With less than 100 days until Rio hosts the Olympics, let’s see how heroes really influence us. Not the comic creations of Superman or Batman, but everyday people who show that it’s possible to expand our sense of what it means to be human. Ever think when you cheer for the underdog, you’re stoking a notion that giants can be felled, or, that athletes who beat the odds worked harder? Well, here are four reasons we actually need heroes.
Heroes lift our spirits
Similar to the emotion of love, “elevation” is identified by social psychologist and Professor of Ethical Leadership at NYU, John Haidt , as a mix of admiration, awe and reverenc-e for a morally beautiful act. We are “elevated” by athletic prowess. And yes, we’re also elevated when a local fireman rescues baby ducklings from a drainage trap.
Heroes inspire us to become better people
The delight we feel when we witness a heroic act motivates us to become more virtuous ourselves. We immediately feel an infectious inner warmth, a potent connection, and realize heroic deeds are not beyond our own reach.
Heroes heal psychological stress
Stories of heroic events nourish our hopes and strengthen our resistance. We’re comforted and encouraged. Despite hardship or an exhausting day, when we listen to the tale of a life saved, our perspective shifts. We’re able to release our troubles, we feel restored.
Heroes show us how to transform our life
A random stranger pulls another from a tumble onto subway train tracks. Without thinking, he steps up. He later denies it was “heroic”, but you and I know, this person has confidence in his own moral imperative. Through humble example, he shows us that we can do the same.
Since we are nurtured, inspired, healed, saved and elevated by heroes, it only makes sense to cultivate your own inner hero. Here are three easy steps:
Find someone you admire
Choose a highly visible hero. Say, Captain “Sully” Sullivan who safely landed his full aircraft after a collision with birds (Miracle on the Hudson), or Mother Teresa, whose life was dedicated to serving the poor. Identify values you share. When we study someone we admire, we connect with what psychologists call “positive projection.” This process helps us cultivate traits within ourselves that match those we most admire.
Honor your journey
We obsess over results. Instead, remind yourself the joy is in the journey. As you aspire to embody heroic behavior and virtues, you truly are going through internal growth. Let go of focus on the outcome in order to cultivate patience and appreciation for your own movement forward.
Each time you make decisions without deliberating, you activate deeper degrees of confidence. You instill the practice of action. Like cultivating muscle memory, being consistently decisive equips you with a keen ability to act when the need occurs.
Hmm, maybe I can become the person my dog thinks I am…….