What is True Heroism?

 

Photo collage of ordinary people from around the worldIn Western culture many of us have grown up with the idea of heroism as embodied in the lead characters in movies like Rambo, the James Bond series, Die Hard, Under Siege and Terminator. In this view of heroism the main theme is to achieve something through dominance and control, often at the expense of others. This view of heroism is not only pervasive in the movies we watch, but it is also continually reinforced in the workplace. Even the language we use in our work reflects our deeply held conquest mentality. We attack a problem, beat our competition, and make a killing in the market.

Seeing heroism in this way can be limiting and misses the point of why humans have an urge to be heroic. I believe that the goal of true heroism is not to gain superiority over anyone or anything. It is to combine our outward traits of strength, power, and action with our inward traits of receptivity, peaceful clarity, and intuitive knowing to gain insight and wisdom from the situations we encounter in our physical reality. It is also to serve others and act from compassion in all that we do. From this perspective, the choice to follow the heroic path is the choice to undertake an adventure in transformation and personal growth.

“Heroism is ever available, and in fact it is through ordinary experiences
that the ordinary person can become extraordinary.”
—George Sheehan

In their book, The Path of the Everyday Hero, Lorna Catford and Michael Ray defined the heroic journey as the “inner transformation, and the subsequent transformation in our outer lives, when we learn to activate our hidden creative resources and connect with transcendent sources of support. ” Realizing we are on a heroic journey helps us reframe the challenges we face. We no longer see them as insurmountable obstacles, but rather important components of our evolutionary development. While a portion of life’s journey involves external challenges, most of it is an inside job! To become authentically heroic requires that we stand naked in the face of our personal truth. We are challenged to step into the unknown and risk repeated mistakes, so we can obtain the next higher level of our personal development.

Many people live their lives continually searching for external excitement or achievements to give them a sense of power and aliveness. But for those who know they are on a heroic journey, the sense of power and aliveness arises from the journey itself. Our satisfaction comes from knowing we have mastered some aspect of ourselves. Every situation becomes exciting because it holds the potential for discovering how to better align our outer character with the core of who we are.

When most of us think of heroic figures, whether fictional or actual, the heroic part of us identifies with their courage. If they took the easy way out they would not be considered heroic. Their ability to act in spite of their fear is one of the key traits that gives them their heroic status.

The particular challenges we encounter in the workplace are obviously different than they are for idealized heroic figures. But the underlying theme of choosing the heroic path is the same. How many times at work have we chosen to do what is ordinary, easy, and less fulfilling, instead of doing what may be more difficult, but ultimately gives us a sense of self-respect? When we deal with co-workers, bosses, and customers do we try to manipulate and control them? Or do we choose to act from authenticity and personal integrity? When challenged, do we collapse into victimization? Or do we demonstrate strength and internal fortitude? When an aspect of ourselves comes forth that we do not like, do we try to ignore it, deny it, or make excuses for it? Or do we squarely face it so it can no longer dictate our actions?

Embarking on a heroic workplace journey means that we have boldly stepped into the heroic reality. Once there, we realize that it is not a rarified place. It only seems that way to those who have not yet realized the difference it can make in their work and in their lives as a whole.

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Excerpt from the book, Work as a Heroic Journey
(see Chapter 2: Awaken Your Heroic Character Within) by Marion Moss Hubbard
(Published by Orion Publishing Company, 2005)

 

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