The 6 Types of Courage — and Why They Matter

Courage is a buzzword, but being courageous is not what you might think.

Sally Clarke
4 min readAug 2, 2022


A friend and I recently discussed the concept of courage and agreed it’s a beautiful quality. Yet, as my friend pointed out, our association with courage necessarily being a massive, daring act of extreme risk can actually undermine our courage:

“Sometimes, courage is invisible. It’s not always climbing Mount Everest — maybe it’s deciding not to climb Everest because you’re not ready, or it’s just not for you. We glorify certain types of visible courage. And this hurts us. An accumulation of small, courageous acts can add up to much more than one Everest.”

So, what is courage? And how can invisible courage serve us, just as much as the Instagrammable version?

What does courage mean?

Here’s my definition:

Courage is the fortitude to chart and sail your own course, to risk, venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, setback or challenge in the process.

Courage is not bravery.

Bravery stems from the latin word barbarus, which means brutal or uncivilized.

Courage, in contrast, stems from the latin word cor, which means heart.

Courage and bravery are two different concepts. Bravery leans towards bravado: It is motivated by something external, and potentially false or superficial.

The motivation for courage, in contrast, comes from within.

“Either life entails courage, or it ceases to be life.”

— EM Forster

Courage is not fearlessness

Courage is not ignoring danger or sweeping fears under the carpet. It means acknowledging fear, reflecting on its message, and if appropriate gently setting aside the fear and acting anyway.

Courage is not reckless or stupid. It is predicated on trust, wisdom, self-knowledge, and a keen sense of self-awareness.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”



Sally Clarke

Co Director of Human Leaders. Wellbeing & burnout author, expert, coach, writer & speaker. Global adventurer. she/her