Heroic Imagination: How to be a Hero

The human psyche is wired to look for a hero that will save/rescue them. There are many different ways we can become heroes and in this post, I’ll explain how I think being a “hero” should be approached and what makes someone heroic.

The “Heroic Imagination: How to be a Hero” is a blog post that discusses how one can become a hero. It includes tips on what it means to be a hero and the importance of being one.

Superman actions illustration.

Superman actions illustration.

Every guy fantasizes about being a superhero, and wearing a cape or a Spiderman costume isn’t only for Halloween.

But as we grow older, we realize we don’t have Spidey’s superhuman abilities (or Batman’s vast arsenal of gadgets). And we observe that there aren’t any of the otherworldly arch nemeses that trouble our comic book heroes in real life. Being a hero is progressively pushed aside as “kids’ nonsense.”

While evildoers may not emerge in the real world dressed as cruel clowns or riding the Goblin Glider, the world has always had a need for brave men eager to save people in peril and stand up for what is right.

While we today associate Superman with super villains such as Lex Luthor and Bizarro, when he first appeared in 1938, he was a defender of the underdog, fighting for social justice, morality, and anti-corruption. As shown in Superman’s first appearance in Action Comics #1, he is the “Champion of the Oppressed.” The physical wonder, who had vowed to dedicate his life to assisting those in need,” was worried about the execution of innocent people, corrupt laws, and even wife-beating.

This was a true hero for a population devastated by the Great Depression at the time. And it’s the type of hero we need right now, given our present financial and morale crisis. Most encouraging of all, although we definitely shouldn’t go about battling injustice by breaking into the governor’s palace, this is the type of heroism that any man can achieve.

However, for many of us, even this level of heroism seems to be as tough as outrunning a rushing train.

What Qualifies a Man to Be a Hero?

Superman actions illustration.

Why do some men stand by and do nothing when an injustice or an emergency occurs, while others leap into action and rescue the day?

Zeno Franco and Phillip Zimbardo, two researchers, have tackled these issues. Many of you may be aware with Dr. Zimbardo’s renowned Stanford Prison Experiment from 1971, which demonstrated how nice individuals can transform into vicious dictators when given power over other people. One of the most intriguing findings of the experiment was that “excellent guards” actually exist in the fictitious jail. These guards did not harass or insult the student-prisoners in the same way that the “evil guards” did, but they also did not attempt to halt the abuse. As a result, the decent guards ended up supporting abuse by failing to intervene.

For evil to prevail, all that is required is for good men to do nothing. — Edmund Burke

The Stanford Prison Experiment showed that under certain conditions and societal pressures, even good people may commit inexcusable acts.

However, research also demonstrated that the same conditions and societal pressures may lead to males committing a different but as serious mistake: failing to act when action is necessary.


This is something we see all the time. I’m sure we can all recall a moment when we observed another person in need of help but did nothing to help them. That’s true, I’ll confess it. I’ve driven by vehicle accidents and observed them. I’ve also seen folks being treated unjustly but remained silent for fear of societal ostracization.

Zimbardo has taken up the challenge of determining what motivates people to change from timid inactivity to heroic action, forty years after his notorious Stanford Prison Experiment. After studying the actions of great and little heroes, Zimbardo and his research collaborator, Dr. Franco, suggest that heroic people have a strong heroic imagination.

How to Harness the Power of Your Heroic Imagination

Superman actions illustration.

Superman actions illustration.

“The ability to envision encountering physically or socially perilous circumstances, to battle with the hypothetical dilemmas these scenarios bring, and to analyze one’s choices and the repercussions,” according to Zimbardo and Franco. It’s the capacity to see oneself as a hero capable of heroic deeds before the necessity for heroic deeds emerges.

That’s wonderful. Heroic individuals have the ability to envisage themselves in heroic situations. Is it true, however, that some individuals are born with a more or less heroic imagination? Am I condemned to a life of wienerdom if I was born with a weak heroic imagination?

While some people are born with an inherent proclivity for heroic activity, Zimbardo believes that we all have the ability to nurture and cultivate our inner hero. It isn’t a fixed trait. Zimbardo sets forth five specific measures we can all take to build our heroic imagination and so be ready to act when action is necessary in his essay “The Banality of Heroism.”

The five characteristics listed below can help you build your heroic imagination and inspire you to take heroic action.

1. Always be on the lookout for circumstances that need heroic action. Every day, we have the chance to make a difference and be heroes. Sure, we won’t have to land an aircraft or fight off a thug, but we may be heroes by standing up for a kid who is being harassed by their classmates, blowing the whistle on a boss who is participating in shady and unethical business practices, or stopping to assist a stranded vehicle. The more you improve your capacity to recognize heroic circumstances, the more opportunities you’ll have to behave heroically.

2. Don’t be afraid of disagreement now that you’ve taken a position. Don’t wimp out because you’re frightened of what other people may say or do if you recognize a situation that demands action. When it comes to doing the right thing, a true guy doesn’t give a damn whether some people are offended or uncomfortable. Don’t be frightened to live your life according to your values.

3. Conjure up possible future possibilities that go beyond the present. We frequently fail to act because we have poor vision. We are more concerned with the short-term implications than with the long-term ones. Sure, you could lose your job because you exposed your company’s immoral behavior. But consider the long-term ramifications if you do nothing. How many more individuals will suffer as a result of your failure to expose your employer? Will you be able to look yourself in the mirror 20 years from now and realize you didn’t do the right thing because it would have put you in financial difficulties for a few months?


Zimbardo also says that we should “keep part of our attention on the past” in addition to looking to the future. Examine the lives of remarkable heroes who accomplished heroic feats. The characteristics and ideals essential for a heroic imagination will be instilled in us by studying their great achievements, and we will be inspired to take heroic action when necessary.

4. Refrain from rationalizing and justifying inactivity. Because it’s so easy to justify, inaction is simple. This is shown by the “bystander effect.” The bystander effect happens when a big group of individuals is confronted with an emergency situation and no one intervenes because they believe that someone else will handle it.

Don’t be one of them people.

Rather of seeking for methods to justify inactivity, practice rationalizing action. Instead of thinking, “I’m not going to do anything because someone else will,” start thinking, “I have to do something because no one else will.”

5. Have faith that others will appreciate your brave (and sometimes controversial) efforts. In point two, we’re encouraged not to be afraid of disagreement that may emerge as a result of doing the right thing. On the other hand, we should have faith that people value and reward courageous deeds. While your actions may be controversial at first, great heroes are ultimately recognized and appreciated.




The “heroism theory” is the idea that heroism can be achieved by focusing one’s mind on a positive outcome. The theory was first introduced in 18th century France.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can a hero be a hero?

A: A hero can be a heroic figure that has devoted their life to the protection of others.

How do you become a hero examples?

A: To become a hero, you need to be brave. It takes courage and self-confidence in yourself as well as your actions to do the right thing when it matters most.

What are three fundamental points the Heroic Imagination Project made to increase everyday heroism?

-The first and most important is that everyone has a story of everyday heroism.
-Second, we looked for ways to increase the size and scope of everyday heroic actions in society through publicizing these stories on social media channels such as Facebook and Instagram.
-Thirdly, we have built out infographic with an interactive guide on how you can be more involved in your community by doing simple things every day like picking up trash or taking care for someone you dont know well because its really what changes society

Related Tags

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