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A Theoretical Model of Change Agent Development: The Twelve Habits of the Hero


By Shawn Furey, August 30, 2015, Heroism Today

Heroism is a managerial style – it’s how some people manage the events that affect their daily lives. If you want to manage your daily life circumstances for positive life outcomes then you ought to develop a heroic life management style.

Often heroic acts, displayed in the media, are portrayed as if they were once-in-a-lifetime occurrences performed by people who would rather not be publically associated with the label ‘hero.’ Sadly, this immediate distancing of the heroic act from the everyday world coupled with the avoidance of the hero designation by someone who acted heroically in public seems to send a de-valuing message about heroism. Specifically, to me it seems like it sends people the message that it’s not socially acceptable to publically acknowledge ones’ own power to intervene live in the moment for the sake of altering situational conditions.

Often, I think, when we receive de-valuing messages about heroic behavior it can have the effect of leading us to believe that there isn’t really much to heroism after all – that we’re just as likely as that person on TV to act heroically in that same situation if we wanted to do it. Yet, many, if not most of these same heroic acts, are also described by the media as having been performed by people who had some past training that seems to have contributed in some unknown way to the persons’ capability and willingness to act heroically. For example, individuals who perform a heroic deed often turn out to have previously been in the military or in law enforcement or fire-fighting. So which is it? Is heroism some kind of light switch that one can just turn on whenever the situation calls for it if one feels like getting involved? Can anybody really be a hero – without any special knowledge, habits, or skills, or is it something that one needs to train for like an athlete trains for an athletic event? Do you need to practice being heroic over and over again in little subtle ways as preparation for those big events? Furthermore, are the big public acts of heroism really even any more important than the little ones that many people perform every day [at home, at work, at school, etc.]. Perhaps those large-scale acts of heroism that we see on TV are fundamentally similar to those unnoticed small-scale acts of heroism that some people perform everyday – and if there is some underlying structure that is shared by both big and small acts of heroism then maybe we can figure out what that underlying structure is and teach people about it. If we did that then perhaps we’d be increasing the capacity of all of those ‘Average-Joe-Heroes’ out there in the world to act heroically when the situation calls for a hero and one happens to be nearby.

The question still remains though: why do some people, people like policemen, soldiers, and fire-fighters seem to have an edge on everybody else when it comes to the likelihood that they’ll act heroically in challenging situations?

Well, to answer that question, think about this; heroic people are like athletic people in that they have spent a great deal of time exercising their hero muscles – building themselves up into the kind of person who is likely to perform well at tasks associated with alleviating suffering and promoting flourishing life. So, while the exercises that athletes repeatedly engage in build muscle, the exercises policemen, soldiers, and fire-fighters repeatedly engage in build ‘change agency.’ ‘Agency’ is defined as the ability to initiate and sustain a course of action and ‘change’ means that something new or different is happening. So if you put them both together you get ‘change agency;’ the ability to initiate and sustain a new or different way of doing things.

After thinking about all of that it might be easier for you now to picture a police officer intervening live in the moment to protect a woman from an abusive partner [facilitating safety] or a soldier defending his or her country from invasion [facilitating continued freedom] or a fire-fighter intervening live in the moment to save the home and belongings of a working-class family [facilitating continued access to resources]. In each example, we can see that those policing, soldiering, and fire-fighting activities were opportunities to practice alleviating suffering and promoting flourishing life. So, let’s break it down even further and ask ourselves what kinds of habits we’d need to develop if we wanted to increase our own capacity to initiate and sustain a positive change in our own daily life circumstances – so that we could be more like those heroic policemen, soldiers, and fire-fighters and facilitate basic human mental health need-satisfaction for ourselves and others – needs like safety, freedom, and access to resources.

The Victim-Mentality 

EorWell, the first thing we’d want to do is discover that we were born with the power and permission to change things. If you think about the universal law of cause and effect you’ll remember that things change because one thing interacts with another thing. Additionally, you were born with an imagination, a thoughtful mind, a free will, and a physical body – all of which enables you to come up with ideas, to create plans, and to consciously choose to act on those plans in the physical world – to create real change if you want. In other words, the first habit for the hero to develop is ‘an internal locus of response-ability.’ When people are unable or unwilling to develop this habit – when they get stuck on this issue, we could say that they ‘have a victim-mentality.’

The Bystander

bystanders 2The second habit of the hero is engagement – heroes choose to get involved in day-to-day social realities – especially when social group structures and power dynamics threaten the groups’ability to meet basic human mental health needs [like, safety, freedom, and access to resources]. When people get stuck on this issue, and choose not to engage with day-to-day social realities we could say that they are ‘bystanders.’


