How to be a hero in real life

How to be a hero in real life

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When I was seven years old, I got the greatest Christmas gift ever. As I tore away the crisp, Santa-Claus-decorated paper, it revealed the most perfect present: a Batman costume, complete with belt and shoes. I ran, I jumped, I rolled, I climbed, I hid and I saved everyone in the house from all the dangers that the holiday season could bring. It was one of the best days of my life.

Ever since that day, I’ve been fixated on comic books and superheroes, their place as Modern Mythology, and all the ideals they bring: saving lives, fighting crime and making the world a better place.

As an adult, I realize I actually have the power to be a superhero. I may not be able to fly, grow claws or regenerate my limbs — but I can make a difference to someone’s life.

We all have the power to be a superhero to someone, even if we don’t have the spandex to go with it. Here are five ways you can be a real life superhero:

1. Use the Things You Have to Help Someone Without Them

Want to be a true superhero? This is the most important step. At its foundation, a superhero uses the things that they have to help those who don’t have them.

Batman used his supreme wealth to keep the citizens of Gotham safe. The Green Lantern uses his immense powers to save multiple universes on a daily basis, and Spiderman uses his web-slinging awesomeness to keep the people of New York safe.

Think about what it is that you can give that nobody else can.

It could be your support, time, mentorship, a small gift or a thank-you card. Sometimes, even just the most innocuous social media message can bring someone out of the darkness and into the light.

It’s something that you have to give that can help another.

Stuck? Why not look at Kickstarter for ideas — or just simply pay someone a compliment?

2. Keep Yourself Healthy

You can’t be a superhero and not take at least take some care of your body. Unless you’re like Bruce Banner, and can transform into Lou Ferrigno when you spill the table salt, it’s a good idea to invest in your body.

Be proactive in looking after your body, and helping people will become easier. You will have clarity of mind, energy to accomplish any task and the strength to move whatever obstacles get in your way. It also means you look completely bad-ass if the chance to wear spandex ever comes around.

You don’t need to look like Thor, or have the abdominals of Wonder Woman to be a superhero for somebody. But investing in a gym membership or a pair of running shoes could be the difference between you being able to help someone or not.

Want to get in shape like a real superhero? Check out the Nerd Fitness Blog.

3. Pick Your Fight

Every superhero has a battle. Something that drives them to be the person they are. That gives them not just a want to help people, but a reason why.

Batman and Spiderman both fought to protect other people’s families from the injustices that happened to their own. Captain America fought to be the soldier he was told he would never be and Charles Xavier fought for his belief in the mutant race.

What’s your fight?

It could be anything from blogging on the failures of the education system, or working towards helping reduce the number of homeless veterans on the street. The fight does not need to be big, but it needs to be powerful. It needs to drive you to get out of bed, do something and help people, even if it’s as niche as helping people weed their gardens effectively.

Can’t think? Try to picture what it is you feel is wrong with the world, or your hobby or your profession. When you find something that lights a fire in you, you’ve found your fight.

Then, try to sum it up in five words.

“Protect Gotham City from Evil,” for example.

3. Make Someone’s Day

Real life superheroes go out of their way to improve the lives of all the people they encounter. They want to do whatever it is they can to turn someone’s bad day into a good one.

Thankfully, most bad days in the real world don’t involve someone trying to blow up the city, hold you hostage on a boat or creating a mutant army to band together and eradicate your species, so don’t worry about that.

But what small gesture, piece of help or amount of time can you give to someone to improve their lives?

You can’t make everyone’s day, every day of the week, but try to go out of your way to absolutely make someone’s day every once in a while. The Avengers will thank you for it.

4. Stay Optimistic

Superheroes can be labeled many things, but pessimistic isn’t one of them. They retain a clear sense of optimism and a will to succeed regardless of whatever is thrown their way. Even if there are no odds stacked in their favor.

