Wright Team | August 5, 2021

How to Be a Hero (to Yourself and Others)

Are there people you admire and want to emulate? Here’s how to embrace your heroic side!


Is there someone you admire? Learn how to be a hero to yourself and others.

Do you ever wonder how to be a hero? Maybe you look up to someone great and think, “I wish I could be more like her!” Perhaps you’d like to invoke some of those more heroic traits in your own life.

First, it’s important to remember each of us has unique strengths and qualities we bring to the table. We may look to someone else and wonder how to be a hero (just like we think they are), but chances are, if we looked behind the curtain, we’d find they also struggle sometimes. Their life may not be all the glamour we imagine.

Looking up to someone we admire shouldn’t be about jealousy, comparison, or FOMO. It should be about discovering the principles and values that drive our hero. When we find out those core drivers, we can use them in our own growth and development. We can start to emulate those same principles and learn to live a principled life of our own.

Emulating Our Heroes

The term hero is used to describe anyone we admire. We may think of sports heroes, superheroes, celebrities, artists, great minds, or even friends we look up to. When we think of what makes someone a hero, they usually live up to some higher standard. They’re exceptional at athletics, at leadership, at creativity, or humanitarian acts. We may think of someone great at entertaining, who is at the top of their field, or who pushes beyond their limits.

It’s important to have heroes—people you believe live according to higher principles—whom you can strive to emulate. These are the individuals who provide us with examples, who give us glimpses of what is possible.

Yet too often, we see the power of the person’s life and decide that they are beyond us, that we can’t do what they do, that they are exceptional and different from us. We become jealous or hateful toward them because we think they have what we lack. Rather than put the person on a pedestal, or conversely, try to knock them off, we can choose to see how they live and identify the principles toward which they align. Rather than just thinking, Oh, isn’t she amazing, we can ask ourselves, “How does she live, to what principles is she orienting, and how can I do that in my life? How did Jesus live and how could I do that in my life? How did Martin Luther King live and how can I do that? How did Mother Teresa live and how can I do that?” When you look at athletes, rather than just admiring their accomplishments and seeing them as entirely different from you, see their commitment to excellence and consider how you might replicate that in your own life.

Whoever these amazing people are, look beyond the person and see the principles that are at work in their lives. Your heroes didn’t come out of the womb fully developed and accomplished; they oriented to principles moment by moment and created the life that you now admire.

The One Decision

Embracing Life Principles

What are these hero principles? Do we need to understand them to know how to be a hero? When we talk about principles, we’re referring to the guidelines that we all use to live our lives—our moral compass, our conscious, personal mantra, or values that shape who we are and what we do. Each of us lives our lives oriented to certain principles, whether we realize that we’re living that way or not.

We may live by the principle of intent, or we may live by the principle of victimhood.

We may live by the principle of responsibility or the principle of blame.

Do we see ourselves as the creator of our life experience, or are we simply reacting to the experiences as they come along?

If we’ve never explored our principles and drivers, then comparing ourselves to our hero is a great incentive to dive in. Look around at your friends, loved ones, and the allies in your life. What principles do they embody? For example, I’ve always felt Bob embodies the principle of truth. He’s honest about his feelings and opinions in all situations. He holds to his personal truths and uses them to guide all his decisions.

As we discover these qualities in those around us, we may realize many heroes surround us! Heroism isn’t limited to celebrities or sports figures. Our heroes may be our teachers, our friends, our coworkers, or acquaintances. We can look at the traits we admire in others and figure out what drives them, then work toward embracing those principles within our own lives.

Not only that—but we can all learn how to be a hero in our own right, as well. Each of us possesses many heroic traits we can choose to discover, enhance, and use to drive ourselves toward a life of greater purpose and enjoyment. When we start to embrace our inner hero, we may find that we’re impacting those in our circle of influence and beyond.

Many of us may not realize that aliveness itself is a life principle. Each day we can choose to live with more “aliveness,” more connections, and more engagement. It may sound funny to think of living with more “aliveness,” but how many days do we simply go through the motions? How often do we dull our senses, find ways to zone out, or waste time using soft addictions?

Instead, when we live with aliveness, we start to tune in to the world around us. We open up our hearts and minds to new ideas. The lights go on, and we awaken to more joy and fresh experiences. In every moment, we strive to be more of who we are. We choose to engage with those around us: to connect, to listen, to learn, and to share. At each moment, we can choose to embrace our emotions—joy, fear, anger, sadness, and hurt. We can orient toward our feelings or shy away from them.

Have More Fun with Play

Hand in hand with the principle of aliveness is the principle of play. Now many of us may think of play as “kid stuff” or frivolous. But adults must spend time playing too. When we play, we learn, we grow, we discover. Better still, we have fun. We embody heroism because we’re enjoying ourselves—people want to be like us. It’s within each of us to embrace play in our day-to-day lives. When we play, we’re more alive and present. We’re nourished. We’re enlivened and open to new experiences.

If we want examples of incorporating more play in our lives, we can watch little kids at play. They take it very seriously. They take risks. They experiment. They beg grownups to push them higher on the swing set or to “do it again!” They aren’t afraid to get creative, to use their imagination, and to pretend. They aren’t self-conscious. They go all in.

We should incorporate these elements of play into our own lives. Even the staunchest CEO or most analytical computer programmer can add an element of play to every action they undertake. Challenge yourself to go further. Look for new ways to think of projects. Experiment with new ideas and embrace and learn from mistakes. Play involves plenty of trial and error, but the stakes don’t feel so high because, after all—we’re having fun!

When we talk of values and principles, we often think of a stoic, reverent, “principled” person. Yet, the principles of aliveness, play, and living in the here and now are equally as crucial as reverence and seriousness. Of course, principles like truth, responsibility, and choice are also vital to living a good life. We may see many of these qualities in the heroes we admire as well. A principled person holds to these high standards—they embody and emulate positive principles (but they also do it with joy).

Mahatma Gandhi said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” So when we look at figures like the Dalai Lama or Gandhi as examples of heroes, we may start to see something interesting. Yes, they often hold very high principles, but with a twinkle in their eye—a spark and a sense of humor. That’s the aliveness that we’re seeking. It’s that joy that makes a hero truly dynamic and magnetic. People are drawn to their kindness, their goodness, and their happiness. We want to be like them because we see that they enjoy who they are.

So if you want to become more like your hero, take a look at their qualities. Many heroes operate from a place of love, truth, faith, abundance, and responsibility.

They believe they’re in control of their lives, choose who they want to be, and decide what they want to do. They don’t blame others. They don’t pass the buck or shirk responsibility. Instead, they own up to mistakes and use those mistakes as opportunities for growth.

We can each become the hero of our life adventure. If we wonder how to be a hero, we can also do a little exercise to get our gears moving on the concept. If we were someone else’s hero, what would we want them to say about us? When we’re noticed, how do we want people to notice us? How would we want to be described by those who admire us?

She embraces life with joy.

He’s engaged and exuberant!

She lives life fully with no excuses.

He always accepts his responsibilities and gains strength from setbacks.

Sometimes, we gain a clearer picture of how to be a hero when we think of it from an outside perspective. How do we want others to see us? How can we move toward that concept and realize our inner hero more fully?

Discover what principles are most important to you in your life and make them part of your personal values. We can each live a heroic life!

For more ways to discover your fullest potential, explore our courses at Wright Now. We have an array of online classes and discussions that can help you make new connections in your career, relationships, and personal growth. Start living a life of MORE today!

The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Foundation’s performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.