What do you think of when you see the word heroic?
Bravery and determination? A person willing to take risks? Someone who is strong or noble or self-sacrificing?
Although the word heroic may conjure up images of Hercules and other impressive legendary figures, the intention of heroic can manifest in the most seemingly small, but powerful ways.
When we look beyond the glitz and the glamour, we find it is actually not so difficult to find every day instances of heroism (1).
How can you incorporate more heroic valor into your everyday life? Start with where you are and who you know. Do not underestimate the value of being a role model to younger siblings, cousins, nieces, or nephews. You don't have to inspire 100% of your work colleagues or clients. Start with the people who are close to you that could use some heroism or positive influence in their lives.
So what does heroic modeling look like?
Become more aware of how your actions impact those around you, especially the children in your life.
“Studies of aggressive learning in children show that through a process known as vicarious reinforcement, we start to model the behavior of individuals whose actions seem to be getting rewarded. In vicarious reinforcement, your tendency to commit a behavior that someone else gets praise or attention for increases almost as much as if you were actually getting the rewards yourself.” – Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne (2)
Thus, your decisions are important and how you communicate those decisions and their effects on your life is even more important. Be bold and express what really fulfills and sustains you…dare to share at a deeper level than just your material successes, job promotions, or athletic/academic achievements.
This brings us to our second characteristic of the everyday hero…
People can smell a phony a mile away, children are particularly acute at seeing through the visad.
In the world of role modeling, it is essential to walk your talk. Live up to your own values. When you make a mistake (and you will), the bravest, most inspiring, and potentially the most helpful course of action is to admit your mistakes.
Show the children in your life that it is ok to not have all the answers all the time. None of us really do anyways. Teach them through your living example that the right answers sometimes show up on their own timeline and after much trial-and-error…and that happens for everyone.
3. Recognizing Your Power.
Everything you do has the ability to influence others. Just think of how many times in your life your own decisions were shaped by someone else's opinion or influence. You may not even remember that it was your third grade singing teacher that planted the seed in your head that you can't sing in pitch, but for decades you have internalized this one lady's opinion as truth. This lead to real consequences in your life. You loved to sing, but stopped singing in front of other people in fourth grade. Coincidence? I think not!
It's not only our actions and opinions that have the ability to influence others, it is our emotions too. So if we are calm, reflective, and have a growth mindset, this often rubs off on others. Our state-of-mind can have a soothing effect on someone in our life that is experiencing a particularly stressful or anxious moment. This is due to a phenomenon called mirror neurons which helps explain why we learn through mimicking others and may be the reason why we empathize with others. With mirror neurons, we can literally feel another person's pain. The same parts of the brain light up when we see someone experience an emotion from some given action, as they do if we were doing that action ourselves (3). Whoa, now that is powerful!
Heroism includes the notion of bravery and helping others. Ironically, one of the most daring acts that often helps others is to be honest and vulnerable.
Show up in a way that truly serves those in your life. Don't tell people what you think they need to hear. Do not be limited to the confines of your own opinion.
Listen deeply. Be present. Take time and be patient. Assess what the person is really struggling with and what they truly may need to hear that would be most helpful. Often the surface topics people are more comfortable talking about are not the root cause of the confusion or emotional pain.
Being a role model to people in your life is only one of the many ways heroism manifests itself, but it is an enriching, important, and rewarding role to play.
(Read this next: 4 Practices of Getting Into Flow)