Even when there were only 10 mutants left on the face of the Earth, Charles Xavier never indulged the thought of extinction. Through the fears, the doubts and unevenly stacked armies, he kept his faith in his beliefs and what he was trying to achieve.

Your optimism, hopes and beliefs will be challenged, but stay true to your course. Being as optimistic as possible will not only help you see it out to the end, but give strength to those around you.

5. Don’t Do It for the Credit

Superheroes wear masks, not only for the protection of the people around them, but for the protection of themselves. They do not seek credit, fame or glory for their acts. They just want to get up, save the world and forget it ever happened.

Their fight transcends credit and accolades, but comes from deep within. Batman never hangs around for press interviews and Spiderman has swung off in to the distance before the first thank you has even been uttered.

The world loves Spiderman, but Peter Parker is nothing more to New Yorkers than an orphan living in a one-person bedsit. For the person behind the mask, there is nothing more than a sense of satisfaction for helping someone.

No matter what it is you do — whether it’s carrying someone’s shopping, or painting their house — never go into it with the motivation of, “What’s in it for me?” Think of it in terms of, “What’s in it for them?”

Now, which superhero will you be?

How to be a hero in real life

Today as I write, it’s the 14th anniversary of 9/11. Most of us will never run into a burning building or otherwise throw ourselves into harm’s way to save another person’s life. But we can and should thank those who do. And we can find countless ways in our own lives to make a heroic difference — here are 10 of them:

1. If you smoke, quit. You’ll inspire those closest to you, who want more than anything for you to be here and in good health. The irony, of course, is you need to quit for you. But I can tell you from experience your loved ones will still consider you heroic. If we don’t show it, it’s only because we don’t want to embarrass you. As an old (smoker) friend of mine used to say, “Don’t dork out.”

2. Let someone else go in front of you in the grocery line — or the freeway. How hard is it to give a break to someone who’s obviously under stress or simply in a hurry? This sort of charity is so not me, which is why I find it so important.

3. Don’t step on someone else’s moment. What a shame if we did great heroic acts for all the world to see, and went through life undermining our friends, family and coworkers. When someone else is telling a story, for example, just smile and let them have the limelight. Sometimes we are most heroic when we let someone else be the hero.

4. Pay a kindness that can’t be repaid. A few winters ago, I had the kind of flu where you can barely move. Remember that sort of haggard, burned-out picture of Bruce Springsteen on the “Darkness on the Edge of Town” album? That’s exactly how I looked. But then my sister-in-law Kim showed up at my door with a grocery bag filled with meds and comfort foods, including chicken noodle soup, Seven-Up, and fresh raspberries. (Organic, of course.) After she left, I cried at the generosity of that. Even now, I’m getting teary-in-a-good-way just reliving it.

5. Get a physical (and maybe a flu shot). Last week, I had lunch with a friend who had just come from the doctor. Most men I know don’t like going to the doctor. But this friend went and got a physical because he wants to be here for his kids and grandkids. I think it helps that he likes his doctor.

6. If you can, give blood. It’s a great feeling to know you’ve made a lifesaving difference to a complete stranger or group of strangers. Even when it doesn’t feel good, it is good. Besides, who doesn’t love free junk food — the kind they encourage you to eat immediately after donating?

7. Speak only kind words about your kids’ other parent. I know several parents for whom this is next to impossible — understandably so. But they bite their tongue and speak kind words anyway, because it’s the right thing to do and it’s best for their kids.

8. Turn complaining into “comedic storytelling.” I borrowed this term from Raoul Martinez, with whom I do a Friday morning segment called “Ultimate Reminders.” This morning’s topic: What You Can Do to Be a Hero Every Day.

The point is, if you have to vent, as we all do at times, find the humor. My college roommate will sometimes text me about the excruciatingly hot, humid weather in Chicago where she lives. Then she’ll add, “But I’m not bitter.” Can we get those four words embroidered on a pillow? I would love to do a second weekly segment around that theme.

