Who do you think of when you hear the word “Hero?”
My mind immediately gravitates to people like Blaine Gaskill, the Student Resource Officer who put himself in harm’s way to stop a school shooting in Maryland. Or Tammie Jo Shults, the pilot who calmly landed a crippled Southwest Airlines jet after the plane’s left engine had exploded in mid-air. Or of course, 20-year old Malala Yousafzai, who has persistently advocated for education for girls and women, in direct defiance of the Taliban leaders in her native Pakistan.
A hero is someone who takes brave action in the face of a threat.
In 2012, a 15-year old Malala was shot in the head by would-be assassins as she rode home from school on a bus. That didn’t stop her; in fact, it propelled her forward. Her efforts garnered her the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. At age 17, she became the youngest person ever to receive this prestigious distinction.
I recently read a book called “Be The Hero” by Noah Blumenthal. In the days since finishing this book, I have been inspired to think about the Hero’s Journey that we are all experiencing as leaders. I shared some observations on this topic recently at a conference with a large group of my management team.
The premise of the book is this: It is the stories we tell ourselves that determine how we feel and how we act.
Our stories are how we interpret the world around us. The author suggests that we all tell 3 types of stories that make us either a hero or what he calls a victim.
- Stories about other people
- Stories about our own circumstances
- Stories about ourselves
When you change your stories, you change your life.
Our Stories About Other People –
You know those friends of yours who are always complaining about others on social media? We all have them. I’m often tempted to remind the person who seemingly complains about everyone else that the one common denominator in all their challenging situations is his or her own self. Instead of complaining about others, develop some empathy for others and focus on what YOU can do.
Changing your stories about other people will change your emotions. You can’t stop being upset if your story makes you feel upset. You have to change your story, which in turn will change your emotions. Here’s a valuable insight I have learned that has helped me live a better life:
Assume best intentions in the actions of others.
If you take the example of someone cutting you off in traffic, the story that they didn’t see you, or they nearly missed their exit, or they’re just in a legitimate hurry is at least equally likely to be true as that they are being a jerk.
If 2 stories are equally likely to be true or untrue, the hero chooses the one that makes him or her happier and more effective. Making others out to be villains pushes you further apart from others, making it more difficult for people to understand one another.
Instead, tell the story that leads to the emotions and actions that you desire.
Our Stories About Our Circumstances –
We ALL have challenges in life. If you spend all your time focused on what’s wrong, you’ll make yourself miserable. Thinking about and appreciating the good things in your life gives you a counterbalance that lifts your spirits and makes you better able to respond to life’s challenges.
The lesson here isn’t to ignore the challenges in your life, but you don’t have to wallow in them either.
When challenges arise, here are some constructive ways you can respond:
- Recognize the opportunity for growth. You only grow through resistance.
- Be solution-oriented … The hero doesn’t dump a problem in people’s lap without at least trying to find a solution.
- Maintain your positive focus. There’s always a silver lining or an opportunity hiding behind every challenge. Train your mind to look for the seed of positive benefit, and keep your emotions mostly positive.
Our Stories About Ourselves –
An example of the stories we might sometimes tell about ourselves is when we talk about the things we “can’t do.” These limiting beliefs are often based on a false perception that we have developed somehow, and are normally not based on reality.
We see other successful people, and we distance ourselves from them ….
- “I don’t have the talent to do that.”
- “I’m not as good as him.”
- “I’m not as smart as her.”
The reality is that all skills are learned, and you just have to make steps in the right direction. Inborn traits have far less to do with how successful we become than our own effort.
What effort are you making to become as good as others who you admire?
Another form of limiting beliefs is FEAR, particularly fear of failure. If you start learning from your failures and welcoming all experiences, you will begin to have less and less fear in your life. You will find yourself more at ease with tackling any of the inevitable challenges that come up for all of us. Eventually, you may just realize that the fear you have had in the past really wasn’t necessary at all.
So, why not break free from that NOW?!?
Consider how you can choose a more empowering meaning the next time you are confronted with a fear in your life. Identify the “positive opposite” of some of the limiting beliefs that you find entering your mind. DECIDE to choose a new direction!
How are your stories working for you?
Are they leading you in the direction you want to go?
Are they making you feel the way you want to feel?
I’ll wrap this up with some of Noah Blumenthal’s conclusions from his book:
There is a clear link between the stories we tell and our ability to adapt, feel happy, work effectively, and achieve success.
- When our stories are empathetic toward others, we act in more constructive ways.
- When our stories are appreciative of what we have, we are more resilient and energized.
- And when our stories are empowering, they lead us to action.
In short, we lead ourselves to either be heroes or victims.
A hero makes choices that lead to greater happiness and more effectiveness. A hero has better relationships, less stress, and more career success. As an inspiring leader, a hero inspires others to become heroes as well. Ultimately, a hero has a significant impact on the world around him or her.