Heroes play a psychologically archetypal role designed to create modes of behavior which guide those around them. Good heroes use the power of transformation not only to change themselves for the better, but also to transform the world they live in. In the classic hero journey, the newly transformed hero eventually transforms society in significant and positive ways. He is changed and so are those along his path and those they touch, in turn.
Psychologist Eric Erikson’s eight stages of human development suggest a similar hero trajectory for all of us. Adults grow in significant ways and then in mid-life reach a stage of "generativity", which Erikson defines as the time when people give back to the society that has given them so much.
In his research he identifies five things that heroes help us do:
- They produce a behavioral modality called "elevation". In other words they legitimize the increase in effort required for us to behave in better, bigger and more noble ways.
- They help us heal our psychic wounds. We all have issues regardless. heroes show us how to overcome them, they create the path that shows how even a flawed individual can rise to a state of heroic achievement.
- Heroes show us it is OK to be vulnerable and connected to other people. No hero stands alone. Each requires others to help him or her on their journey. That journey is one of community values and community ties, the triumph of the collective effort that is required to help one person get stronger.
- Heroes show us how to transform our lives. Sometimes they do that in big, heroic ways that take a lot of effort and require self-sacrifice, and at other times the steps are small, steady but persistent.
- Heroes make us feel more heroic. Heroes show us the way, they open up the path and show us what it takes to behave more heroically ourselves.
In our transformation into heroes, psychologists have identified four steps, four questions of a sort, really we must ask ourselves in order to start our heroic journey:
- Make an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses as a person.
- Develop a list of your life goals.
- Assess what’s missing to achieve your goals. List the strengths you lack and the weaknesses that need removal.
- Find mentor figures to help you.
Now think about this in relation to your business. Then your neighborhood, your community, your country. Do you still have heroes?
The world is changing. Not overnight and not all at once, but it is changing nevertheless. In my talks to corporate groups, CEOs, VPs and industry leaders I gleam insights of how this change is happening. What evidence exists. Why some things happen and not others and how we can best take advantage of it all to do better. In Observations I catalogue it all. Brief, to the point and open to discussion.