9. Live a little. That same friend who had just come from having a physical ordered a salad for lunch. Then he took me to his favorite pie shop. We did not share. But we laughed and took pictures, which was even better.

10. When someone you love is grieving, don’t say, “If there’s anything you need. “ It only adds to the heaviness of the grieving person’s heart. Instead ask, “What would be most helpful?” You might be blown away by the simplicity of the answer.

Along those lines, today would have been my cousin David’s 45th birthday. He died of a medical error, just shy of turning 25. At the funeral home, someone asked his father what he could do to be most helpful. My big truck mechanic uncle didn’t hesitate: “Go home and tell your kids you love them.”

This is the everyday lesson for us all, even those of us who don’t have kids: to make sure those we love and appreciate know they are loved and appreciated — whether we say it with words, our time, our touch, our humor, or even our own blood.

How to be a hero in real lifeHow many times in your life have you wished for…waited for…a hero to save you from whatever situation you found yourself in? You wanted a prince, Superman, The Hulk, or God to rescue you from one predicament or another.

I see you…down in a deep hole, hand raised, arm stretched to its limit…waiting for someone to pull you up or out.

It’s time to stop waiting to be saved. Instead, save yourself. Be your own hero.

Take Responsibility

There’s an inherent problem with waiting for a hero—you put your life in someone else’s hands. You make it their responsibility. In fact, it should be your responsibility to save yourself.

I understand that there are times when you genuinely need a hero. If you are in a car accident and get injured, you may need the paramedics to come and do CPR. If you are in an abusive marriage, you might need a lawyer to help get out of it legally. If you need money, you might need a bank to give you a loan.

When the situation isn’t about life or death, is not dependent on anyone else (be honest…usually it’s not), then you need to take responsibility for the situation and the way out of it.

How to Free Yourself

When you finally take responsibility and say to yourself, “I’m the only one who can save myself. I need to step up and become my own hero,” suddenly you become free! You are no longer stuck waiting…hoping…praying…that someone will show up to save you. Instead, you can find your own way out.

In the process, you take back your power. You give yourself the ability to save yourself.

Consider Aron Aron Lee Ralston, an American outdoorsman, mechanical engineer and motivational speaker who is known for surviving a canyoneering accident. During a solo descent of Bluejohn Canyon in southeastern Utah, he dislodged a boulder, which pinned his right wrist to the side of the canyon wall. After five days of waiting for help, he took matters into his own hands…well, hand. Using a dull pocketknife, he amputated his forearm and then made his way through the rest of the canyon, rappelled down a 65-foot drop and hiked seven miles to safety.

Had Aron not decided that only he could save himself, he would have died there in Bluejohn Canyon.

Most of the situations you and I find ourselves in are not as dire. But we can get ourselves out…usually without cutting off a limb.

Don’t Wait for the Prince on the White Horse

I remember feeling stuck in a job. I had been working in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, for a year, and I’d realized that my boss and I would never see eye to eye. Plus, I found myself disappointed to discover that a specific job responsibility I’d been looking forward to was not going to materialize—despite the promise (before hiring) from the employer that it would.

As a writer and editor, there were few opportunities for me in Oklahoma. Actually, there were none. I could have remained stuck in the job…and miserable. I could have waited for someone to arrive on a white horse (after all, I was in Oklahoma) and whisk me away to some job I had no idea existed or that was created just for me.

But I didn’t. I picked myself up and moved to Atlanta—to be my own boss. I created the job of my dreams somewhere else. That was the start of my entrepreneurial journey.

Stop waiting for the prince on the white horse, Hercules or a Jedi. Become that hero for yourself.

When I first became a stepmother, I so wished someone would save me from the overwhelm, turmoil, and pain I experienced. But no one…not even my husband…could save me. Either I had to save myself or get out. I chose to find the inner strength and save myself. But in the initial process of waiting for my hero to show up, I did a lot of damage to the relationships with my stepchildren and my husband. No one could save me from that either…except myself.

