How to bring heart and build your courage at work

Is building courage as a skill in your work as simple as focusing on the basics of building a good relationship?

How to bring heart and build your courage at work


Learn the building blocks of courage, what courageousness looks like in everyday moments, how to recognize it and its opposite (fear) in your body, and how to bring courage to your work.

As a woman having faced the everyday challenges of being the only female on an engineering team in the high-tech industry—courage has been a daily practice in my work.

As a human deepening my empathic sensitivity through re-connection with myself, my needs, and through practicing how to hold space for others—courage is a daily practice in my work.

Whether I’m noticing the subtle emotional shifts of people in a room, reading the non-verbal communications that tell a different story than words.

Or, feeling the intensity of another’s unconscious and unmet biases or emotions inappropriately expressed toward me—courage is a daily practice in my work.

Recognizing the unsatisfactory state of our collective relationships and our stunted ability to communicate with ourselves and one another, how can we build courage as a skill in our work?

The building blocks of courage

With the Full Moon overhead shining in the sign of Leo today (and the energy that will be with us over the next 2 weeks), we’re called forth to move in more expressive, courageous ways within ourselves, our lives, and our work in the world. 

The astrological sign of the lion brings with it all the heart and all the building blocks necessary to create the kind of courage you can be proud of: 

  • Vulnerability to express oneself in your own unique way.
  • Loyalty to your vision (without caring care about others’ opinions or judgments).
  • Strength to protect what you love.
  • Devotion to go all in—even into the toughest, most intimate parts of yourself and others—and stay with them.

“Love needs to know that we have the courage to protect it, the roar to ward off any harm-doers to it, and the desire to be all in for it.”

Chani Nicholas horoscopes for the week of January 25
Photo by Matthew Kerslake on Unsplash

Courage, from a body-focused, mindfulness-honoring Hakomi method perspective, is built from the ground up in relationship. Like the qualities of the lion, and leading from the heart, the Hakomi method first establishes safety in relationship through active listening, observing and making contact with the other person’s experience.

Contacting another person’s experience may look like a gentle, “there’s worry there, huh?” when the person you’re with shows signs of worry. Or, “that feels important,” when they’re expressing something passionately or excitedly.

“The relationships that make you want to be, try, and do your best need your care and consistent devotion. It takes a lot of courage to show up and be all in, but all acts of intimacy are also profound acts of courage.”

Chani Nicholas horoscopes for the week of January 25

Then, Hakomi goes about building trust in the relationship through modeling respect of the other person’s experience and offering an honest reflection back to them. By maintaining honesty as a thread throughout the relationship.

Lastly, or even firstly, courage means being mindful. Checking in with yourself, your own experience of a situation or person, and meeting yourself with the same courageous qualities that you long to meet others with.

What does courage look like?

Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

Building your own expression of courage and bringing it into your work in the world will look as unique as you are. Let’s look at a few examples of the ways courage can show up in your work, both small and large.

Small acts of courage

While I’m categorizing these as small acts of courage, practicing these seemingly small acts can have profound impacts on your relationship with yourself, your relationships with others at work and your relationship to your work.

  • Getting curious instead of reactive.
  • Meeting stress, mindlessness and meanness with lovingkindness.
  • Choosing to open when you feel like closing.
  • Bookmarking things and then waiting for the right time to address them more mindfully.
  • Choosing not to make the other person “bad.”

Build up to larger acts of courage

  • Directly and non-violently addressing others—in the moment—when you’re holding a difference or your expression feels like its been cut off.
  • Identifying your needs in a challenging situation and communicating those needs in a language that is meaningful for your audience—whether a coworker, manager, Human Resources representative or a third party.
  • Advocating for your needs in a way that respects and utilizes existing company hierarchies, processes, social norms and cultures. And, knowing your rights. Educating yourself or finding an advocate who can speak on your behalf, set legal boundaries, and stand up for your rights even when you’re unsure of them yourself.

Where does courage live in your body?

Photo by Sammie Vasquez on Unsplash

One of the most important, but oft-overlooked, parts of building courage is not only recognizing where courage lives in the body, but also understanding how its opposite, fear, shows up in the body.

From an Ayurvedic perspective, some may say that courage lives in the heart, while others might say it lives in the belly (solar plexus) or even the throat.

Noticing what your own courage feels like in your body, and where it resides can be a powerful tool for meeting your own fear.

Next time you meet a situation with courage—in both small or large ways—take time to notice what courage feels like in your body. Ask yourself:

  • Where do I sense or feel something in my body right now?
  • Does this feel familiar?
  • Do I have any impulses of what to do in response to this feeling?
  • Does this sensation or feeling have a shape? A color? Does it move?
  • Does this sensation or feeling have an image that comes with it?
  • If it had a voice, what might it say?

Similarly, once you recognize our own unique qualities of courage and how they show up in your body, use that energy as a tool to meet the fear that can also arise in our experience.

Next time you are feeling anxious or worried notice what fear feels like in your body. Ask yourself:

  • Where do I sense or feel tension, anxiety, or worry in my body right now?
  • Does this feel familiar? Does it have an age or a memory that comes with it?
  • Do I have any impulses of what to do in response to this feeling?
  • Does this sensation or feeling have a shape? A color? Does it freeze or move?
  • Does this sensation or feeling have an image that comes with it?
  • If it had a voice, what might it say?
  • Can I sense what it wants me to know? Can I sense what it needs?

