The Heroes Among Us
By Sharon Fountain
“Where have all the heroes gone?” we ask. "Our country needs heroes to inspire, to lead the way, to set standards of excellence for achievement." We desperately look to our public figures to provide these models, to give us spirit, and to supply the courage we might lack; sports stars, movie stars, politicians, the list goes on.
Alas! They fail us. "They have feet of clay!" we lament. They don't do it right. They disappoint us. They get indicted for crimes, criticized for the ways they lead their private lives, and fail to "win" every time. "They're no good!" we whine. "If only they'd lead us where we need to go, then we'd all be okay!"
You are these heroes! I meet people every day who, like you, are facing the challenges in their lives. Those who have the courage to envision a better life for themselves. Those who don't buy the doom and gloom prophetic "odds" against their success, but instead picture their future as being more than it is right now, and set about achieving that future. They keep their eyes on their goals, and when faced with a choice that would take them down a destructive path, they choose the path which fits their preferred future.
It is sometimes very difficult to keep this picture in your mind. Life keeps getting in the way. But, I can tell you from my own experience, that even when those around you are negative, you can hold fast to your dream! How many times have you heard "you can't do it," "it's too hard," "no one else has achieved it," and on, and on? More often than not, the person who says it can't be done hasn't tried, or couldn't do it.
Heroes like you and me don't always know that's what we are. We find our courage gradually, through the trials of time and experience. It's through the times we're tested, through the times we get knocked down and get up again, through the times we doubt ourselves that we begin to discover what we're made of.
Heroes are not only the Dan Jansens who win Olympic gold after struggling to find the courage it takes to persist in achieving their goals. They are those of us who try, sometimes fail, and try again. Over and over and over again, if that's what it takes. The person who recovers from addiction, transcends a troubled childhood, views a disability in terms of what they can do. These are the makings of heroic stuff. The person who says “YES!” to their future, while respecting the future of others. The person who adds to others instead of diminishing them to win at their expense.
Our world is full of these people. Look around. They're not hard to find. You won't often find them on the front pages of newspapers or magazines, on television or on the radio. They’re in your neighborhood, your school, your church, and your office. They have a story to tell! Listen to them. If you listen, and hear what they say, you will find common themes emerge from their stories. Follow their lead and transform your life!
Recognizing Heroes When You See Them
- Celebrate Success Take Responsibility For Failure
Heroes accept life as having wins and losses. They celebrate their successes, knowing they will also have defeats. During those times when they blow it (big-time), sometimes publicly, they take it in stride! They know that failures are not the sum of their life. They view mistakes as simply "mistakes" nothing more, nothing less. When heroes fail, they take responsibility for their errors, and view the experience as an opportunity to grow. They understand that failing is one of the pathways to winning.
Heroes know that fears and self-doubts stop them from achieving their goals. Heroes face their fears! They know that fears, once faced, shrink and wither. Instead of picturing fears and self-doubts, heroes visualize the results they want. They keep a mental image of these results in their minds as they perform. Even though their fears may not completely disappear, when they do raise their ugly heads, heroes say, "Oh, it's you again," and get on with their day.
Heroes learn from their losses. They take personal responsibility, knowing that loss is as much a part of winning as is success. They accept the lessons their experiences are trying to teach. They are willing to change the way they do things, to get beyond a "loss" so they can enjoy the "win."
Heroes resist the temptation to see themselves as victims. When negative things happen, they don't get stuck in "poor me." Instead, they affirm themselves as capable problem solvers. They take action and use their life traumas as an opportunity to grow.
- Transcend Personal Comfort Zones
Comfort zones help us distinguish safety from danger. Heroes consciously stretch their comfort zones so they can grow -- so they can move from the familiar and safe, to the untried opportunities which surround them. By taking incremental risks, and trying new things that are slightly outside their comfort zone, they expand their ability and emotional safety in risk taking. They demonstrate courage, even when scared -- they don't let their fears stop them. They face down these fears and forge ahead.
Life is full of disappointments and opportunities to stumble. Heroes know that tripping up does not have to lead to ultimate loss and failure. They know their personal worth even when they have failed in a task. When heroes get knocked down, they get up -- again, and again, and again. They don't give up on their dreams.
Heroes know that the initial path they choose may not lead to their intended destination. When this happens, they back up, take stock of the situation, and try again from a different direction. As a friend of mine is fond of saying, flexibility is the highest form of intelligence. Heroes use this intelligence to choose a different pathway to their goal.
- Make The Difficult Choices
Heroes hold fast to their convictions even in the face of pressure. They know the easy way is often not the best way. They show their strength of character in their daily choices -- to say no when others are going along with the crowd; to delay immediate gratification in service of a longer range goal; to set the pace instead of following.
You Are A Hero
Heroes are not perfect people. They make mistakes too. They do not always exhibit every one of these characteristics all the time. You are a hero any time you demonstrate any one of them. Every time you take responsibility for a failure you are on the hero's road. When you face a fear, learn from a loss, or reject the victim's role, you are a hero. Whenever you expand your comfort zone, or get up again after being knocked down, you have taken another step. As you demonstrate your flexibility by taking a different approach, or make a difficult choice, YOU ARE A HERO!
The Hero's Journey can be a lonely and difficult road. The heroes I'm talking about are flesh and blood, fragile human beings just like you and me. The main difference lies in their attitude. These heroes are willing to meet life in its totality, knowing that with the good often comes the bad. But, they're willing to risk the negative to enjoy the positive. They stay true to their positive mental attitude and chart their own course. Hold fast to your dreams and make them reality. Winston Churchill summed it up best when he gave what many think of as his greatest speech...
"Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never -- in nothing, great or small, large or petty -- never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”
Please feel free to reprint this article
in your magazine or newsletter
with the byline:
Sharon Fountain is a speaker, seminar leader, consultant and author.
She can be reached at
301-421-0118 or http://www.SharonFountain.com