Be Your Own Real-Life Hero

Here’s the thing… Anything you have ever accomplished, any change you made to improve your life has been because you made the effort, had the idea, took action, and made it happen. Your achievements to date—no matter how large or small—came from you…not from a hero. You were your own real-life hero.

Yet, here you are…waiting for a hero. You’re looking for a hand reaching down to pull you up…maybe from the Heavens.

You could wait a long time for that help. And you really want it now…not later.

So ask yourself, What could I do to save myself? How can I be my own real-life hero? Write down all the answers you can muster.

If your husband is abusive, you can pack a bag and go to a women’s shelter. If you are feeling ill, you can take yourself to a doctor. If you are feeling stuck with your business or a project, you can hire a coach or find a mentor. If you are in desperate need of money, you can look for work—even a second job. If you want to create something totally new—a painting, book, career, business, relationship—you can do it! You have the power.

Use Your Superpowers

I know it can feel like you can’t do it alone, but you can. You are stronger than you think. You have more answers than you have acknowledged. You have superpowers—the same ones you’ve always had and that have served you well previously.

Somewhere in your wardrobe, there is a Superman or Superwoman costume. Put it on. Imagine yourself swooping in to save yourself. In fact, every day imagine yourself as your own hero. What would you have to do to become that, to step into that role?

I realize that this can feel impossible. There have been times in my life when I honestly believed I need help. But when it didn’t come, I knew it was up to me. If I wanted something to change, I had to create that change…or I had to change.

If Not Now?

Rabbi Hillel said it best: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” (Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14) You have to take a stand for yourself.

However, Rabbi Hillel said more… “But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?”

When you become your own hero, you can turn around be of service to others. And I know you want to make a difference in this world in some large or small way. You can’t do that if you don’t save yourself. But you can do it when you exercise your superpowers.

You never know what will happen tomorrow. You can continue to say “I’ll get myself out of my hole soon,” but soon might never come. The hero might not come. There is no time like now for you to step into that role and be your own hero.

Be the hero rather than allowing someone else to be it for you. Take responsibility for yourself and creating the changes you desire. Lift yourself up. Take your hand. Step into your power. Stop waiting for something or someone to save you…and save yourself now.

How will you become the hero in your own life? Tell me in a comment below.


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How to be a hero in real lifeHave you been waiting for a hero to save you? Stop waiting and step into your superpowered self. Give me an hour of your time, and I’ll help you see how to move toward your goals and dreams faster than you thought possible. Apply for a one-hour FREE Certified High Performance Coaching strategy session. Fill out this application.

Or register for my Certified High Performance Group Coaching program here. It’s a great option if you don’t feel ready for one-on-one coaching and want to enjoy the power of group learning. The next session begins in mid-May.

Are you going to be the hero of your own life or are you going to leave that role for someone else?

How to be a hero in real life

In my twenties I hit some serious depression. The quarter-life crisis was intense for me. I made a litany of poor choices and pursued lousy relationships for the best part of a decade.

I was bogged down in low self-esteem and anger I didn’t really understand, so my choices were often self-defeating. Also, I was looking for a daddy figure to compensate for the father love I never had.

How to be a hero in real life

I was trying to fill a hole in my heart that felt like it went right through my body and out the other side. I felt mildly ashamed all the time, like everyone who looked at me could see straight through me because I lacked substance. However at the time, I only had a vague idea of what might be at the heart of my pain and even less idea how to pull myself out of it.

Epiphanies can come in strange ways. One afternoon I walked into a room at uni and someone from a previous class had left a few words on the whiteboard. I don’t know who, the context or why those words had been left there, but they hit me:

Are you going to be the hero of your own life or are you going to leave that role for someone else?

I was spellbound. I wrote the question down and dwelt on it.

