As a child, I thought motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel was the bravest man ever. While I sat far too close to the TV for my mother's liking, he would perform outrageous feats, attempting jumps over cars, lion cages and canyons. Often it didn't end well, but despite many horrendous crashes, prolonged bouts in hospital and a lengthy coma, Evel continued to get back on his bike and do it all again.
So, could you be even braver than Evel? Chances are, you would never attempt to jump over 14 buses on a motorcycle. The protective faculties of your brain just wouldn't allow you to do something so likely to cause horrific injury or lead to your premature demise. It doesn't mean you aren't brave. In fact, there are a whole lot of other (non-life-threatening) ways you can exhibit extreme bravery.
Make peace with your past
Most of us have experienced traumas or things in our past that we feel shame or guilt over. These feelings can be powerful, recurrent and very detrimental to our well-being. Hurtful memories that have been locked away for decades can still have a profound effect on the way we live our lives. While we can never change our past, we can choose to let go of self-blame and associated negative emotions. Making peace with your past is a very brave step and is far more productive than Evel Knievel's approach. In 1977 Evel didn't like what was written about his past in a biography. He attacked the writer with a baseball bat, breaking his arm in several places.
Stand up for your values
One of the biggest causes of psychological distress is doing things that conflict with our personal values. Enormous pressures are often exerted on us by our families, our workplaces, religious institutions or society in general. It takes bravery to assert your own values in the face of such pressures. By living in a way that is consistent with your values, you are however likely to feel far more comfortable with your sense of self. Fiercely opposed to drugs, Evel Knievel would preach his anti-drug message before each jump and even took the Hells Angels to task for being drug dealers. Unfortunately, Evel reportedly had an unhealthy relationship with legal drugs, abusing alcohol and painkillers for much of his life.
Stop worrying about what others might think
Humans have a strong desire to “fit in” and as a result we do all sorts of things to conform to the expectations of others. Unfortunately worrying about what others will think can hold us back from taking valued actions. Chances are people will be more accepting of your choices than you imagine and even if they are not, staying true to your values is more important than pleasing others. Sadly Evel may not have learned this lesson. In 1970 in Yakima, Washington Evel knew the jump that had been prepared was unsafe. Worried about disappointing his fans he jumped anyway, resulting in a crash that broke his collarbone, arm and both legs.
Stop holding it inside
As a society, we have been conditioned to keep a very tight lid on our emotions and thoughts. Men face even greater pressure to bottle things up, with most being brought up with a tough “boys don't cry” attitude. Too many of us equate asking for help as a sign of weakness. It's not. Asking for help is far braver thing to do than hiding your pain and continuing on the same negative path. Throughout his life, there were many occasions where a nice, soft landing on a psychologist's couch could have done Evel the world of good. Instead Evel kept up the tough guy persona, preferring to battle his demons with a bottle of Wild Turkey.
Make the important decisions
Often we already know what we should do but find plenty of reasons to delay or avoid making that tough decision. While feeling “stuck” is common, a small moment of bravery can quickly propel your life in the right direction. Once you've properly weighed up your options, be brave and put your fears aside. By taking the right action now you can avoid looking back on a life filled with regrets. Need a little inspiration? Here is a short video of one Evel's successful jumps.
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