Podcast #380: How to Be Braver

For thousands of years, philosophers and writers have debated the nature of courage. What is it? Are some people born more courageous than others? Can you learn to be courageous?

My guest today set out to answer these questions by looking at courage through a scientific lens. His name is Robert Biswas-Diener. He’s a psychologist and the author of The Courage Quotient: How Science Can Make You Braver.

Today on the show, Robert explains how he defined courage for the purpose of his research and how he went about studying and quantifying this quality. He then explains how courage manifests itself differently in cultures of dignity, honor, and face. We then discuss the genetics of courage and how people can learn to be more courageous. Robert than gives brass tacks advice on what you can do to manage fear and increase your propensity to action, including carrying lucky charms, thinking about yourself less, and avoiding self-handicapping. 

Show Highlights

  • What led Robert into researching this question of courage 
  • What are the most common ideas of what courage means?
  • The common misconceptions about courage
  • The role of fear when it comes to courage 
  • How do different cultures view courage? How does culture determine what a courageous act is?
  • Where do the values of courage and bravery come from?
  • Why not feeling fear at all isn’t really a courageous virtue 
  • Can courage be learned?
  • What you can do to manage fear
  • How to handle social anxiety and shyness
  • Increasing your willingness to act in spite of risk and fear 
  • Why you need to embrace “magical thinking” and lucky charms 
  • Is courage domain-specific? Does courage is one area of life carry over into other areas?
  • What is self-handicapping? Why do we do it?
  • What we can do to overcome the bystander effect 
  • One thing you can do today to increase your courage, and why you’re probably already more courageous than you think 

Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

Connect With Robert

Robert on Twitter

Robert’s website

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