I started to wonder about life as a personal hero’s journey for every one of us. I suspected being your own hero might have something to do with championing yourself, developing your strengths and being kinder and braver.

But it wasn’t until I hit my rock bottom in my thirties — a marriage breakup, the loss of my new love to cancer, and all the attendant nightmares, that a deeper understanding of being the hero of my own life dawned on me.

I understood that we don’t actually know how strong we are until we face up to challenges. Rather than wait for life to inevitably test us with hardships, we can save a lot of time and pain by learning to be our own hero, in good times as well as bad.

O wn your choices.

However painful, mistake-riddled, dirty and moth-eaten life might feel, start by owning where you’re at and acknowledging the choices that helped get you there. It’s the way to begin to make better choices to get you to a better place.

Once you admit your weaknesses and mistakes in a kind way, at least to yourself, you can plan to move on from them rather than staying mired. You can end the dirty little secret of beating yourself up with self-criticism and digging a deeper hole into shame and self-pity.

Speak kindly to yourself.

When you try to help another person you probably don’t start with a critical diatribe at them about everything they’ve done wrong or aren’t good at. They wouldn’t find that very supportive. So why would you?

Yet, so often we speak harshly to ourselves in our own minds, despite it being a lousy strategy for self-growth and building self-esteem.

Being your own hero means stepping in when critical self-talk and negative spirals of thinking are starting up in your head. It means standing up for yourself and saying

Back off Criticism.

Instead, let’s focus on our strengths and what we CAN do.

Become mindful of your inner dialogue.

You need to listen to how you speak to yourself in order to step in and do it better. Listen to your inner dialogue and get to know how kindly or unkindly you treat yourself every day.

The Hero in you isn’t going to stand for anymore self-bullying!

Rewrite Your Stories of Adversity.

This is the making of you as your own hero — the re-authoring, not of WHAT has happened to you in your life, but of the MEANINGS you draw from things that have happened.

All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them. Isak Dinesen

Your stories of hurts, losses and failings can become inspirational reminders to you of your resilience and survival. Focus on the strengths and wisdom that have grown in you through the difficulties you’ve faced.

The very essence of bringing out the hero in you is re-framing adversities you’ve faced as battles you’ve survived.

Take pride in your resilience.

Our greatest strengths and personal superpowers are often found in those things we’re good at, and that we enjoy — our flow. The places in life in which we find flow are reinvigorating in difficult times and build us up in good times.

My flow is in writing. It’s always been one of my places of complete immersion, where time just disappears. I’ve turned to writing when I needed to find clarity, enjoyment and a creative retreat.

Your places of flow, be they sports, arts, travels, nature or something else, feed the hero part of yourself. Flow gives you purpose and meaning to strive or play another day.

Do What You Say You’re Going To Do.

Finally, being your own hero means calling yourself out (kindly but fairly) on your own BS when necessary.

The part of you that wants the best for you won’t put up with self-defeating or soul-sucking talk and habits anymore. Being your own hero means showing yourself real love by developing your own values and staying true to any commitments you’ve made to yourself.

Do what you say you’re going to do and feel proud of yourself, confident in your character. In the end, heroes are all about intention, consistency and compassion.

Heroes have always faced pain and struggles in their past, and each have their weaknesses. Realistically, being your own hero is about being your own unshakably loyal friend, not about being super-human. It’s about choosing to rise from experiences and live each day compassionately — starting with yourself.

For more on creating your best life and dealing with life’s challenges, check out my book Lovelands.

Are you going to be the hero of your own life or are you going to leave that role for someone else?

How to be a hero in real life

In my twenties I hit some serious depression. The quarter-life crisis was intense for me. I made a litany of poor choices and pursued lousy relationships for the best part of a decade.

I was bogged down in low self-esteem and anger I didn’t really understand, so my choices were often self-defeating. Also, I was looking for a daddy figure to compensate for the father love I never had.

