How to Become a Hero in Your Daily Life

When we think of heroism, we often celebrate incredible acts of bravery: the fireman who rushes into a burning building or the mother who rescues her child from a rip current. These incredible feats of personal strength and courage stay with us forever. But as inspiring as these stories are, it’s important to remember that we don’t need a crisis to become a hero.

There are plenty of opportunities to live courageously in our day-to-day lives. Practicing generosity and extending it to people outside your family and community can uplift others tremendously.

Moving Beyond the Tribe

Many people find it easy to be generous with those they love. It’s a natural instinct to give to members of your “tribe” and watch out for those who care about you, too. True generosity, however, crosses these societal and tribal boundaries and extends the same care toward others.

Christian Smith, the coauthor of “The Paradox of Generosity,” says, “The dynamics of generosity are such that people who are learning to be generous increasingly expand their circle to people beyond their most comfortable or the most intimate, and there is a helping of ‘the other,’ and not just one’s own tribe, so to speak. That’s an important threshold to cross in being a generous person.” Helping the “other” in our daily life requires that we see people with fresh eyes. Instead of projecting our judgments, we feel and act from our sense of shared humanity.

How to Practice Generosity

This kind of generosity sets the foundation for a strong, thriving life. As with exercise — or any other practice — one-time behaviors are a lot less effective than building a continual habit. Of course, there are millions of ways to be generous, so try to find a practice that sparks some interest or passion in you. Start small with the intention of being consistent.

For example, maybe you love animals and offer to walk your busy neighbor’s dog for free. Perhaps you decide to give some of your time every week to a cause that’s related to a struggle you overcame. Or maybe you walk by the same homeless person every day on your commute and stop to chat for a few minutes. These small actions may seem limited, but collectively, they have an exponential impact. By practicing everyday heroism, you may just inspire those around you, too.

The Benefits of Extending Help to Others

Not only does generosity extend kindness and support to those who need it, the positive benefits ricochet back to the giver, too. Research shows that people who are generous in their relationships with others are more likely to be in excellent health. Likewise, Americans who volunteer are, on the whole, much happier than their counterparts who don’t volunteer. Because we need on a sense of connection as humans, when we practice generosity, we often elevate our state of being.

Although there are countless benefits, to become a hero is about the intrinsic value of sharing your gifts with others personally, creatively, financially, and professionally. It’s about treating people as we would want to be treated in our daily lives. Although this everyday heroism rests on a simple concept of generosity, don’t underestimate how it can shape our collective future for the better.