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Can You Learn How To Be a Hero?

December 15, 2010

What I love about Twitter is finding gems among the mass of tweets. While scanning the tweets, something catches my eye, I click and sometimes stumble across an article that is unique and inspiring. Today was one such day.

I clicked on Dr. Marsha’s tweet, which said “The Hero Project | Wired Science |” That’s it. Many of you know that I like writing about heroes, but it was the “Wired Science” phrase that really caught my attention. Dr. Marsha is a neuro-psychologist, and I love any kind of research that has to do with the brain.

The link was to an article from written by Jonathon Lehrer (who also wrote a similar article for the Wall Street Journal). It asks the question, “Can modern science help us to create heroes?” And then Lehrer cites a new non-profit led by Phil Zimbard0, The Heroic Imagination Project, that is trying to determine the answer to that question.

To digress a little, a hero is defined here as an ordinary person who does extraordinary things when a situation arises; a person who acts on behalf of others or in defense of integrity or a moral cause. It has nothing to do with worshiping someone and everything to do with recognizing their actions for what they are.

So, how does one go about cultivating heroes?

The underlying premise here is that in each of us is the potential for causing suffering and, on the flip side, we all have the capacity for deep empathy and compassion, in a way that supports others. In other words, we all have the potential to be heroes. The ABC show, What Would You Do?, demonstrates the choices ordinary people make when faced with extraordinary situations. For example, if you saw a drunk man or woman getting into a car with several young children, what would you do?

Through research and education, the Heroic Imagination project believes that they can help develop the next generation of heroes. With four-week pilot projects in schools in San Francisco, they address the psychological impulse to ignore a situation, teach skills in empathy and compassion, and examine the qualities of real heroes.

You can also participate in the research and develop your own heroic imagination in the comfort of your own home.

On the Heroic Imagination Project website, there is a four week mini course you can sign up for to learn about the research and help develop your heroic capabilities. Can you spare 15 minutes a week? It’s called the Hero Challenge. Each week they’ll send you provocative video clips and short lessons on key concepts, with a follow-up email later in the week with questions to find out how you are progressing.

I just signed up and also subscribed to the Heroes blog.

Who do you consider to be a hero in your life?

Related Reading:

Heroic Imagination Project

What is Compassion?

25 Ways to Teach Kids Compassion

My Top 10 Heroes

3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 16, 2010 2:23 am

    I’ve often wondered if society raised a generation or maybe two of non-heroes. The sort of mentality that said, “Don’t get involved! Stay out of it! It is non of your business.” I think of my parent’s generation and even a lot of my grandparents generation who looked the other way when they knew women were beaten by their husbands and children were abused. Psychiatrists couches are filled by people who didn’t get help from anyone and probably many who have guilt for not helping.

    It will be interesting to see how the study comes out. Let’s hope that if children and even adults are told that it is OK to be a hero that it will become the mindset.

    • December 16, 2010 2:51 am

      You make a great point, Bev. Maybe there has been too much focus on me, me, me. It will be interesting to see if people can be taught to be heroes. I think some parents do teach it to their kids.

  2. January 12, 2011 6:43 pm

    Great site, though I would love to see some more media! – Great post anyway, Cheers!

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