What is the Hero's Journey?
Have you seen any of the following movies?
- The Matrix
- Lord of the Rings
- The Game
- The Princess Bride
- Star Wars
- Rocky – (and Silvester Stallone’s personal story for that matter)
- Finding Nemo
For a full collated list see here: https://www.imdb.com/list/ls052754941/
You may be asking yourself what do the above movies all have in common.
Aside from being very popular classics, they all share a similar structure which can be found in most mythological narratives.
This concept was first theorised by Professor Joseph Campbell. He refers to this structure as the “monomyth,” or hero’s journey.
We love this concept and in this post, we will unpack what it means, and how we can use it to our understanding of it can only benefit us.
Campbell summarises the concept by saying “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”
For us, the concept allows us to frame our current situation into the bigger picture which allows us to enjoy the trials and tribulations with a different mindset.
Thinking about the protagonists in the movies above, are you Frodo in the Shire or Neo in the office cubicle? Are you currently in your ordinary life or has the next stage already begun for you?
The call to adventure.
This can come in many forms, a new job, a move to a new place, the exploration of a new skill, ending a long term relationship or trying to stop an addiction.
Whatever the call to adventure is you can see from the examples above this will happen many times throughout your life on different scales.
This call to adventure to me means the beginning of a journey of improvement. You are being called to explore and change for the better. Campbell called this entering into unfamiliar zones the crossing of the threshold.
Our propensity to remain fixed in our ordinary lives is shown in the hero’s journey, this can be because of the insecurities and fears that when the call to adventure surfaces our heroes are often initially unwilling to make a change, preferring the safe haven of the ordinary world.
When presented with the call to adventure in your own life you must analyse where your resistance to change comes from.
Unfortunately, life isn’t a Disney movie so it is not advised to blindly accept every call to adventure as it could escalate quickly and you could end up like this guy.
It can be helpful to think about your overarching mission when presented with a new call to adventure.
What are the risks and rewards and do they align with your overarching goals and desires?
This will mean you can avoid becoming over-encumbered with projects or taking on unnecessary risks.
So, let’s say you’ve recognised the call to adventure and you want to grasp the opportunity, what’s next?
Trials and tribulations.
This is the exciting part. You are really beginning your journey, taking the plunge and heading into the new challenge.
The important part here is to anticipate setbacks and see them as opportunities for learning and becoming stronger.
Cast your mind back to the movies above or other stories you are familiar with and ask yourself do the setbacks make the story more interesting and enjoyable?
Do the setbacks make the protagonist better? Do they help to define the hero that emerges in the end?
There is plenty more to dive into with the hero’s journey in the initiation and return phases like mentorship and returning with the elixir (love, freedom, wisdom, wealth) but we will cover that in a future blog.
For now contemplate where you may be living an ordinary life, where there could be an adventure and consider taking the leap with the right mindset.