How To Become the Hero of Your Own Story
by Jennifer Maurer
We’re just about a week into the New Year… Do you know where your resolutions are? (we don’t either!)
We’d like to suggest a more playful strategy for making this your best year yet.
2016 “Pick Your Powers” Challenge
What super power(s) would you like to unlock this coming year?
Would you like the ability to see through any obstacle (including those pesky self-imposed ones)? Perhaps you’d like to generate a force field that not only deflects your toughest critics but also turns them into your biggest allies. Maybe you’d like to learn how to fly because, admit it, that would be awesome!
Here’s the key to unlocking your inner super powers: recognize you already have them.
We know that’s easier said than done. So we’d like to offer a few fun (coaching) tips to help you rediscover your secret identity.
Think Like a Hero, Act Like a Hero
One of the best ways to rediscover your inner superhero (and to act like one) is to spend some time thinking about heroes in general.
So, let’s do it!
Write down as many superhero qualities as you can in 2 minutes.
Try to list qualities that could apply to many if not all superheroes.
(this only works if you actually do it!)
Now make a commitment to use one of these heroic qualities sometime this coming week.
Congratulations! You are now two times as likely to act like a hero!
Just thinking about heroic qualities for a few minutes can activate your inner hero in measurable ways even several months later! (and who knows for how long after?)
Researchers at MIT and NYU gave a similar prompt to a group of students in a study on altruistic behavior. After spending just 2 minutes considering what it takes to be a superhero, participants were then asked to volunteer to help at-risk youth.
Here’s what they found:
Compared to the control group, students who spent time considering heroic qualities were
• 2 times more likely to volunteer,
• donated twice as many volunteer hours,
• and were 4 times more likely to volunteer 3 months later!
We call this priming your super power pump.
The good news is that you can power up anytime. Combine it with a 2-minute power pose, and you just might be unstoppable!
Identify & Neutralize Your Kryptonite
What do you think we experience more often in a given day: positive, negative or neutral moments?
Which experiences do we tend to remember more?
If you guessed “positive or neutral” for the first question and “negative” for the second, you either read ahead or you are already familiar with what psychologist Rick Hanson, Ph.D., describes as the brain’s natural “negativity bias.”
According to Hanson, “The mind is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones.”
Neuroscientists like Hanson believe our brains have a built-in negativity bias that may be an evolutionary artifact. While this bias could be helpful for evading sabertooth tigers, it’s not very helpful for promoting happiness or for accurately assessing the quality of our daily lives.
Luckily we can neutralize this mental kryptonite by cultivating our ability to savor positive experiences, rewiring our brains in the process.
Here are a few ways to “power up” your positivity ratio:
1. Direct your spotlight: Set the intention to notice and name positive moments and emotions as they arise throughout your day.
2. Savor the good: To turn a positive experience into a powerful memory, stay with the experience longer, relish it for 10 or 30 seconds to help it really sink in before moving on.
3. Gratitude: Expressing gratitude to others or in a journal can help you recall and integrate positive experiences. Think of them as your chance to earn extra “feel good” bonuses (and help others do the same).
Are you familiar with the saying, “you must be present to win”?
When we overlook a positive experience, we not only forfeit our prize—the experience itself—but also the many benefits of a positive mindset, which include greater creativity, concentration, emotional balance, connection with others, and pain and stress reduction (just to name a few).
Recruit Your Allies
Even superheroes need help. We can’t fulfill a truly epic quest without the help of steadfast allies along the way. These trusted companions make our hero’s journey more pleasurable, and they are crucial to our success.
In fact, allies may be the biggest super power in our arsenal.
A strong body of research shows that allies (aka “strong social ties”) can have dramatic effects on our well-being including
• Emotional health and resilience
• Enhanced immunity and healing
• Increased cardiovascular health
• Reduced stress hormones (cortisol)
• Increased life span
Creating your own Fantastic Four (or more) may even help you add more than 6 years to your life span, making as big an impact on life expectancy as quitting smoking and/or maintaining a healthy weight and exercise!
So, who are your potential allies?
An ally is someone who (1) you can honestly discuss your challenges with and (2) you are willing to ask for help (yes, you do have to be willing to ask).
Allies can be friends, family, colleagues, or even a generous stranger in the checkout line when you don’t have correct change.
Ideally, your allies include people you admire and enjoy spending time with who have their own set of badass super powers and can reflect yours back to you.
If you need help recruiting allies and want to have fun in the process, a life coach can be a great place to start, and (bonus) they make great allies!
Here’s to a powerful 2016!