Just the practice of noticing when courage is in your body and when fear is in your body gives you the power to meet one with the other.

Taking it a step further with the questions above can help you really get to know your own unique courage and fear.

We can be both fearful and courageous at any given moment.

What follows naturally is that next time you’re noticing fear in your body, you can begin to approach it with the courageous part of yourself that is also there and accessible to you in each moment.

We can be both fearful and courageous at any given moment. Allowing yourself to let both parts meet and holding them both simultaneously opens up communication between them. Now they may begin to collaborate on your behalf.

Where could you be more courageous in your work?

Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash

When you recognize the simple qualities that build courage, understand what courage looks like, and get to know both courage and fear inside yourself—courage will show up externally in your relationship dynamics and your work.

Discerning the moments in our workday where we can meet either ourselves or others with courage is the final step to integrating this lion-like energy.

A few common work moments where you could find your courage:

1. You’re the new person collaborating on a project with another team, and they aren’t clearly communicating or being transparent about the project.

IDENTIFY THE IMPACT: Work situations like this one can easily make you feel not only uninformed, but also unimportant. They also impact your ability to deliver on your end of the agreement.

MEET THE NEED: Recognizing you have a need for more clarity and communication, you can approach the team lead letting them know that while they’ve been working together a while, you’re new to their process. Let them know you need to understand their workflow, communication channels and preferences, and any other requirements or dependencies that are critical to consider for the project.


  • Instead of taking any feelings of unimportance, disrespect or being left out personally (reaction), get curious about the facts of the matter.
  • Think about the situation from the team’s perspective and what they may be managing or distracted by.
  • Approach the team or team lead from a place of curiosity and brainstorm with them how you can be included in more communications and clarity around their plans and processes.

2. While working with a coworker who plays a different role than you do, you notice an unconscious bias operating, which comes out casually in inaccurate comments or feedback about your role, someone else’s role or the work itself.

IDENTIFY THE IMPACT: Work situations like this one can easily leave you feeling misunderstood or like something’s not fair—whether it’s about you or someone else.

MEET THE NEED: Recognizing you have a need to name the unconscious bias and want an opportunity to address it with facts, get consent that the coworker is available for feedback about a bias you’re noticing. Then approach them in a private setting you’ve agreed to.


  • Biases often operate unconsciously, so it’s important you approach the conversation with care.
  • Focus on the bias as something you’re noticing that isn’t attributed to any particular person. Rather, you want to focus on the behaviors you recognized the bias in (comments, feedback about a role or the work itself)
  • Describe how it operates and its impact on you and your ability to effectively do your work.
  • Allow the coworker time to process what you’ve shared and come back to you with a response or next steps.

3. In an important meeting with decision-makers your manager, sounding frustrated, takes over.

IDENTIFY THE IMPACT: Work situations like this one can easily leave you feeling disrespected or undervalued. They may also impact your ability to get what you need from the meeting and its attendees or may impact your ability to deliver in a timely manner.

MEET THE NEED: Recognizing you have a need to be treated with respect and allowed space to do your job effectively, but that you may feel hurt or reactive—take time to process your own feelings about what just happened.


  • Choose not to make your manager “bad” and instead get curious about what’s going on in their world. What is their context today? This week? Are they stressed or under pressure?
  • Bookmark the issue (internally) and discuss it at an appropriate time you’ve both agreed to.
  • At that time, maybe in a one-on-one chat with your manager, approach them with lovingkindness by assuming the best of them (giving them the benefit of the doubt).

    Approaching them with this curious, loving energy where you’re not making them “bad” but instead trying to understand their context can ease the conversation and open them to sharing what might really have been driving their behavior.

Want to build more courage within yourself, your life and your work?

Let’s explore what your unique courageous expression looks like and how it can come through in your work in the world. Schedule time for a Consultation or a ReConnection™ session with me.

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Writer, Sr. Technical Program Manager, Sadhana Consultant and Inner Realm Guide at Conscious Content
Carolyn (Koa) Elder is a published writer and Senior technical program manager who’s been writing and consulting for more than a decade with startups, nonprofits and conscious businesses, digital agencies, and fortune 50s to 500s in the Top 50 list.

Beginning in 2011, she invested more deeply in her own mindfulness exploration and education as a Sahaja yoga/meditation guide and two-time apprentice of spiritual teacher and humanitarian, Vanessa Stone. Carolyn is an Ayurvedic Sadhana Consultant, having completed training in 2018 under her teacher, Maya Tiwari. Maya served for two decades as a Vedic monk belonging to India’s prestigious Veda Vyasa lineage and is the founder of Wise Earth School of Ayurveda.

Carolyn is currently immersed in her practicum after graduating from a two-year comprehensive Hakomi Mindfulness-Centered Somatic Psychotherapy practitioner training through Hakomi Institute Southwest.

Founder of Conscious Content, a mindfulness movement for business that serves the greater collective good, her intention is to bring ancient mindfulness technology first to individuals, and then their teams and organizations to connect them more authentically with themselves, one another, and their tribe.

Conscious Content’s guiding inquiry is: what would business look like if work became our sadhana—our personal growth practice?

Her chosen name, Koa, is of Hawaiian origin and means fearless and courageous.

Her given surname, Elder, is of Scottish origin and signifies one who is wiser, older and quite possibly born near the Elderberry tree.
Carolyn Elder

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