Updated: Mar 19
The hero's journey is a well-known story arc and, because I recently wrote about storytelling, it seemed fitting that I talk about this today in the context of personal growth.
Basically, the hero's journey is a commonly used plot device that sees a central character go through various trials and tribulations to get to the prize or goal.
In fantasy and fairy tales, we sometimes see the hero having to vanquish dragons, sometimes they have to slay other people, sometimes the prize is true love ... and sometimes it is a pot of gold.
Although the hero undertakes many perils and an action-packed adventure, the journey is actually about so much more than a thrilling series of plot twists.
What the hero learns at the end of his journey is that it was never about what happened in the journey in the first place, in a physical sense.
The journey was actually all about their spiritual and emotional growth. It was about what they learned about themselves, the ways in which they had to call forth courage, and how they demonstrated integrity and bravery and developed in character.
We all root for the hero because, in a well-told story, we see all their flaws and fears, and vulnerabilities. We also see their potential and courage and strength. Most of all, we see their heart.
My favorite movies are always about a struggling hero. It gets me every time.
And no matter whether they succeed, in the audience's eyes, they are always a winner, because of the way they tackled the journey and the courage they showed in putting themselves into the fray.
Sometimes the hero demonstrates fatal flaws, like arrogance or naivety, but they learn from it, and we forgive them because they are willing to be humbled by the experience and we know there is a good person underneath who is motivated by pure intent.
Every time you are called to do something that truly inspires you and feels like a mission fuelled by love, passion, meaning or duty, you become the hero. And you embark on your very own hero's journey.
Every time you are willing to go through a struggle, however macro or micro, in order to get there (wherever 'there' is for you) you are donning the cloak of the hero.
And I have learned that we are always tested on these kinds of journeys. They don't come easy.
It is almost as though the mission, important as it is, with such great rewards on the other side, needs to test our worthiness to see whether we are the right person to wear this crown, to lead these people, to receive this very special gift.
Anyone can be a hero. But often the best-loved heroes are 'flawed' in the eyes of society.
They have been told they are too old, they are too fat, they are too stupid.
They are not the right colour, or sex or they have physical limitations that make it more difficult.
It is overcoming, or at least, fighting the good fight, against these prejudices and roadblocks that are often part of the journey.
If you have limitations and a variety of things that make it more difficult for you, the more likely it is that you have the potential to be a hero. Because central to a hero's journey are those obstacles, antagonists, naysayers.
In fact, you cannot build a hero without them!
A hero is defined by courage, and courage is called forth when we are required to fight for or against something.
People say that you should play it safe, not embark on the hero's journey, because it's easier to stay out of things. Certainly, it's not easy to step up and do the right thing whether it's for your own life or someone else's.
Sure, we can play it safe, we can decide to hide our feelings from someone we love, we can have an arms-length relationship with a friend who is going through terrible problems, we can refrain from jumping into the fray to protect an innocent from bullying, we can stay in our safe job and not reach for our dreams.
We all, to an extent, have an instinct to self-preserve.
But this world is moved and changed by heroes, not people who are bystanders watching things unfold and doing nothing, who just go along with things, who don't ever bet on themselves.
It takes a hero to not join in with a mob mentality and attack someone without facts, it takes a hero to have their own mind, it takes a hero to question things, it takes a hero to stand for their own vision.
Because these things require courage. And courage is not only about physical strength but mental and emotional strength, integrity, and character.
When we are called to be a hero we need to know we are doing something noble because if we don't step up for others, for people in our circle, or for our own dreams, who would? If not you, then who? And certainly in this world of bullies, mobs, hate and sheep-like minds, we need more heroes.
It is not necessary for us to all be great leaders of the masses, or to create world-changing businesses, to step into the energy of a hero.
When we are faced with the types of adversity common to all who are living the human experience, each of us has the opportunity to call on the spirit of the hero to assist us to overcome.
And just like the hero, when we step up for ourselves, or others, or a calling, in this way, when we refuse to accept defeat, when we accept the challenge, we ultimately find that it was not about the metaphorical pot of gold at the end. The value was in the journey itself.
Whether we have pushed the issue a little further in the right direction or whether we have, in the process, found a power within ourselves that we never knew was there. The benefits of stepping into this energy are so much bigger than the tangible reward or outcome.
Becoming the hero is really all about becoming your best self. And that is where true lasting self-esteem lives. When you tackle hard things and are inspired to great acts of courage, you cannot help but build self-esteem.
In fantasy and fairy tales, we often see the hero having to go on a physical journey. We see them travel from one land to another, and that is a metaphor for the way in which, when we take up the mantle of a calling, we travel too.
We may not go very far, or even step one foot out of our own front door, but the calling requires us to travel outside of our comfort zone, without a map sometimes, without security, and the only thing certain about the hero's journey is that there will always be potential for discomfort and danger.
Sometimes we do it for love, sometimes for duty, sometimes for a dream we only dare to dream, and sometimes we have to be the hero because no one else will.
But every time you take on that call, you embark on a really significant life-changing time. A pivotal, defining moment in the making of you.
Not everyone needs to be a hero or embark on a hero's journey, but there is a reason we all watch them, remember them, and why they start legends that cross generations.
It is because they live a big life, full of courage and heart, even if it's for a temporary period, even if it's only a moment, or only demonstrated in one small part of their lives.
If you want to be that hero, then this is what you must prepare for - the obstacles, the adversary, and the heart required.
But I promise you to embark on this journey, is to say yes to a bigger life.
To more growth than you could ever possibly imagine, more wisdom and love (even if it hurts), and the potential for more success and bigger rewards than you could gain by playing it safe.
Fortune favors (and I would add - respects) the brave!
So consider this when thinking about how to step into more of that hero energy:
In which part of your life could you exercise that bravery and tap into that courage?
Where in your life could you follow an inner calling for action, whether it's of your heart or of your conscience, that up to now, you have ignored?
What injustices have you turned a blind eye to that you could start to speak against?
Let me know your thoughts below!