“We’re not on our journey to save the world but to save ourselves. But in doing that, you save the world. The influence of a vital person vitalizes.” -Joseph Campbell
It’s believed humans have been writing epic tales about heroes since (at least) Gilgamesh in 1800 B.C. We’ve come a long way to today’s CGI Avenger flicks but many of the same tropes remain. However, the events of 2020 compelled us to re-visit what we inherently deem to be heroic. For example, this past spring, I found myself climbing out onto my fire escape to join my neighbors in making noise for our local health care workers. No green screens necessary for that lionhearted group of essential workers.
It seems far more likely that I’ll once again be banging pots and pans than going to a theater to see a superhero movie in the immediate future. Nobody knows when we’ll be able to fully assess the holistic impact of the pandemic/lockdown, but here’s the catch: We don’t have to know how this ends in order to make a difference now. The world is putting out a call for a new set of “essential workers” in 2021. This isn’t about having a degree, specialty, or certification. You don’t have to wear a cape or a set of scrubs or spring from some ancient mythology. The kind of hero our society needs now is that which lives within each of us.
5 Ways to Access Your Inner Hero
Think Like a Triage Nurse
“Triage,” in medical terms, involves the “process of determining the most important people or things from amongst a large number that requires attention.” This practical, life-saving mindset can smoothly translate into everyday life. Rather than “determining most important,” your guiding principle will be on the humans (or non-humans) with your reach who require attention, those vulnerable souls for whom you have the skills to provide immediate help or relief.
Ditch the Litmus Tests
In these Divided States of America, it can be tempting to reserve your Inner Hero for those displaying a similar worldview. However, a true Good Samaritan checks their individual biases and opinions at the door. Religions, backgrounds, ethnicities, classes, and beliefs — these are all important but they have nothing to do with personal heroism. This isn’t a Pollyanna mythology; it’s about community transcending ideology.
Ditch the Social Media Feedback Loop
Sure, it may seem nobody doesn’t do anything these days without pursuing those precious “likes,” “shares,” and “follows” in mind. Your Inner Hero, on the other hand, follows an internal moral compass. The goal isn’t getting credit. The goal is getting results, e.g. “They left before we could even thank them.”
This will be your foundation. Creating and maintaining a daily self-care regimen nurtures your Inner Superhero. It also serves as a steady reminder that you need and deserve help, too (see #5). Some components to include:
- Regular sleep patterns (ideally aiming for 8 hours per night)
- Healthy eating habits
- Daily exercise and activity
- Relaxation techniques and stress management
- Staying connected to others
Remember, running on empty leaves you with nothing to give. Which brings us to…
Be Humble Enough to Accept Help
In the 1953 film, High Noon, Gary Cooper played a hero named Will Kane. Almost everyone in his entire town abandoned him, but he did not stray from his mission. Kane’s efforts were admirable but the plot did not reflect a more likely outcome. That you will find in the 1946 classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. Jimmy Stewart, as George Bailey, stuck his neck out for anyone seeking help. In his time of need, Bailey was lifted by the community that he helped to create. He accepted this support with humility and gratitude, knowing he would rise again on another day.
Not every act of courage and compassion will be recorded for posterity. But without such acts — large and small — we stand no chance of recovery and healing in the coming year. Happy New Year!
Photo: Gary Cooper in “High Noon” (public domain)