Having the Courage to Improve Your Finances

When I talk to people about what made them decide to get out of debt, quit their job and start a business, decide to buy a home, or retire early, they often talk about a “moment.”

In that small kernel of time, they made a decision that changed the course of their personal history forever.

The interesting thing in almost all cases is that there are pent-up feelings and half-decisions that fester for months or years before they’re realized into action. People feel that something needs to change, and many times they even know what to do about it, but they don’t take the next step.

In many cases, there are hidden fears that what we want isn’t going to turn out, or something else will get in our way. The key to getting traction seems to be a matter of courage.

What is Courage?

Dictionary.com tells us it’s:

“the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.”

Wikipedia offers the following:

“the ability to confront fear, pain, risk/danger, uncertainty, or intimidation.”

Ernest Hemingway once defined it as “grace under pressure.”

Interestingly enough, in psychology, courage has four main components. Again, from Wikipedia:

  • Bravery: “The ability to stand up for what is right in difficult situations” (includes physical, moral, and psychological bravery).
  • Perseverance: “Continuing along a path in the midst of and after having faced opposition and perhaps failure.”
  • Honesty: “Involves integrity in all areas of one’s life and the ability to be true to oneself and one’s role in the world across circumstances.”
  • Zest: “feeling alive, being full of zest, and displaying enthusiasm for any and all activities.”

Implementing Courage

Reading more about what it actually means to have courage got me thinking about some of the ways we apply courage in our own financial lives.

For example, we use moral bravery when we choose to practice frugality when the world encourages consumerism, or when we refuse to lend money to a family member when we think it will make things worse.

We practice psychological bravery when we overcome our fears about starting a business because of possible failure and go for it, or when we break addictive habits like gambling or shopping-holism.

The idea of perseverance is probably best known to those who work for years to pay off their debt or save up enough money to start a business, build a house, or finally pay cash for a car.

We practice courageous honesty when we tithe or spend with integrity, even when we know that no one will see or check.

Zest is perhaps the most difficult to pin down, but is seen in situations when we’re faced with long-term pressures, like child support obligations, lawsuit or settlement payments, and measures our ability to rise above those circumstances.

How to Get More Courage

If we know it takes more courage to break through the wall of inaction, how can we get more? I have a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Focus on the outcomes. Having a short-term perspective when you’re in the trenches is good for perseverance, but bad when you’re trying to get started. Looking at what you’re trying to do down the road can give you the courage you need to take that first step.
  2. Use other areas of your life. Life is not a bunch of separated boxes for each area of concern–money, family, work, etc. Everything spills over. If you regularly push your limits in other areas of life, you might be more inclined to do so with money, too. For example: try eating one new food every day.
  3. Work in parallel with goals. Stephen Covey once explained that goals work in much the same way as courage–once you do the little ones, it becomes easier and easier to go at the big ones, because you believe in yourself and your abilities.
  4. Learn to make executive decisions. One of the best things I’ve done for myself in the last 5 years is learning to make quick, thoughtful decisions. Some things still need a good deal of research, but as soon as I think I have enough information to make a choice, I pull the trigger. Don’t wait around for someone else to do it for you.
  5. Believe in something. There is no better motivator in life than the belief in something bigger than yourself. If you can follow your financial mission statement or passion, you can use your purpose to drive your actions.


Courage is more than a one-dimensional trait, encompassing many ways to face and overcome our fears.

But in all cases, we can use it to take our long-laid plans and dreams and start to make them a reality. In that respect, it doesn’t really matter which form of courage you need to use–just use it.

Courage is one of those things that needs momentum. Once you use a bit of courage, and taste the accomplishment it brings, you build more and more.

Start building your courage freight train today!

Photo by familymwr

12 thoughts on “Having the Courage to Improve Your Finances

    1. I like that a lot! I can speak from personal experience that fear can be debilitating, but “doing it anyway” is a great motto.

  1. I love this post. No one really mentions a “fear of frugality” but it is there. It does take courage to be frugal and minimalistic.

    This in particular struck a cord, “we use moral bravery when we choose to practice frugality when the world encourages consumerism, or when we refuse to lend money to a family member when we think it will make things worse.”

    I recently wrote about being asked to provide my father with financial assistance and it took real courage to say no. I had not thought of that as “moral courage” but it definitely fits. Going against the grain can be scary and difficult, being brave enough to stick to morals will certainly help us reach our financial goals.

    1. Glad I could “define” your experience! 🙂 Thanks for sharing your story, it definitely takes a lot to stand up to family members because there are so many emotions involved. Kudos!

  2. Very true… courage is a hard one to get a hold of! Agree with Jackie. Courage is doing what you have to do despite the fear you still have. Also agree that it works if you start with something small – it does build momentum that is necessary for tackling the bigger tasks.

    1. Absolutely, I think setting sights too high to start is so depressing when you miss completely. Starting with lots of little things is a lot easier and builds confidence.

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  4. I enjoyed your description of courage too.

    I don’t think Americans need courage to do well in their finances. We are the richest nation in the world.

    We need SENSE and PERSISTENCE. That’s it.

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