How to Become an Everyday Hero

How to Become an Everyday Hero

When we think about heroes, characters with super-powers or people who perform death-defying acts of courage typically spring to our minds. But USA Today recently reported that 20% of Americans have done heroic deeds. Professor Philip Zimbardo from Stanford University conducted a study that was supported by the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. Using a national sample of 4,000 adults, Zimbardo’s team discovered that 20% of participants qualified as heroes.

How could this be true?

 These participants had

  • helped during a dangerous emergency,
  • taken a stand against injustice, or
  • sacrificed for a stranger.

Heroes are ordinary people,” Zimbardo states. “You become a hero by doing an extraordinary deed.”

Who Are the Heroes in Your Life?

We all face opportunities to step up, do the extraordinary, and become a hero to someone.

Sometimes those we hold dear fall short during times of need, and the people we expect to spark our hope shroud it in their own despair. Interestingly, Zimbardo’s study also revealed that someone is more likely to act in a heroic capacity if they have walked through personal trauma or have been involved in compassionate outreach.

The world longs for heroes, and we can see the evidence in top-running movies and televisions shows. Social psychologist Scott Allison of Richmond, Virginia puts it this way: “We love heroes because of what they offer us—hope for a better world.”

So how do we become an everyday hero? I suggest the following:

  1. Respect people and live peacefully with others. My mother always said, “Don’t underestimate anyone because you never know what tomorrow brings.”  Sometimes when we are happy, strong, and powerful, we are tempted to ignore the least among us. However, we never know where heroes will come from.
  2. Trust God to bring the right people and circumstances into your life at the right time. Proverbs 16:9 tells us “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” God may send a hero to speak wisdom, to intervene on your behalf, or to stand beside you as an advocate.
  3. Manage your expectations of people. The people you believe will be your heroes may not be equipped to help you and may need help themselves.
  4. Acknowledge people who step up. Gratitude opens doors and fosters a hero’s heart. Heroes often place others first as a lifestyle.  
  5. Be a hero to someone else. This may be as simple as making a phone call, taking time to listen, checking on someone, answering a call, showing unexpected kindness, standing beside someone against injustice, helping to open closed doors, or promoting someone’s well being. Use your power and influence to make a difference.
  6. Stand beside ‘heroes in the making.’ Support the heroic efforts of others and encourage family, friends, and those in your circle of influence to join you. Model what it means to act as a hero and a person of integrity, honor, and positive influence, and consider mentoring others.

I thank God for everyday heroes—people who positively influenced not only my life but the lives of my friends and loved ones and in so doing made the world a better place. I salute you and dedicate this blog to you and to all everyday heroes.

Can you name someone who’s been an unlikely hero in your life? How did their action influence you? I’d love to hear your story.

Peace & Health!

Dr. Clem

What Are You Grateful for Today?

Conversations naturally turn to gratitude and thanks in the month of November. My mother always told us to be grateful for both the small and big things in life. She encouraged us to look around us, to other people, and inside ourselves to find things to be grateful for. As I walked to school in the morning, I observed nature around me, the classmates I played with and talked to, and the simple things that made my life enjoyable, and I found much to be grateful for.

What does it really mean to live a life of gratitude, and why is it important?

Benefits of Gratitude

Many studies over the past ten years demonstrate that people who continually assess their blessings and live with gratitude are happier and less depressed.

According to an article titled “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude that Will Motivate You to Give Year-Round” by psychotherapist Erin Morin published in Forbes, benefits of gratitude include

  • opening doors to relationships,
  • improving physical health,
  • improving psychological health,
  • enhances empathy,
  • reduces aggression,
  • improves sleep,
  • improves self-esteem, and
  • increases mental strength.

Robert Emmons, one of the world’s leading experts on gratitude, believes gratefulness has a positive effect on mental health because it affirms that good exists in the world. A second reason is that sources of goodness outside ourselves—people or a higher power—give us gifts of help us create goodness in the world.

In other words, happiness is a byproduct of the appreciation we show others.

Ten Habits of Grateful People

People who live with gratitude share common characteristics and practices that influence the way they think and see the world. Some of these habits include

  • Expressing appreciation for their life as a way of life.
  • Finding joy in the small things.
  • Looking for the good, even in challenging times.
  • Not making excuses and refusing to play the “victim” card.
  • Focusing on the good in others.
  • Looking for life lessons in hard times.
  • Focusing on what they have while working toward a greater goal.
  • Understanding the value of things money can’t buy.
  • Expressing happiness for other people’s successes.
  • Encouraging others enduring hardship or struggle.

Grateful people possess a healthy perspective on the bigger picture issues of life. They live with intentionality and purpose, and they understand that life’s most difficult challenges are opportunities for personal and spiritual growth.

Putting Gratitude into Practice

We all can benefit from increasing our gratitude quotient. These are some practical ways to learn how to “grow in gratitude:

  • Keep a gratitude journal.
  • Create a gratitude jar.
  • Write a letter expressing thanks to an old friend or mentor.
  • Give someone a call and tell them how grateful you are for them.
  • Set aside a specific time frame—two weeks or a month—to focus on cultivating the art of gratitude in your life—and focus on how it changes your perspective.

As my mother told me, when you live with gratitude, your are eyes open blessings and opportunities that ungrateful eyes don’t see. I am grateful to God for the many gifts in my life, and I say to you, Thank you for the positive contributions you bring to this world.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Dr. Clem