Over recent weeks the word hero has formed part of daily conversation here in the UK. For some reason the term was used, very comfortably, to describe the actions of nurses, doctors and farmers who rendered assistance during the recent snow storm we all affectionately named “The Beast from the East”.
As they say in moments of crisis look for the helpers. During this time, people stepped up, doing their bit to lessen the impact of the disruption the storm created. The snow is now fast melting and the term hero appears to have been packed away, stored perhaps, until the next time.
Why is it we feel comfortable to use the word hero in circumstances I describe above or to describe the efforts of our emergency services when they act heroically? Why is it we only feel able to describe everyone else as heroes only when they do extraordinary things.
Often, we make the mistake of restricting our lens when it comes to how we define a hero. The reality, I argue, is that every one of us has the ability, to be that hero to another person, even the hero that society needs.
As one great leader once said:
“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”
Martin Luther King Jnr
Why do we need heroes? For me the answer is simple.
Without heroes where is the hope? Where is the hope that things will get better? Where is the hope that people care? Where is the hope that when required I can be that hero, a friend needs?
So, do you want to be the hero that others need? Here’s my tips:
- Who were your heroes? – Why did you consider them to be heroes? I’m sure, of those you identify, each had a common purpose. They probably faced challenges. In the early stages of their journey, they probably failed, or were met by hurdles that would put them off course. Importantly, they most likely didn’t give up. Maybe they harnessed the power of others who shared their viewpoint. By re-living these hero traits, you too, can begin your own heroes journey.
- Don’t wait for someone else to take responsibility – We are all too familiar with the impact of the bystander effect. When faced with challenging situations there is a need for someone to take responsibility. In a group, it is clear from decades of research that unless someone steps up, no one will. As was said by Ghandi – “Be the change you want to see in the world”.
- Prepare yourself – US Psychologist Phil Zimbardo has this ambitious plan to ‘seed the world with everyday heroes’. As well as raising awareness of the bystander effect Phil is keen for every one of us to develop the hero that he believes exists in us all. By developing our own ‘heroic imagination’ (practice) we can move from a position of passivity where we say, “what can I do?” to a place where we know how to act heroically. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWQq0E8ENSc for Phil Zimbardo’s introduction to the Heroic Imagination Project https://www.heroicimagination.org/
- Step into the spotlight – Former US President John F Kennedy once said, “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth”. Conformity is also a barrier to authenticity and to, being the hero that lives inside you. To be a hero you may, from time to time, have to learn to step into the spotlight. This can be a daunting experience. There will be risks. What will others say? Will they agree with me? Well you know what, you won’t know until to do it.
“To be a hero you have to learn to be a deviant, because you’re always going against the conformity of the group”
Always stand up for what you believe in. The reality, is that others will respect you and are likely to agree with your stance on a certain subject. Stepping into the spot-light to challenge abuse, prejudice or stereotyping is important. Our silence provides power to those who act in this way.
- Be kind in your life – Every day you have the opportunity to make a difference in the life of another. Thank the bus driver, speak to your neighbour. That work colleague who has just come back to work after a period of sickness, engage them in a conversation. Let them know you are there. We all live quite independent lives within which we face our own daily struggles. We don’t have a set of magic glasses that allows us to see the struggles of others. Assume they are there, reach out, say hello, give a compliment. Your actions may just make that day that bit better.
- It’s the little things that make the difference – Never underestimate the power you have in doing little acts of kindness that can make a big difference in the lives of others! Loving acts are contagious! Your kindness carries on in those who witnessed your random acts of kindness! Commit today to living a life that makes a difference. Life is fleeting, make the most of it, include others. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEc9udnWBmE for a film that highlights the power of paying it forward.
- Be aware of the bad but promote the good – I agree, we do live in a world where the news can be quite depressing. It’s all too easy to take a side, easier to conform than to be yourself. Remember who you are and what you stand for. Search out the good news that communicates to others who we are, that we care and want to help others. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZx4MichXXE for what happened when a group came together to help a man who became stuck between a train and the platform. There is so much good out there. You just have to go looking.
- Service to others – The opportunity to volunteer is a great way to prepare yourself.
Heroes don’t always wear cape’s, nor do they have to do extraordinary things. We all possess the ability to help others. It simply requires a willingness on our part. As a species, we humans were born to connect with others. Healthy Relationships are the protective factor for each and every one of us. Get relationships right, magic will happen. In many ways what you give, you will get back, and more. This should not be our reason for being kind or helping another person. But hey, it sure feels good when the connection is made.