Ben The Avalanche Rescue Dog. Photo courtesy of dafuriousd on

Ben The Avalanche Rescue Dog.
Photo courtesy of dafuriousd on

As I’m wading through my email last week and I ran across this one, from, “The Psychology Of Heroism.” I never realized that being a hero was all that complicated. Doesn’t it usually go something like this: Clark Kent finds a telephone booth, pops the buttons off his broadcloth double Tattersall dress shirt, and whoosh, off he flies into the night sky to save some damsel from an everyday thug.

So I read about it and sure enough, there is substance to this mindset, you know, of being a hero.

Contrary to what this make look like at first glance, there is substance to this notion, and these everyday heroes are a step out of the ordinary. Here’s what they look like:

  • Heroes are servants, they have compassion and empathy for other people.
  • When a challenge arises, heroes have confidence in their ability to handle the situation.
  • Heroes have a strong moral compass. They are willing to sacrifice their own personal comfort for the sake of doing what is right.
  • Heroes are positive thinkers who take action. They are blessed with the ability to look past fear and danger, and foresee a positive outcome.

Does this sound just like Jesus? Yep, I thought so too!

I found out that we can actually learn heroism, and there are initiatives underway to help teach it. The Heroic Imagination Project is one, a non-profit that teaches people how to effectively take action in challenging situations. HIP believes that heroism is a mindset or set of habits that anyone can achieve.

Through the Psychology of Change, HIP empowers individuals to “transform situations by building skills and awareness around five universal, socially based tendencies that are a part of our shared evolutionary and cultural heritage. They are our default mode for good reasons, as these tendencies are normally helpful and adaptive. Yet, when we find ourselves in challenging or stressful situations, uncritically relying on these tendencies can limit our options, hold us back, and lead to poor decision-making.  They can also divert our attention away from important aspects of what is going on immediately around us – our social environment and the psychological dynamics that govern the various situations we encounter on a daily basis. These powerfully influential dynamics are so pervasive that they affect us all, but can be hard to spot without training, and thus are “hidden in plain view.”  That is the bad news. But there is good news.  Recent research in social and educational psychology has uncovered tools and techniques we can put to good use in understanding and changing our reactions to these social forces.  These tools can help us to loosen the grip of our unconscious tendencies and can free us up to exercise leadership and help us to be a positive influence in such situations and in the lives of the people around us.”

So here are the 5 factors, or tendencies that HIP identifies:

Tendency #1: to react automatically to the things we are not paying close attention to. This tendency states that since we have a limited attention span, we often react automatically out of routine or habit to some situations. We limit our choices in doing this, and also miss key information. To react differently, we have to pay closer attention to our internal and external world.

Tendency #2: to rely on labels and categories in making judgments about ourselves and others.  T #2 says we often make hasty assumptions about others and the groups we think they belong to, and we use negative labels for ourselves when things don’t go well.

Tendency #3: to depend on those around us for our own interpretation of what’s going on. This natural social tendency can cause us to miss opportunities to act on behalf of another when we feel less personally responsible or more inclined to misinterpretation.

Tendency #4: to seek acceptance and avoid rejection. Yikes. We all want to be liked and accepted, right? Maybe following that moral compass is more essential than heading down the wrong path for the sake of fitting in and promoting what is actually a false sense of harmony or unity.

Tendency #5: to assume that certain aspects of ourselves and others can’t be changed. Ouch, this one is pretty tough for a change agent to read! The assumptions that we make about certain aspects being unchangeable are mostly wrong.

Well, with all that said, HIP leads us to a key change-making strategy: the power of pause. When we hit the pause button, we have time to choose our response, instead of acting on the fly and in autopilot more to a stimuli.

HIP says in the moment of mindfulness we have the opportunity to change our behavior by:

1)  Bringing Yourself Fully into the Present Moment
2) Checking for Automatic Behavior
3)  Considering Alternative Options
4)  Selecting a Preferred Response

That’s it, the power of pause, one path to becoming an everyday hero.

“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.” – Arthur Ashe

Is there anyone in your community that you see as an everyday hero?

Can you identify with “the power of pause” – where taking a moment to reflect on a situation could change your response to a challenging situation?