The Henchman

The HenchmanThe third habit of the hero is ‘sociocentric thinking’ – they think of themselves and all other human beings as being part of a universal social group and they see all members of the group as equally valuable. Additionally, heroes are able to see that the social behaviors of all group members co-construct social ecosystems or the social places where people live, work, learn, and play.Heroes act intentionally to create and sustain healthy social ecosystems. When people get stuck at this stage and seem to act habitually out of selfishness, it could be because they are being egocentric – or only thinking of personal gain instead of basic human mental health need-satisfaction. If you saw somebody ‘going along to get along’ or doing the bidding of a villainous other in order to advance financial profit or social status you might be looking at a ‘henchman.’

The Villain  

VoldemortThe fourth habit of the hero is collaboration. Heroes strive daily, moment-by-moment, to facilitate win-win outcomes for self and others. Heroes are comfortable with vulnerability – they are willing to give others a chance to screw them over because heroes know that a good rapport with others is a pre-requisite to meeting their basic human mental health needs. When people get stuck on this issue and habitually try to coerce the compliance of others with threats of punishment we could say that they are ‘villains.’

The Anti-Hero 

The Anti HeroThe fifth habit of the hero is self-esteem. Up to this point you’ve been introduced to habits that have to do with creating positive change. Self-Esteem, on the other hand, is a habit that serves a protective function for the hero. When villainous or sabotaging others attempt to mistreat or harm the hero psychologically, emotionally, or socially the heros’ high self-esteem acts as a shield against the external pressure to give up on ones’ own efforts to create positive change in the social environment. When someone not only lacks self-esteem but actually hates themselves for one reason or another they may seek out punishment. Obviously, this would act as an obstacle to need-satisfaction and goal-attainment. When people are stuck in this area we might refer to them as an ‘anti-hero’ because while they have a good heart they nonetheless resent the heros’ efforts to create positive change and may even collude with villainous others at times.

The Minion

Peter PettigrewThe sixth habit of the hero is limit-setting. Heroes set limits with villainous others when they attempt to coerce the compliance of others with punishment or threats of punishment. When people are stuck in this area we could say that they are in ‘the minion role’ because they acquiesce to the villain and allow him or her to direct their will toward ill-ends in order to avoid punishment and the threat of punishment.


The Devils’ Advocate 

The Devils AdvocateThe seventh habit of the hero is a ‘commitment to holding others accountable to standards.’ If a heroic person observes another person being held accountable to a standard that supports basic human mental health need-satisfaction and personal goal-attainment [in a way that is socially-appropriate] that hero will not interfere with the accountability process. Conversely, ‘the rescuer’ will run interference on the heros’ attempt to hold villainous and sabotaging others accountable for volitional violations of pro-social social norms.

The Sidekick

Ron WeasleyThe eighth habit of the hero is self-efficacy. Heroes believe in their ability to rise to the challenge – to meet opposition head on and to live to tell about it. When people are stuck in this area they exhibit doubt in their competence to complete tasks associated with Human Ecosystem Engineering and Recovery Operations. We could describe people like this as ‘sidekicks’ because while they know that they have personal power and use it all of the time in ways that are collaborative they tend to look to heroic others to lead them into socially-appropriate confrontations with villainous and sabotaging others.


The Saboteur 

Malfoy 2The ninth habit of the hero is support. Heroes are not threatened by the success of others. Heroes support the efforts of people who are trying to excel – at life. When people doubt themselves and then sabotage more competent others in order to “level the playing field” we could refer to them as a ‘saboteur.’


The Chameleon

The ChameleonThe tenth habit of the hero is transparency. Heroes present themselves authentically to others – even when doing so might reveal a difference in life management styles or a difference in values. When a person is stuck in this area they might portray themselves as an ally in pursuit of mutual goals in order to obtain information from a hero and then trade it to a villain for approval or personal gain. You could refer to this role or life management style as ‘The Chameleon.’

The Politician

politician2The eleventh habit of the hero is ‘confrontation’ or assertive problem-solving. Heroes establish and enforce adherence to a standard of behavior that supports basic human mental health need-satisfaction and personal goal-attainment. When a person is stuck in this area they’ll display a pattern of refusing to establish or enforce a code of conduct that supports psychological well-being and flourishing life. You could call this role or life management style ‘The Politician’ because they care more about social approval than they do about basic human mental health need-satisfaction.


