Jan 3, 2012

Follow Your Heroes

The New Year is a time of reflection and planning. It’s an exciting time, because it feels like a fresh start and a new beginning. And it motivates us to consider all that we want to do and achieve.

But take a step back. Look at the world around you. Instead of considering who you are and what you want, look at the people you want to be like. These are your heroes, and your heroes offer an immense growth opportunity.

At a very deep level we identify and connect with heroes. They’re the characters that make our movies interesting, and they’re the people we read about in books and magazines. For example, Walter Isaacson’s book Steve Jobs has been a runaway bestseller, because so many people want to learn how one man achieved so much. And maybe as they read the book they too will discover how to be a little bit more like Steve.

We learn vicariously through heroes’ stories. The Hero’s Journey is one of the oldest and most popular forms of fiction. The Odyssey, Beowulf, Star Wars and Harry Potter are all examples of the Hero’s Journey archetype. We are attracted to these stories, because we get to walk alongside someone as they achieve something greater than themselves. Not only do we get to feel their reward and accomplishment, but we also get to experience the steps they take.

Who are your heroes?

There are lots of heroes to learn from. They are entrepreneurs, business leaders, musicians, artists, politicians and athletes. They are people doing remarkable things.

When you look around, who are the people you admire? Who are the people you identify with and want to emulate?

Take note of your heroes, because they will help you discover and understand your goals and values. Not just superficial goals, but the deep desires and ambitions that speak to your soul.

Make a short list of your heroes. Jot down a few, and try to understand why they resonate with you.

What do you admire about your heroes?

Look at your list of heroes, and consider their traits and achievements. Understanding the things that you admire about them will give you insights into your own ambitions and values.

What do you admire about your heroes? Is it the things they’ve built, the way they live, the people or causes they serve, or something else? On your hero list write down the key traits you admire about each hero.

With every trait or achievement you list, ask why. Why is the trait important? Why does it resonate with you? Why do you care? By going deeper you will gain greater self-awareness, because your are connecting tangible traits to your personal values.

How can you achieve more?

Lists and self-discovery exercises may be interesting, but they don’t offer much value if they aren’t converted into action.

The purpose of identifying and analyzing your heroes is to assess if you’re on the right path. Revisit your goals and New Year’s resolutions, and assess if they are in line with the traits and achievements of your heroes?

Too often we set priorities like “lose weight,” “take more vacation time,” or “increase revenue by X.” But those are the easy and obvious resolutions. Those are the goals we set and break every year. Go deeper. What are you really driving for? What is the hero version of you working towards?

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