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What is Your Hero’s Journey?

What is a hero? Is it someone with superhuman strength, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound? Or perhaps it's someone who, despite overwhelming odds, defies the expectations of those around them to achieve greatness? These are traditional views, but the idea of a hero's journey can extend far beyond these boundaries. Indeed, the hero's journey is not just a framework for epic tales and Hollywood blockbusters; it can be seen as a metaphor for our individual journeys through life.

The hero's journey, or monomyth, is a narrative pattern identified by scholar Joseph Campbell. It involves a hero who goes on an adventure, faces and overcomes a crisis, and then returns home transformed. This journey resonates with us because it reflects our own experiences and struggles, our personal quests for self-discovery and growth.

The hero's journey begins with the 'Call to Adventure,' the moment when life as it is, is no longer enough. It's that stirring within us that tells us there must be something more, something beyond the mundane routine of everyday life. This call might come in the form of a significant life event, a personal epiphany, or a growing dissatisfaction with the status quo.

However, the call to adventure is often met with 'Refusal.' We fear change. We fear the unknown. We fear what we might lose. And yet, this refusal is part of the journey, a crucial aspect of our personal growth. It's here where we confront our fears and insecurities, where we grapple with the decision to step out of our comfort zones.

Then comes the 'Crossing of the Threshold,' the moment when the hero finally commits to the adventure and leaves the familiar behind. This step is where we make a conscious decision to embrace change and face the challenges that lie ahead. We might not know what to expect, but we step forward regardless, driven by a desire for something more, something greater.

It's essential to remember that the hero's journey isn't just about grand quests and epic adventures. It's about the inner journey, the personal transformation that occurs when we face and overcome our deepest fears and challenges. And in this way, we are all heroes, embarking on our own journeys of discovery, transformation, and growth.

Let’s delve deeper into the trials and tribulations faced by the hero, the mentors and allies that aid them along the way, and how this reflects our own life experiences.

The Initiation – Trials, Mentors, and Allies

After the hero takes that crucial leap to leave the comfort of their known world and venture into the unknown, they enter a phase known as 'Initiation.' This part of the journey is often filled with trials and tribulations. It's where the hero – and by extension, we – face our deepest fears and greatest challenges.

In stories, these trials often take the form of physical obstacles or enemies that need to be overcome. But in our own lives, they could be personal challenges, inner demons, or external circumstances that test our resilience, determination, and character. It could be the struggle to break free from an unhealthy relationship, the challenge to overcome an addiction, or the quest to find meaning and purpose in our work.

But the hero is not alone in these trials. Along the way, they encounter mentors and allies – characters who provide guidance, support, and assistance. These individuals could be wise elders, experienced guides, or companions who share the hero's journey. In our lives, they might be mentors who provide wisdom and insight, friends who offer emotional support, or even books and resources that equip us with the knowledge we need.

These relationships are crucial as they help the hero navigate the trials of the Initiation phase. They provide the necessary guidance, encouragement, and resources that the hero needs to overcome their challenges. Likewise, in our own hero's journey, it's vital to recognize and appreciate the mentors and allies who assist us along the way.

An important point to remember is that the purpose of these trials is not just to pose challenges for the hero, but to bring about transformation. The trials are there to test the hero, yes, but also to allow them to learn, grow, and evolve. Similarly, in our lives, our challenges and struggles are opportunities for learning and growth. They push us out of our comfort zones, make us confront our fears and weaknesses, and ultimately help us to become stronger, wiser, and more resilient.

Let’s explore the 'Ordeal' and 'Reward' stages of the hero's journey, and how these stages manifest in our own lives.

The Ordeal and the Reward – Facing the Innermost Cave

We've now reached a critical juncture in our hero's journey – the Ordeal. In storytelling, this phase often presents as a 'death and rebirth' narrative, wherein the hero experiences a significant challenge that forces them to confront their deepest fear. It's the innermost cave, the heart of darkness, the ultimate test.

In our lives, this moment can be a deeply transformative period that shakes us to our core. It could be a personal crisis, a significant loss, or a life-changing event. It's that moment of truth when we face our fears and doubts head-on, pushing the boundaries of our resilience.

But why does the hero – why do we – need to go through such a challenging ordeal? Because it's in these crucibles of extreme difficulty where real transformation happens. When we're forced to confront our deepest fears, we come face to face with who we truly are, what we're made of, and what we're capable of. It's a vital stage of the journey where we shed our old selves to make room for the new, stronger, and more resilient version of ourselves.

Surviving the ordeal, however, is just the first part of this phase. The next is the Reward – sometimes referred to as the 'seizing of the sword.' After facing their deepest fear and emerging victorious, the hero gains a reward. This could be a physical object, new knowledge, or a personal revelation.

In our own journeys, the reward doesn't necessarily have to be something tangible. It could be a newfound sense of self-belief, a shift in perspective, or a significant insight about ourselves or the world. It's that profound sense of achievement and transformation that comes after weathering a major storm in our lives.

While the ordeal and the reward are significant milestones in our hero's journey, the adventure is far from over. Let’s now look at the last stages of the journey – the Return and the Elixir – and how we can utilize these concepts to bring about lasting change and growth in our lives.

The Return and the Elixir – Bringing It All Home

We've arrived at the closing stage of our Hero's Journey. We've journeyed through the departure, initiation, and transformation. Now, it's time to return home. In traditional storytelling, the hero, now changed, must bring back the reward — often referred to as the 'elixir' — to their initial world.

In our lives, 'the Return' represents the phase after we've confronted and overcome our ordeal and reaped the rewards. It's not about reverting to our old selves; instead, it's about integrating our new selves into our old world. It's when we implement the changes we've made, the lessons we've learned, and the growth we've achieved.

Remember, the return is not a regressive step but an evolution. It may seem like we're returning to 'square one', but the reality is far from it. We're not the same people we were at the start of our journey. We've grown, we've changed, and we've evolved. We're returning, but we're returning better.

The 'Elixir' in our journey might not be a magical potion or a panacea. It could be the wisdom we've gained, the resilience we've developed, or the inner peace we've discovered. It's the tangible outcome of our journey, the very reason we embarked on this adventure in the first place.

The final stage also often includes an element of 'Sharing the Elixir.' It's about using the wisdom, experience, or skills we've gained for the betterment of others in our community. We become the mentors for others, helping them navigate their journeys and sharing the insights we've gathered along our own path.

The Hero's Journey, as an idea, is as old as human culture itself, and its fundamental elements continue to echo in our lives. Recognizing our life experiences in the stages of this journey helps us better understand our personal narratives and growth.

We all are the heroes of our own journeys, and like any great hero, our story is one of transformation. We face challenges, we stumble, we learn, and we grow. And as we journey through life, we continue to evolve, becoming ever more resilient, compassionate, and wise.

Life, just like a compelling story, is a journey of transformation. And understanding the Hero's Journey helps us make sense of our own paths – complete with trials, revelations, transformations, and returns. It reminds us that no matter the trials we face or the ordeals we overcome, we are, at every stage, growing, learning, and becoming a little more heroic every day.A Life Well Lived Team