The Has Been

HaymitchThe twelfth habit of the hero can best be described as ‘an internal locus of motivation.’ Heroes motivate themselves forward toward basic human mental health need-satisfaction and personal goal-attainment even when all the other character types might be trying to persuade them to give up and just accept a languishing or shriveling life [experience] in the toxic and dysfunctional social ecosystems within which they may live, work, learn, and play. When people get stuck at this stage of change agent development they tend to present as someone who ‘used to be’ heroic – as someone that has given up on their own goals and dreams.


So, in conclusion, if ones’ goal is to increase the probability that the average person will choose to engage in acts of heroism in their own daily life then it might be a good idea to promote the development of the twelve character traits or habits of thinking and action described in this model of change agent development. When a learner is able to demonstrate proficiency in these twelve areas it is likely that they will also dramatically improve their performance on tasks associated with Human Ecosystem Engineering and Recovery Operations (H.E.R.O). Ultimately, the value in obtaining this kind of hero training is that through the development of a heroic life management style and the application thereof to the tasks associated with H.E.R.O one may sustain a quality of life for oneself and others that is not available to human beings who remain stuck in adolescent ways of thinking and behaviour.

Stages of C.A. Development Related to H.E.R.O.


Goal or Task

Role When Arrested Development Occurs

01Engineering Internal Locus of Response-Ability vs External Locus of Response-Ability Victim-Mentality
02Engineering Engagement vs Non-Engagement The Bystander
03Engineering Sociocentrism vs Egocentrism The Henchman
04 Engineering Collaboration vs Coercion The Villain
05Recovery Self-Esteem vs Self-Loathing The Anti-Hero
06Recovery Limit-Setting vs Enmeshment The Minion
07 Recovery Commitment to Standards vs Rescuing From Personal Responsibility The Devils’ Advocate
08Recovery Self-Efficacy vs Self-Doubt The Sidekick
09Engineering Support vs Sabotage The Saboteur
10Engineering Transparency vs Duplicity The Chameleon
11Recovery Confrontation vs Concealment The Politician
12Recovery Internal Locus of Motivation vs External Locus of Motivation The Has Been

Image Sources:

The Victim-Mentality: Eor.  Digital Image.   HUMANISTEQ: Formerly Gallagher Training.   Bill Gallagher & Humanisteq,  n.d.  Web 29 Aug 2015   www.humanisteq.com.

The Bystander: Bystanders and Bullying.  Digital Image.  Bullying Bystanders Unite (BBU).  Hey U.G.L.Y,  n.d.  Web  29 Aug 2015  www.heyugly.org.

The Henchman: Beatrix Lestrange.  Digital Image.  Fanpop.  Fanpop.  2006 –2015.  Web  29 Aug 2015  www.fanpop.com.

The Villain: Voldemort Battle 3.  Digital Image.  Harry Potter Wiki.  Wikia, n.d.  Web 29 Aug 2015  www.harrypotter.wikia.com.

The Anti-Hero: Potions Class.  Digital Image.  Harry Potter Wiki.  n.p.   n.d.  Web  29 Aug 2015

The Minion: Peter Pettigrew.  Digital Image.  Harry Potter Everything.  n.p.  Web 29 Aug 2015 www.harrypottereverything12.weebly.com.

The Devil’s Advocate: Best Movie Cross-Examinations.  Digital Image.  YouTube.  Don Carlo.  4 Feb 2015  Web 29 Aug 2015  www.youtube.com.

The Sidekick: Ron Weasley.  Digital Image.  Deviant Art.  ShutUpDemi.  n.d.  29 Aug 2015 www.deviantart.com/morelikethis/420540119.

The Saboteur: Draco Malfoy.  Digital Image.  SourceFed: A Discovery Network.  SourceFed.  n.d.  Web  29 Aug 2015  www.sourcefed.com.

The Chameleon: Mystique.  Digital Image.  Fanpop.  Fanpop.  2006 – 2015.  n. d.  Web 29 Aug 2015  www.fanpop.com.

The Politician: British Ministry of Magic.  Digital Image.  Harry Potter Wiki.  n.p.   n.d.  Web  29 Aug 2015  www.harrypotter.wikia.com.

The Has Been: Haymitch Abernathy.  Digital Image.  The Hunger Games Wiki.  CC – BY – SA.  n.d.  Web 29 Aug 2015  www.thehungergames.wikia.com.

About the author:
Shawn Furey is a heroism promoter and educator. He is the owner of the Hero Training School and runs the Hero Support Network. He currently works full-time as a Mental Health Technician at a “Supermax” prison with men who have been convicted of a violent crime and have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder.


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