How to be a hero in real life

I was trying to fill a hole in my heart that felt like it went right through my body and out the other side. I felt mildly ashamed all the time, like everyone who looked at me could see straight through me because I lacked substance. However at the time, I only had a vague idea of what might be at the heart of my pain and even less idea how to pull myself out of it.

Epiphanies can come in strange ways. One afternoon I walked into a room at uni and someone from a previous class had left a few words on the whiteboard. I don’t know who, the context or why those words had been left there, but they hit me:

Are you going to be the hero of your own life or are you going to leave that role for someone else?

I was spellbound. I wrote the question down and dwelt on it.

I started to wonder about life as a personal hero’s journey for every one of us. I suspected being your own hero might have something to do with championing yourself, developing your strengths and being kinder and braver.

But it wasn’t until I hit my rock bottom in my thirties — a marriage breakup, the loss of my new love to cancer, and all the attendant nightmares, that a deeper understanding of being the hero of my own life dawned on me.

I understood that we don’t actually know how strong we are until we face up to challenges. Rather than wait for life to inevitably test us with hardships, we can save a lot of time and pain by learning to be our own hero, in good times as well as bad.

O wn your choices.

However painful, mistake-riddled, dirty and moth-eaten life might feel, start by owning where you’re at and acknowledging the choices that helped get you there. It’s the way to begin to make better choices to get you to a better place.

Once you admit your weaknesses and mistakes in a kind way, at least to yourself, you can plan to move on from them rather than staying mired. You can end the dirty little secret of beating yourself up with self-criticism and digging a deeper hole into shame and self-pity.

Speak kindly to yourself.

When you try to help another person you probably don’t start with a critical diatribe at them about everything they’ve done wrong or aren’t good at. They wouldn’t find that very supportive. So why would you?

Yet, so often we speak harshly to ourselves in our own minds, despite it being a lousy strategy for self-growth and building self-esteem.

Being your own hero means stepping in when critical self-talk and negative spirals of thinking are starting up in your head. It means standing up for yourself and saying

Back off Criticism.

Instead, let’s focus on our strengths and what we CAN do.

Become mindful of your inner dialogue.

You need to listen to how you speak to yourself in order to step in and do it better. Listen to your inner dialogue and get to know how kindly or unkindly you treat yourself every day.

The Hero in you isn’t going to stand for anymore self-bullying!

Rewrite Your Stories of Adversity.

This is the making of you as your own hero — the re-authoring, not of WHAT has happened to you in your life, but of the MEANINGS you draw from things that have happened.

All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them. Isak Dinesen

Your stories of hurts, losses and failings can become inspirational reminders to you of your resilience and survival. Focus on the strengths and wisdom that have grown in you through the difficulties you’ve faced.

The very essence of bringing out the hero in you is re-framing adversities you’ve faced as battles you’ve survived.

Take pride in your resilience.

Our greatest strengths and personal superpowers are often found in those things we’re good at, and that we enjoy — our flow. The places in life in which we find flow are reinvigorating in difficult times and build us up in good times.

My flow is in writing. It’s always been one of my places of complete immersion, where time just disappears. I’ve turned to writing when I needed to find clarity, enjoyment and a creative retreat.

Your places of flow, be they sports, arts, travels, nature or something else, feed the hero part of yourself. Flow gives you purpose and meaning to strive or play another day.

Do What You Say You’re Going To Do.

Finally, being your own hero means calling yourself out (kindly but fairly) on your own BS when necessary.

The part of you that wants the best for you won’t put up with self-defeating or soul-sucking talk and habits anymore. Being your own hero means showing yourself real love by developing your own values and staying true to any commitments you’ve made to yourself.

Do what you say you’re going to do and feel proud of yourself, confident in your character. In the end, heroes are all about intention, consistency and compassion.

