cost will be too great.

Doing what is right even though nobody is watching, or in the face of overwhelming pressure to do something else takes honesty and courage. Courage to face it and courage to stick to your path. They say that winning and losing are habits, and that may well be true, but these are results, the problem starts much earlier than that.

Turning up your nose or turning up your sleeves when the going gets hard. Those are habits. Not turning up at all, that is a habit. Frankly, the result or the streak matters not at all. Your problem starts earlier and is much bigger than that if you open the door when the little cowardice knocks.

This is not the sort of bravery that will earn you a medal but the difficult thing, the awkward thing, these will stare back into your soul and you will know what sort of (hu)man you have become.


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