Coaching for courage

The entire bottom third of the picture is covered by blue-tinged, snow capped mountains. The mountains are a dark brown, with a blue tinge. The upper part of the picture is of a clear blue sky. In the left center of the picture is a person parachuting over the mountains, hanging under a bright yellow parachute.


Joanna Jarosz looks at this topic in her article: An integrative literature review on the impact of life coaching on courage, fear, and anxiety. Jarosz’ research indicates that life coaching can be a reliable approach to increase courage while decreasing fear and anxiety. 

To look at the interaction of life coaching with courage, fear, and anxiety, Jarosz asks the following questions: 

  1. How are courage, fear, and anxiety characterized in the theoretical and empirical literature on life coaching?
  2. What is the role of life coaching in enhancing courage and helping with fear and anxiety?
  3. What is the mechanism explaining potential improvement (or lack thereof) in an individual’s courage, fear, and anxiety?
  4. What results have been documented or suggested in the literature?

From the integrative literature review, Jarosz utilizes several definitions of courage. The first of which is the work of Peterson & Seligman “Emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, external or internal”. Another definition utilized comes from Curtis & Kelly “Honesty about one’s values and needs and the willingness to confront incongruent attitudes and behaviors”.

For fear, the literature utilizes Curtis & Kelly again “[A] painful emotion along with boredom, loneliness, or discontent, which may result in the need of a lifestyle change”.

Lastly, Jarosz’ literature review noted few coaching resources that provided a specific definition of anxiety. One cited source is the work of May “[When] individuals’ act according to their sense of values, purpose, and meaning in life vs. submitting to the social expectations of the world and familiar routines”. 

With the definitions of courage, fear, and anxiety represented from the literature, Jarosz’ integrative review finds several ways that coaches interact with their clients. Behavior theory is cited as a way to help with increasing courage, while reducing fear and anxiety. Within this, courage is found to be a vital role for clients, and the behavioral approach found within life coaching is highly beneficial for individuals. 

Another way that coaches can help their clients with courage through the literature review is self-determination theory. Self-determination theory focuses on helping clients meet the basic psychological needs of autonomy, relatedness, and competence. In helping clients achieve all of these needs, they are able to increase courage. 

Jarosz proposes that life coaching may yield positive results in helping people strengthen their courage, while reducing their fear and anxiety. Building core character strengths, including courage is an objective of life coaching. For coaches, one process they can take out of this study is self-determination theory. Consider communicating with your clients about courage, fear, and anxiety and assessing where they will best benefit.

In the center of the frame in bold red letters, the quote by Maya Angelou “Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage you can't practice any other virtue consistently.” This quote is accompanied by the Institute of Coaching’s Logo, a red shield. The shield is in the lower center of the image.

IOC's Tips of the Week are authored by Austin Matzelle