Heroes rarely happen by accident. They have mentors, defining moments, and a purpose bigger than themselves at the core of who they are. Heroes train, grow, and mature over time. Most of all, heroes have help along the way. Luke Skywalker, the famed Jedi Knight, had Obi-Wan Kenobi as his guide. Daniel Larusso, the karate kid, went on to win his championship match with the tutelage and support of Mr. Miyagi. And Spiderman gained wisdom and drive from his Uncle Ben. Just like in the movies, real life heroes are fashioned over time. Parents have the incredible opportunity to build into the lives of their children. Husbands and wives can become each other’s biggest fans. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, coaches, and teachers are in a unique position to draw out the best in future generations.
Here are three strategies for growing the heroes around you:
1. Highlight sparkling moments.
The phrase “sparkling moments” comes from narrative therapy. Clients enter the therapeutic process with a dark, gloomy story. Yet, every story has its exceptions. Sparkling moments are the occasions when things go right. The initial job of the narrative therapist is to draw attention to the moments when the client shined brightly. Sometimes our culture works backwards. When we do something right 99 percent of the time it goes unnoticed. However, if we do it wrong once, the error becomes a topic of conversation for the next week. I realize this is not always the case, but it does happen far too often. For example, if a child brings home a report card with three A’s, two B’s, and an F, usually it’s the failing grade that gets the majority of the attention. This isn’t to say that the failing grade does not need to be addressed–it does. However, it is equally important for parents to remember there are three sparkling moments that also require attention. Do you know someone who is having a horrific week? If so, you can bring hope and encouragement. You have the opportunity to support them in the midst of the storm by highlighting the sparkling moments in their story. No matter how bleak things appear, there is always something good happening. The trick is to find it.
2. Ask the hero question.
“How did you do that?” This “hero question” invites others to expound on their success. The hero question is important because people often don’t understand why they succeeded. Success doesn’t happen by accident. There is a reason for it. By asking the hero question, you are inviting others to think through and expound on the process. If a person was successful once, they can do it again.
Here are some examples of the hero question in action:
- “You got an A+ in your history class. That’s awesome! How did you do it?”
- “Honey, the house looks incredible! Between working and taking care of the kids, how did you find the time to get so much done?”
- “Your work productivity is off the charts! How did you do that?”
When people talk about their successes, they gain insights into how they accomplished the task. They are then able to repeat the process. The hero question is a simple, yet powerful tool for growing the heroes around you.
3. Do for… do with… cheer on.
This three-part strategy is perfect for helping others gain momentum.
Do For: Even heroes have the right to a bad day. If you do something for another person consistently, you have become an enabler. However, when someone is feeling down, they may need you to do something for them the first time or two in order to get the momentum going. When someone is especially discouraged, it is perfectly okay to jump in and help.
Do With: The next step is to do the activity with them. You might say to your child, “I know you’re having a difficult week. I did your chore for you yesterday, but today I would like you to do it with me.” When you do something for someone, you are modeling how to get the job done from a distance. When you do something with someone, you are modeling the job up close. This leads to the final step.
Cheer On: Every hero needs fans. The final step is to cheer on your loved one. Cheering someone on is a way of verbally and nonverbally communicating, “I believe in you. I know you are competent and capable enough to accomplish this task on your own.”
Do you know a hero in the making? If so, don’t forget to use your own superpowers to develop the heroes around you. You might be the Obi-wan, Mr. Miyagi, or Uncle Ben in their story!