Heroes have always faced pain and struggles in their past, and each have their weaknesses. Realistically, being your own hero is about being your own unshakably loyal friend, not about being super-human. It’s about choosing to rise from experiences and live each day compassionately — starting with yourself.

For more on creating your best life and dealing with life’s challenges, check out my book Lovelands.

April 17, 2017 Updated April 26, 2017

In partnership with How to be a hero in real life

National Superhero Day is Friday, April 28, and our favorite Disney Junior heroes, PJ Masks , are helping families celebrate with their Official Hero Celebration Kit . Before the fun and caped activities begin, why not talk with your preschooler about how they can be a real-life hero every single day.

Here’s 10 ways to teach your kids how to be a hero with a lot of inspiration from our favorite bedtime hero trio Catboy, Owlette, and Gekko.

How to be a hero in real lifePJ Masks ©Frog Box/Ent. One UK Ltd/Disney 2014

1. Treat Others the Way You Want to Be Treated

The first rule of being a superhero is to be kind. Kindness takes strength, so flex those muscles and give out hugs instead of shoves.

2. Everyone Needs a Cheering Section

You can be strong on your own, but people are stronger together. Share, laugh, and lend a helping hand to support the ones you love. Even superheroes have a squad of friends who have their backs, and you should too.

3. Let It Be

Sometimes friends have to find their own way. While superheroes are stronger together, it’s okay to let your friends figure out their own paths.

How to be a hero in real lifePJ Masks ©Frog Box/Ent. One UK Ltd/Disney 2014

4. Know When to Listen and When to Speak Up

A superhero knows when to lead and when to support. Sometimes it’s better to listen rather than speak up.

5. Everyone Has Talent

Just like Connor, Amaya, and Greg who turn into their PJ Masks alter egos Catboy, Owlette, and Gekko at bedtime, superheroes all have superpowers. We call these talents though. Everyone is good at something, so find what you’re good at and let it shine.

6. Be a Helper

Whenever a person is in trouble, lend a helping hand. If someone falls, help them up. It doesn’t matter who they are. Even small acts of kindness are a big deal.

7. Second Place Isn’t Losing

No one is the best at everything, and you don’t have to be first to be a winner. Everyone contributes in their own way. Try, have fun, don’t worry about perfection.

How to be a hero in real lifePJ Masks ©Frog Box/Ent. One UK Ltd/Disney 2014

8. Keep Your Cool Like a Cucumber

You can’t always control situations, but you can control your reactions. By letting someone else make you so angry you can’t stop thinking about how they hurt you, you give that person power. Choose how you want to react — with words, action, or dismissal — and you’ll be the superhero of your emotions.

9. Work Together

Don’t forget to look back, and make sure your friends are with you. If not, wait for them. Remember heroes are stronger together so hang back, don’t rush, and work as a team.

10. Most of All, Believe in Yourself

It’s the hardest part of being a hero, but you can do it. Believe in yourself, and you’ll do great things!

How to be a hero in real lifePJ Masks ©Frog Box/Ent. One UK Ltd/Disney 2014

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I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people. — Maya Angelou

We’ve always asked ourselves about what heroism really means to us. Some of us think that being a hero requires someone to die, but I think that one can be a hero when they are still alive, depending on what you have done to be called a hero. You can be called a hero when you save someone who is in a bad situation. It doesn’t require fighting, wearing a cape or being a crime fighter.

No matter who you are or what you do, there are opportunities for being heroic all around you. You just have to think and act like a hero. Then when the opportunities come, you will be able to come through and save the day. Here are some tips you can follow to be a hero and I think that these tips helped the people we call heroes today, like Fred Rwigema and Nelson Mandela, among many others.

Initiate the change you want to see

A true hero isn’t just talk. A true hero is constantly thinking about how they can take action and help others. You may be inspired to be a hero for a certain cause or issue, or you may try to be a hero for someone in need.

