In my experience, when it comes to career, there are two kinds of courage.
The first is the courage it takes to pick yourself up after you've fallen. This is the courage to make a career change or find a new job after you've been laid off or fired. An event occurs and the person responds. This is reactive courage.
The other kind of courage is the courage it takes to say, "This situation is not working for me. I don't know where the road after this leads or how I'm going to get there, but I know that I need to make a change, regardless." This is the courage it takes to quit your job and start a new business venture or to go on a totally different career journey.This is the courage to act when action is not required. This is pro-active courage.
Here's another way to think about it:
Reactive courage is being pushed off the cliff.
Pro-active courage is about deciding to jump yourself.
There's nothing wrong with reactive courage. It's a wonderful thing and necessary when life hits you with unexpected events. But it can feel a little disempowering, too. It's about life happening TO you and you having to respond. Someone else made the circumstances and now you have to deal with them. You feel the blow to your self-esteem and the world seems just a little more chaotic and random than you'd like.
Pro-active courage is something different. It says, "I'm going to act on MY timetable. I'm going to take the situation into my own hands and do what it takes to turn it around. I will set the circumstances and parameters for this change and I will be in charge" It is empowering to do this, but also scarier than finding courage once an event has already happened. No one is forcing this change, so it's easier to second-guess yourself and wonder if the change is necessary at all.
In my life I've been both pro-actively and reactively courageous. I can tell you, though, that while scarier at the beginning, my pro-actively courageous decisions have had far greater payoffs than my reactively courageous ones. I can also say that in my career, I've tried very hard to be pro-actively courageous as much as possible.
The decision to quit my job 15 years ago and start my own business was a pro-actively courageous decision that has paid huge dividends.
The decision to begin shifting my business in new directions as I see my own passions and skills evolving is another pro-actively courageous decision I've made. Even if it doesn't pay off financially the way that I'd like, it already is providing me with greater career fulfillment and much-needed energy.
The point I'm trying to make is this. We can show courage when we are pushed from the cliff and we can show courage in making the decision to jump. Which form of courage feels the best to you?