Dr. Phil Zimbardo: The Meaning of Life and the Everyday Heroes


What is the meaning of life to Phil Zimbardo?

First, to be fully aware of the brevity of human existence, so then to live each day as if it were my last and enjoy as fully as possible every moment’s pleasures in nature, friendships, family, human creations, and sexuality.

Next, to believe that I am Immortal and will live forever, so thus must work hard to make life worth living fully for me and the mortals around me. One way I do this is by designing projects that enrich human existence, such as my Heroic Imagination Project (HIP). HIP’s mission is to fill the world with generations of Everyday Heroes, who by their daily deeds of transforming compassion into socially significant actions enrich collective existence each day in some way.

Allow me to expand briefly on the new conception of hero and heroism that I am trying to create. First, I will raise some provocative questions for reflection, then provide some unique answers to them.

*Why should we replace Super Heroes with ordinary, everyday Heroes?

*Why should we expand our view of Heroes beyond military brave warriors who have done daring deeds on the battlefield?

*Why should we go beyond honoring heroic action taken by solo individuals that illustrate extreme instances of courage in action?

*Why should we not limit our Hero gallery to only those exceptional people who have made a lifetime commitment to a noble cause despite personal sacrifices and potential risks—Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King?

*Why should those who challenge institutional corruption as “whistle blowers” be accorded hero status when there is usually not any mortal risks?

The single answer to all these Whys is that they unfairly narrow the definition of “Hero” to the province of a relatively small set of people, mostly male, who appear to be rare, exceptional individuals with special talents not shared by ordinary mortals.

I have been on a mission to totally challenge such a narrow set of beliefs. Instead, I offer an inspiring alternative for ordinary mortals, like most of humanity.

To realize that vision I created The Heroic Imagination Project (HIP) as a non-profit (501 c-3) organization in San Francisco, founded in 2008.

HIP’s purpose is to promote everyday heroism as:

  1. a) an antidote to inhumanity, corruption, injustice, and evil (of action and inaction);
  2. b) a celebration of the positive potential of human nature.
  3. c) as a natural consequence of a commitment by ordinary people to do extra-ordinary deeds of social goodness whenever possible.

HIP’s mission is to teach individuals situational awareness, and basic skills needed to make effective decisions in challenging situations in their daily lives.

HIP achieves its purpose and mission by translating research findings from social psychology and related fields into knowledge, tools, strategies and exercises that help individuals and groups take effective and wise action at crucial moments in their lives.

HIP trains young people to be Heroes–in-Training by doing daily deeds of goodness, caring and kindness, thus translating the private virtue of compassion into the civic virtue of heroism. The point is to make such actions an integral part of everyone’s character, which values being socio-centric over ego-centrism. Our heroes in training seek to create Hero Squads of similarly minded individual who collaborate when possible. Working in tandem young people can achieve many things– all of which will contribute to:

enriching the meaning of life !!


~Philip G. Zimbardo is an internationally recognized scholar, educator, researcher and media personality, winning numerous awards and honors in each of these domains.  He is recognized as the “voice and face of contemporary American psychology” through his widely seen PBS-TV series, Discovering Psychology, his classic research, The Stanford Prison Experiment, authoring the oldest current textbook in psychology, Psychology and Life, in its 18th Edition, and his popular trade books on Shyness in adults and in children; Shyness: What it is, what to do about it, and The Shy Child. Past president of the American Psychological Association, and the Western Psychological Association.

Copyright © 2016 Excellence Reporter

Categories: Excellence, Psychology

1 reply »

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.