Put others before yourself

Think about other people’s needs before considering your own. When you are making decisions at work or at home, take some time to think about how your actions will affect someone else. For example, if you take the day off work, what kind of workload will that put on your co-workers?

Be ready to act when others are passive

People lead busy lives. Often, a typical person is so focused on themselves, they don’t notice or care to act when something is wrong. A hero will be willing to take action and confront injustice straight on.

Stick up for a friend, classmate, or co-worker you feel is being treated unfairly. Buy a meal for the homeless person everyone keeps walking by on the street. Notice the underdog or the less fortunate and give them a helping hand.

Perform random acts of kindness

A hero doesn’t just keep quiet when they see wrong being done. A true hero is there to do good at any time. Random acts of kindness you can do include:

• Helping to pay a student’s school fees.

• Buying groceries for someone in need.

• Taking an elderly neighbor to an appointment.

Volunteer your time

There are many charities and nonprofit organisations across the country that need volunteers. Simply donate a few hours each week to help these organisations. You can volunteer your time in many ways:

• Help build houses for low-income families.

• Join a communal work.

Always help your neighbour in time of trouble, like when they are sick.

Use your talent

First, think about the things you are good at or the useful skills that you have. You can ask your friends and family what they think you excel at, if you cannot think of anything specific. They will have a good idea about your strengths and how you can best utilise them to help others. Think how much you can help people around you using your talent.

Promote the good

Being a hero is not just about solving all of the bad things in life like poverty, inequality, and oppression. It is also about working to promote and advance the good things in life like charity, kindness, gratitude and love. Speaking out against injustice is important, but speaking out in favour of peace is just as valuable.

Think about positive things instead of negative ones. Be at peace instead of being at war.

Learn from your own heroes

No one becomes a hero all on their own. Think about the people in your life who have acted like heroes. Think about the times when you felt lost or scared, only to have another person come along and help you through a tough time? Maybe they were strangers. Perhaps a teacher or relative was there for you when you really needed someone. Think about what they did and how it made you feel.

Kirabo is an aspiring writer and student at Lycée de Kigali.

How to be a hero in real life

Sarinya says this explosion was the scariest day of her career in the FDNY.

John M. Mantel/Redux

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A Real-Life Hero

Sarinya Srisakul is a fire lieutenant in New York City. We talked to her about her dangerous—but important—job.

Courtesy of Sarinya Srisakul

В В В В Sarinya Srisakul was in a fire engine, sirens blaring. She had been called to an explosion. Most of the firefighters on the truck thought it would be a false alarm—they get a lot of those. But when they arrived, Sarinya saw a horrible scene. A building was starting to collapse. People were crawling out, hurt and afraid.В

    If you had seen it, you would’ve probably run in the other direction—and you should have! But Sarinya’s job was to go into the burning building. She’s one of thousands of firefighters in the Fire Department of New York City (FDNY). We talked to her about her important job.

You were the first Asian American В woman firefighter in New York City. What was that like?

В В В В It was hard! I had to really prove myself. Everyone was waiting to see how I would do.

You help other women become firefighters. Why is that important?

    Only about 1 percent of people in the FDNY are women, and it’s hard when there aren’t other women around. You might get left out of things or not be taken seriously by your male co-workers. I want to help other women succeed—the FDNY needs them.

Why does the FDNY need women?

I want the FDNY to look as diverse as New York City does. There should be men, women, and people from different races and cultures. It’s important because we respond to all kinds of situations, not just fires. We get called to help when someone is hurt. If that person sees a firefighter who looks like them, they might feel more comfortable.

How does someone become a В firefighter in New York City?

В В В В There are a lot of tests: a written test, a physical test, a medical test. And then you have to go to the fire academy. All in all, it takes about two to four years to become a firefighter.

What’s the best part of your job?

В В В В I love that every day is different. I could never work in an office, doing the same thing every day. I love the excitement of getting a call and going to help people. And it’s fun to drive the fire engine and have everyone get out of your way!В