What if saving the world was good for you?
That’s my promise in The Happy Hero. That you can be happier and healthier simply by making a difference to the world around you. I call this formula ‘positive+action’, and after decades of researching, writing about and living positive+action I’ve become convinced this the answer to enjoying a better life. I want to tell you stories of the people who have already discovered this secret. And set out the principles for how to feel good by doing good.
Which sounds simple. Except that there’s so much that needs to change, where do you even start? Everyday our media finds another international crisis or health scare, another predator or disaster. We are subject to an overwhelming barrage of fear and negativity each time we open our phones or switch on the TV. We have been trained out of happiness by these stories and turned into the victims of our own lives rather than the heroes. The Happy Hero will offer a simple solution: stop worrying about the world and start making it better. Because new research shows that trying to make a difference, even in the smallest ways, can extend your life, improve your relationships and even help you recover from a cold! And luckily, many of the changes we need to make to build a better world, we should want to do anyway. In The Happy Hero I’ll share the emerging evidence of how heroism can make you happy. I’ll also provide practical examples for getting started.
This book will even take on the most intractable and complicated problem facing all of us: climate change. And we’ll discover how solving it will solve so much more. The UK’s top medical journal recently reported that the best way to protect your heart and slim your waistline is to count the carbon rather than calories in your food. The US Military insists that renewable energy will make our countries energy independent and help reduce conflict by providing cheaper sources of power to the poorest. In our own lives, we know that saving energy simply saves money. Together we can cut even huge challenges like climate change down to size. And every step and every action will come with their own reward
Please help me make The Happy Hero happen. We have a world to save. Capes and masks are optional.
A girl smiles and waves jubilantly at the photographers. She’s 13 years old, with mousy hair tousled by the wind. With one hand she’s clinging onto the brick monument she’s just clambered up, her white pixie boots a little scuffed from the climb. In her other hand, she carefully clasps a packet of cheese and onion crisps. And she’s just saved the world.
In the springtime of 1987, the popular local newspaper, The Bedfordshire Times, splashed a photo of that grinning teenager across their centre pages. Usually their big story was of a cat rescued by firemen or the ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new shopping centre. But that week, the sleepy English town had been the focus of national interest. After years of political arguments, scientific controversies and local protests, a large nuclear waste company, ominously called Nirex, had announced they were cancelling plans to build a nuclear waste ‘deep storage facility’ in the town.
The local families who had fought so hard against the nuclear dump were taken by surprise. In a flurry of overnight activity, they built a small brick monument at the site where Nirex had been planning to store tonnes of radioactive waste. Then, as the photographers watched, the families began to accept their success and cry, hug and celebrate. The young girl in the photograph had been swept up in the emotion and scrambled up the bricks. No one really minded the scuffmarks or spilt crisps, because most of the people there also felt like climbing, shouting and punching the air. Small folk aren’t supposed to beat big corporations, and everyone was a little dazed.
I’m the girl. And thankfully my mum kept the news-clipping and had it framed for me. Today it hangs above my desk, and whenever I look up at it, I can vividly remember that moment. I was still a normal teenager, at least on the outside. But that photo captures the moment that my life changed. Because that was the first time I truly experienced how good it is to make a difference. Up on those bricks, with my dad’s steadying hand on my ankle, I felt like a superhero who had saved the world. Since that incredible flash of joy, I’ve had years to read a veritable mountain of books on the value of having ‘purpose’ in your life. Each of them analysing and trying to pin down that experience. Why does it feel so good to do good? Why do so many successful people leave high-flying careers to pursue purposeful work that helps others? I believe most of the books miss an important feedback loop in making a difference. They assume that ‘purpose’ is almost an indulgence, or a spiritual need. But in a world which feels totally overwhelming, where fear and worry can leave even the most successful people sleepless and anxious - taking positive action builds a sense of control. And that sense of impact and ‘rightness’ has a tangible physical and emotional value. In a world of fear, being a hero can save your life.
The book was written. Then got written a bit more.
There were a few tears, professional levels of procrastination and a fair amount of rum.
The development editors (with great compassion) then suggested 'umm, maybe write this a bit more and stop saying 'nevertheless' so much'.
The rum was nearly enough.
The book was written.
Then the poor copy editor needed a little lay down after…
The wonderful Anna-Kajsa Lidell co-founder of Food for Progress has become our Action Advocate! She's the extraordinary change-maker behind Oumph - the most awesome veggie food on the planet.
Seriously - this stuff is utterly yummy, healthy and good for the environment. Fuel for happy heroes!
Thanks for coming to visit my Shed. Imagine some comfy old sofa's, warm lighting and hot cocoa brewing on the wood-fired stove. Perhaps there's even a little music playing on the vintage gramophone hidden in the corner.
You are welcome in our little hero hideout!
Please pop by to hear how the book is progressing. Chat about the themes and stories. And perhaps post some cheesy jokes to cheer…
These people are helping to fund The Happy Hero.