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Use Your Imagination to Build Emotional Courage

Most growth opportunities require emotional courage — the ability to boldly move forward in the face of difficult situations.  Emotional courage comes from experience.

Your body is actually powerfully wired into your imagination.  As you imagine a scenario your body begins to react just as if it were actually happening — blood pressure, heart rate, endorphins, muscle contractions.

You can improve your emotional courage by carefully imagining different scenarios and thinking through how you will respond (verbally, body language, immediate actions, actions later on).  The more you practice in imaginary situations the more likely you will be to make good, positive decisions and actions in the heat of an actual situation.

Here are 14 scenarios for practice:

  • You have a good performer in your group, but she delivers some poor results, or doesn’t deliver on a promise.
  • You’ve been passed over for a promotion or an opportunity to work on a project.
  • You worked very hard to line up support for a proposal by individually talking with stakeholders in advance.  During the presentation one of your peers makes a statement or unveils new information — in front of the company vice president — which undermines your request.
  • Despite your hard work, you don’t deliver a key result on schedule. The boss wants an update.
  • You didn’t communicate some information earlier, and now it’s embarrassing because you have to communicate it broadly.
  • Company management cuts your budget by 45% during a financial crunch.
  • A colleague says something flatly untrue during a large group meeting.  Worse, it reflects badly on your project.
  • You’re promoted into a new role in a new area, working with new people.
  • You’re demoted to a smaller role because you were told that you didn’t demonstrate enough effective work at that higher level.
  • You’re given an assignment which doesn’t match your strengths.
  • You’re looking for something new to do, but keep being given assignments in a familiar area because you’re really good at them.
  • You been given a plum opportunity that one of your peers really, really wanted.
  • A headhunter contacts you about a potential role with a different company.
  • Two people on your team didn’t complete work on time, and now the project is weeks behind schedule and significantly over budget.

Pick any kind of scenario which will generate powerful emotions.  Think about your options and how you could respond.  Work through two or three options and imagine how others respond to you.

Bonus points: Work through imagination scenarios with one or two partners who are also learning and building emotional courage!