Monday, March 21, 2011

Hero Training

Say the word hero and images of famous people like Dwight Eisenhower, Martin Luther King or Mother Theresa flood our minds.  Yet, according to Phil Zimbardo, a psychologist at Stanford University and the creator of the Heroic Imagination Project, heroes can be made with practice.  Zimbardo defines a hero as, "an ordinary person who does something extraordinary."  The Heroic Imagination Project is a course that teaches how giving elevates a person to be extraordinary.  The course takes four weeks and is currently being taught to adolescents.  The first part of the course focuses on empathy.  Learning to pick up on and to care for another person's feelings or situation.  Next, a hero's imagination is taught.  This means showing examples of how heroes try to help others people in simple, concrete ways.  The last step involves actually doing kind things for others.  The more comfortable one becomes with this, the quantity and quality of these kind acts will increase.  Zimbardo laments that our culture worships celebrities instead of people who actually do things that matter. 

I love the Heroic Imagination Project because all of us are extraordinary when we contribute our unique talents to the life circumstances we have.  This means our families, friends and coworkers.  Giving makes us grow.  People who give of their time and/or money actually feel happier than people who don't.  The giving does not have to be a huge event.  A simple smile to people you meet, doing a household chore even if it isn't yours or helping a coworker finish a project.  We can all be heroes in our own unique way.  The upside?  The other guy gains from your extraordinary act and you feel good.  Happy people are healthy people.

Stay healthy & well,

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