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What is the Hero's Journey?

Updated: Mar 24, 2023

Are You Fulfilling Your Responsibility to Yourself?

5 tips to Begin Your Hero's Journey.

First, the Hero's Journey basically goes something like this:

1) A call to adventure: Something or someone (eg. a job, a relationship, or a situation) is no longer working for you, so you make the choice to end it and go in a different life direction.

2) Entering the unknown: You're in a new career, or newly single, or living in a new city. It's a different world and you're out of your comfort zone.

3) Obstacles and Challenges: This decision doesn't come without risks. Being out of your comfort zone presents new challenges and difficulties. You may struggle to be happy alone, or have difficulties dealing with a new set of people or circumstances.

4) Slaying Your Dragon: This is the call to come forth in your most authentic way to face the internal or external dragon you've been avoiding. It is what scares you the most. Facing it doesn't mean you will conquer it. It is a dragon after all. It might be the end of you!

5) Death and Rebirth: Facing your deepest fear(s) will change you. The old you is no more, and there is now an internal shift in how you see yourself and the world. The new you is more authentic and aligned with your purpose, and the hero then comes home to share with the community what has been learned.

long lonely road in the desert with mountains on the horizon.
You don't know yet where you'll end up and what you're capable of.

The existentialists have long discussed how each one of us is responsible to pay attention to our call to adventure, and find our own meaning in a meaningless universe. When we do that, we are able to feel useful and in tune with our purpose, which results in feeling whole. I have recently been inspired by Dr. Jordan Peterson, and some of this article will echo his articulation of these ideas.

* You can choose whether or not to pay attention to your call to adventure. Often you may not even know you're already making this choice. If you choose comfort over risk, procrastination over challenge, numbing over self-reflection, you may be making the riskiest choice of all - choosing not to answer your call to adventure, and instead living a lifestyle that never pushes you to realize your potential.*

So many people think they are owed happiness. This is one of the unhealthiest beliefs you can have. The world doesn't own you a fucking thing. It is your responsibility to find meaning in this world and align your purpose with that meaning. You are not entitled to happiness. In fact, often the thing we think will make us happy doesn't, and the thing we don't want has a way of guiding us towards what's best for us. What you get might be better for you than what you really want, and what you want might not be good for you at all!

The thing is, when you get sick enough of your own bullshit, or tired enough of the monotony of the relationship/job/situation that is sucking your soul, only then are you inclined to answer the call. The cool thing is: when you voluntarily take steps towards slaying your dragon, a completely different physiological system takes over, one that is equipped to see difficulties as challenges with rewards, as opposed to the fight or flight system when you are forced to deal with something you'd rather avoid. This enables you to approach your call with spirit and bravery, as opposed to feeling like a victim who is stuck and withdraws from the challenge. See the Dr. Jordan Peterson's video below for more on this, and how viewing yourself as an actor with courage who is taking on your challenges promotes genuine feelings of well-being.

* We are hardwired to face challenges and adversity, not sit around and do nothing. Think about it: When have you felt your best? Was it after accomplishing or fighting through something difficult? Or was it after you just finished sitting around/avoiding something. If you are able to get a sense of your suffering and your pain as something you can carry with nobility, the call to adventure becomes a load that you can carry, because you understand that with life comes beauty and tragedy, and your tragedy is your responsibility to own, respond to, and best of all, you can DO SOMETHING about it! It doesn't mean your suffering is fair. It might get the best of you! However, you owe it to yourself to bear it and respond to it so that you increase your chances of being the best damn version of yourself, and then offering that to the world.*

What can you do to start getting clued in to your call to adventure, what your dragon might be, and what would it look like when you finally slay that beast? Here are 5 steps:

1) First, one must be willing to self-reflect and inquire. Instead of comparing yourself to others, try comparing yourself to who you were yesterday, or who you want to be tomorrow, or next year. The point is to begin doing practical, meaningful things, big or small, that increase your chances of becoming who you want to be. Are you giving it your all? Are you doing things that feeling meaningful and purposeful, as opposed to doing what's simply easy or fun? Write down one quality or thing that the 'tomorrow you' has that is different from the 'today you.'

2) Say out loud or write down the goal, or something like a goal. What would it look like if you were the best version of yourself? This is not about material shit, possessions, or money. This is about who are you now versus who do you ultimately want to be? It is more about being (what are you doing/what is your lifestyle) than having. Maybe it's better (and more motivating) to get clear on who you don't want to be, and write that down. Either way you have something to work with. This is a longer goal that has more of a big picture quality. Maybe it's the you in 1 year or 5 years. Sometimes there is reluctance to do this because by doing it, there is now the criteria to 'fail.'

3) What are the small steps necessary to move in that direction? Doing one thing daily may be all you can do right now. It might be something as small as making the bed each morning, just to incline your mind towards organization and focus. Figure out what you need and what is good for you, and start organizing you life around that. In this spirit, you might choose to add something that supports this. For example, you might begin making a daily schedule, or you might choose to start taking better care of yourself with exercise, or diet, or begin meditating.

4) Figure out what (or who) you need to eliminate. Maybe it's a negative friend, or alcohol, or video games, or shopping, or Netflix. Chances are you are wasting time by getting sucked into activities that aren't nourishing you, and are not part of your Hero's Journey. It might take two months or two years or two decades for you to realize your goal, and that's ok. It will require patience and determination and learning how to minimize/delete your distractions.

5) Lastly, it requires sacrifice. You have chosen to answer the call to find meaning and purpose in your life and live that life in a way that you feel good about when you're done. This is your responsibility and it requires sacrifice. As Dr. Peterson says, you are now reorienting your life to increase the probability that the best version of yourself will emerge. Your goal and strategies may evolve and change along the way. You continue, even not knowing what the result will be, letting go of your annoying need for control and certainty, and making the sacrifices and commitment to feeding your soul and spirit. What are you willing to sacrifice in order to do this?

For this author, I have always tended to shy away from anything related to public speaking. This might entail video blogs or podcasts or whatever. That's a fear of being judged that I think we can all relate to. Part of my call to adventure might be to first, recognize my edges, the spaces and places where I sense discomfort creeping in, and take steps/make choices to play with that edge, knowing it's part of my Hero's Journey, without knowing what might be the result of facing that fear. I think fear of judgement plays a much bigger role than we realize. When one becomes aware of their dragon, and starts taking steps towards organizing one's life so they are in a position to defeat that dragon, we have no idea who we might become, and what outcomes await us. The possibilities for you are limitless.

When you are able to see yourself as the hero of your own journey, you begin to act as though everything you do has meaning. You begin to take on challenges, not because it means you will succeed, but because it gives you the best chance at finding your truth, your purpose, and your meaning.

I hope this article is useful. I'm a licensed psychotherapist (similar to a psychologist) in Vietnam. If you feel like counseling could be useful, or if you'd like to talk more about your Hero's Journey, please feel free to contact me for assistance.

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