We all have heroes we idolize. People we look up to because they excel at something, whether it’s sports or business or adventuring. People who’ve done great things for their community, their country, their society. People like soldiers and firefighters and police officers, who sacrifice themselves for the greater good. People—whether present-day world-shakers, or historical figures, or even fictional characters—who possess qualities or represent ideas we aspire to in our own lives and selves.
But I would argue that being a hero, being that example for others, is not the sole provenance of the famous or the talented or the elite. Each of us have a spark of the hero within us.
And each of us has someone—whether it’s a child or a neighbor or a co-worker or a friend—who looks up to us, who sees something in us that they want to learn from or emulate. They want to be like us… just like we aspire to be like one of our own heroes.
So who are you a hero for?
No matter where we are in our own hero’s journey, we can offer something important to someone else. Each of us have lessons we’ve learned along our path that are important not just to ourselves, but to others as well.
And it’s important for us to speak our truths to those who watch us, who follow us, even if we don’t know who they are or what exactly they need from us. Even if we’re not sure that we’re worthy of their adulation.
But we, each of us, have a responsibility to accept our hero persona—to don our hero cowl or cape or costume, if that’s what we need to do—and to serve as an example for others about how to be healthy or wise or kind—or a good parent, or an inspiring writer, or a business guru, or a world traveler, or whatever else we find ourselves called to do.
So how do we do that when we don’t feel like we are hero material? When we feel like we’re struggling to figure it out ourselves?
For me, this struggle continues every day. What can I do that will make a difference? What do I have to offer? Who am I to think that I can accomplish something significant, and change the world for the better?
Heroes Aren’t Born, They’re Made
Over the past months, I’ve learned that I don’t need to change the world in one giant, superheroic act. I don’t need to solve some gigantic, world-shaking problem by the force of my own will or strength or intellect alone.
Just like I learned that a world record can be broken—not by the superheroic ability of one gifted individual, but the collective efforts of hundreds of normal people working together—I continue to learn that it’s the collective weight of hundreds and thousands of small acts we take that make up who we are.
And if those hundreds and thousands of small acts are consistently focused on helping others live better lives and achieve their own true (heroic) potential, then we are truly becoming heroes, one small act at a time.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
So the only way I’ve found to get outside my own head, to free myself of that gravity that keeps me from becoming the person I want to be—my truest, best self—is taking those consistent small actions each day. To perform at least one giving act: to do something, no matter how small, for someone else.
Sometimes all I can muster is a tentative smile to a stranger on the street, or a thank you to the cashier at the grocery store, or opening a car door for someone with their hands full. Or offering a suggestion to the lost-looking person at Best Buy, who has no clue what Great Uncle Ernest wants for his birthday. Sometimes it’s volunteering: supporting a good cause or helping people who need a hand up.
Sometimes it’s standing up for something we know is right, against something we know is wrong. Sometimes it’s a hug or a kind word or a listening ear to a friend in need. Sometimes it’s just letting someone else know we believe in them—that we see the bright being inside of them, beautiful and powerful and full of potential.
Nothing superheroic here. Just simple gifts and small acts of kindness.
Embrace Your Inner Hero
After all, the ordinary hero hiding in each of us is often the most powerful catalyst for change. –Tate Taylor
Haven’t we all done those things I mention? Haven’t we all offered a bit of ourselves—our time, our attention, our energy—selflessly, without thought for what it might gain us, but with the sole intention of making another person’s life a little better?
And what is a hero if not the person who does exactly that? What is a hero if not a person who understands their responsibility to change the world one person at a time, one small act at a time?
What is a hero without love for mankind. –Doris Lessing
If each of us embraces that hero inside us, accepts the responsibility for others, and takes those small actions each day to make that a reality, what sort of world might we build together?
And each man stands with his face in the light. Of his own drawn sword, ready to do what a hero can.
–Elizabeth Barrett Browning
This week, look for those opportunities for those small acts of heroism that you can offer to others. Notice how those acts of kindness and helpfulness make you feel. I think you’ll find you feel better about yourself, more confident, more powerful, more—dare I say?—heroic! I’d love to hear about your experiences applying the small acts of heroism idea in your own life. Please share in the comments!
If you need some assistance in figuring out how to find your inner hero and make a difference in the lives of others, please check out these other posts:
- How to Get Your Brave Up
- Who’s in Your League (of Superheroes)?
- Setbacks, Struggles, and How to Cope Like a Hero
- What Strengths Feel Like
And keep checking back here at the blog for more stories, ideas, and other good stuff to help you on your journey.
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Special, Time-Sensitive Notice!
If you are looking for some assistance right now on making a difference, my friends Leah and Naz at RYPL.net have just what you need! Check out Leah’s great post on the topic, and sign up for their awesome contest by answering the question: How I Made a Difference. One fortunate person will walk away a one-hour coaching session with Leah and Naz, a 30-minute coaching call with DG Gregory of secondhalfcomeback.com, and the full-monte version of Scott Dinsmore’s Live Off Your Passion course from liveyourlegend.net! [The contest deadline is next Friday, August 29, 2014, Midnight AEST, so hurry over and enter!]