Ruth Clare

Why you only need 10 seconds of courage

How will my life change if I act courageously for 10 seconds a day?


Courage is a practice

You might think of courage as a fixed quality available only to a select few. Not everyone can be courageous, you might say. But courage is a choice, a practice and a teachable skill that nearly everyone has the capacity to learn.

What is courage?

People often think of big, brave acts like firefighters saving someone from a burning building, when they think of courage. They think of courage as synonymous with fearlessness. But courage is not the absence of fear. If you are not afraid of something, it takes no courage to do it. Courage is the willingness to take action in spite of your fear.

Why is courage important?

Courage always involves an element of uncertainty. It requires you to step outside of the safety of your comfort zone into a situation with outcomes unknown. Given life is constantly throwing us surprises, and the way we respond to those surprises, by either shrinking or growing, in large part defines our life, it makes sense that learning how to be courageous can be quite the handy skill.

Courage is learning how to consciously and deliberately override the call to stay small and play safe because we know it is in our best interest to grow bigger than our fear.

What does courage in action look like?

Some small acts of courage include being willing to:

  • share your creativity with others
  • have a difficult conversation
  • ask someone you like on a date
  • learn something new
  • reach out for help
  • keep going after a failure
  • say what you really think even if it might be unpopular

Why ten seconds?

Not every courageous act is going to take ten seconds to complete. But it is the first part of the action– convincing yourself to pick up the phone, saying no for the first time, putting your hand up for project that is going to stretch you – that requires the courage. Once you have got over that initial hurdle and you are in the middle of the action, you are generally on the post-courage slide of self-congratulation where no matter what the outcome you can pat yourself on the back because you know you have been brave.

The reason I give this part of the process a time limit of ten seconds is because when I am on the point of courageous action, that is how long l am willing to indulge my fear. A ten second time limit is like saying to my fear, ‘Yes, Yes. I hear what you are saying. You think I will make the phone call and the person will scream at me and tell me I am a fool and slam the phone down on me. You might be right, but I am going to do it anyway.’ Makes phone call.

Your fear has an unending number of disaster stories to tell you about why you shouldn’t do something, and the longer you listen to those stories, the more courage it will require to take action. Don’t give your fear the platform. Give it ten seconds to rave on then… go!


  1. Think of a place in your life where your fear is holding you back. It could be the dreams you aren’t taking action on, the job you wish you could leave or the way you prioritize the wants and needs of your partner, friends or family over your own.
  2. Imagine a confident and courageous person was giving you advice on how to start making steps to change the situation. Not big sweeping statements or massive things like “publish a book”. Small, specific, tangible actions you might take.

These could look like:

These could look like:

  1. Write down your dreams even if they seem silly
  2. Find a class that teaches you a skill a person living your dream has
  3. Talk with a friend about what type of work you would love to be doing
  4. Make a phone call to an old client you loved working with
  5. Start looking for a mentor
  6. Say no to your someone next time you don’t want to do something
  7. Post something you created online
  8. Look for a writing group
  9. Commit to writing the first page

Repeat 1x a day

The actions themselves aren’t the important things. The willingness to battle your fear for those to first ten seconds and then to take an action, no matter how small, is what builds your courage muscles. When used regularly these muscles have the power to move mountains, amass fortunes and change lives.

If you want to be courageous more often than once a day, knock yourself out. Courage until the cows come home. But if courage is something new to you, give your muscles time to develop. Committing to regular workouts rather doing too much too soon and ending up injured is more effective in the long run.

What small acts of courage will you take today?

What fear will you face?

What life will you create?

Ruth Clare is an award-winning author, TEDx and motivational keynote speaker, professional actor, qualified scientist and authenticity, resilience and change expert who learned by necessity, first to survive, then to thrive. Ruth weaves research and hard-won lessons with powerful, relatable stories from her lived experience overcoming adversity, to help others find the courage to own the stories that are holding them back so they can rewrite their lives. With a rare knack for distilling the neuroscience and psychology of human behaviour into simple ideas and practical strategies, Ruth shows people how to embrace uncertainty, stay hopeful when times are tough and harness their potential for growth and change. Ruth’s TEDx talk, The Pain of Hiding Your True Self, has had over half a million views.