3 Powerful Reasons Heroes Strengthen Your Willpower

“Tell me who your heroes are and I’ll tell you how you’ll turn out to be.” – Warren Buffet

My childhood room was lined with posters of them.

Michael Jordan

Wayne Gretzky

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Ken Griffey Jr. 

Will Smith

They were my wall of heroes. They represented everything I dreamed of becoming. I wanted to be a sports star. I wanted to be famous. I wanted to be great.

But as time went on, I slowly started to get rid of the posters.

I got older and more and more people started telling me to “be realistic” to “get a steady job” and to “play it safe”.

So I began admiring the heroes less as their fate seemed hopelessly out of reach for someone like me.  

Little did I know that as I lost faith in heroes, I lost substantial willpower.


We have a tendency to look at star athletes, or successful entrepreneurs, and believe that level of success can’t happen for us. Yet, when you look at how these people came to be, you realize that many of them came from humble beginnings.

Michael Jordan came from a working class family in North Carolina. He was talented in basketball, but wasn’t even good enough to make his high school basketball team. [1]

Arnold Schwarzenegger was born in a tiny village in Austria where body-building wasn’t even heard of. His dream of becoming a body-building champion and a huge movie star wasn’t just far-fetched, it was ridiculed over and over again by his friends and family. [2]

Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, was born in the housing projects of Brooklyn, New York. His family was too poor to send him to college, so he had to work extremely hard in order to gain a football scholarship to get him out of his rough neighborhood. [3]

There are countless other stories of extraordinary people coming from similar, or even worse circumstances. Yet, these people are able to achieve things we have been told all our lives are not “realistic”. 

This is why having heroes are so valuable. Having a person that you truly admire – whether you know them or not – can have an extraordinary impact on your success.

Here are 3 ways that having a hero can strengthen your willpower and help you achieve your dreams.


Like any of my personal heroes above, having a hero gives you the proper perspective on your goals. It allows you to see that what may not be “realistic” is still possible.

There are many people out there who have come from similar or worse circumstances than you to achieve incredible things. Learning their story will give you the confidence that you can accomplish greatness as well.

In order to achieve incredible things, the brain needs to genuinely believe that those incredible things are possible. This allows you to tap into your most powerful form of willpower – Want Powerwhich is the rush of energy that you feel when you truly believe in the purpose of what you are working toward. [4]

So the next time you start to believe that your goal is not possible, remember your hero. Remember where they came from and remember that success is possible.


Despite what many might believe, most heroes got to where they are through a lot of hard work and determination. They set exceptionally high standards for themselves and those around them to reach their level of greatness.

Another one of my heroes, Kobe Bryant, got to where he is today because he is the hardest worker in the NBA . He set the standard that no matter how bored, how tired or how badly he wanted to quit, he knew he could still keep pushing. And by doing that, he achieved a Hall-of-Fame level of success.

High standards like this can help you when you face your willpower challenges by asking yourself “what would my hero do?”

This exercise is powerful. When you try to see things from the perspective of your hero, you can get another rush of Want Power as you begin to identify more with them. The more you identify with your hero, the more you start to get similar results as they did. Then you begin to believe that your dreams really are possible.

So the next time you are stressed, tired, or tempted to give up on your dream, ask yourself “what would my hero do?” That simple question will give you a rush of willpower to make the right decision. [4]


One of the most powerful motivators is a great biography. It is literally a blueprint of how a hero came to be the person that they are. Knowing what people like Nelson Mandela or Michael Jordan went through on their way to achieving great things helps you learn what it takes to make it yourself. [5]

When you know what decisions and sacrifices you need to make in order to achieve your dreams, you can use your willpower more effectively. [6]

Going back to Kobe Bryant, at the age of 12 he was about to give up on basketball entirely after showing little promise in the sport. Then he read about Michael Jordan getting cut from his high school basketball team. He learned how Michael used that failure to motivate him to outwork everyone around him.

Following Michael’s lead, Kobe decided that he too would never be outworked. Then he dedicated himself to so much practice over the next 25 years that he assured himself a spot in the NBA Hall-of-Fame.

Whatever your dream may be, there is probably someone who has blazed a trail before you. Learn from them. Learn what it took for them to get where they are and how you can effectively use your willpower to do the same.


A hero can carry more importance in your life than you may know. They are living proof that greatness can be accomplished. Thinking about what your hero would do in certain situations can help give you great perspective on your challenges and goals.

Also, through biographies, you can learn the small steps that your hero took on their way to greatness. This can give you confidence that if you are willing to make the same sacrifices you can achieve your own greatness.  

The next time you’re down and think that great things can't happen for you, remember your heroes. They are proof that it’s possible.


  1. Lazenby, R. (2015). Michael Jordan: The life.
  2. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Amazing Motivational Story. (2012, September 27). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJPRj19OU-w
  3. Schultz, H., & Yang, D. (1997). Pour your heart into it: How Starbucks built a company one cup at a time. New York, NY: Hyperion.
  4. McGonigal, K. (2012) The Willpower Instinct: How Self-control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It. New York: Avery.
  5. Blumenfield, S. (2006). The Benefits of Reading Biographies. http://www.home-school.com/Articles/the-benefits-of-reading-biographies.php
  6. Bandura, A., & Schunk, D. (1981). Cultivating Competence, Self-efficacy, And Intrinsic Interest Through Proximal Self-motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,586-598.