Life can be predictable and boring. We have our routines, know who we are and accept that certain things happen the way they do.
But sometimes things radically change. We alter the course of our life or are confronted by a major event. A major career move. A first child. Serious illness or divorce. When we start a business or do inner work.
These events disrupt the normal flow of things. Everything becomes different and the old ways of doing this are no longer valid. That can feel exciting, but also vulnerable and scary.
Although the nature of those changes is different for each of us, they all follow the same, predictable pattern called the Hero’s Journey.
This archetypal process—described by Joseph Campbell in his seminal book The Hero with a Thousand Faces—has a clear beginning, middle, and end.
At its core, the Hero’s Journey is a process of inner transformation. It confronts us with our inner demons, pushes us beyond our limits and challenges us to grow.
And it rewards us, after a long and difficult journey, with the greatest treasure of all: uncovering parts of ourselves that were first hidden deep within.
With this new self, this new identity, comes greater inner peace, compassion, strength and the capacity to do good in the world.
Let’s take a closer look at how this process unfolds.
Every Hero’s Journey starts with a call to go on a journey. This can come from within – something in you awakens, such as the desire to have a child, the desire for a better life or the ambition to start a business.
And sometimes the outside world calls you. You are fired, your company reorganizes, your partner leaves you or you become seriously ill.
Irrespective of how it begins, the calling demands that you leave your comfort zone and embark on an unpredictable journey with an unknown destination.
For that reason, our first reaction is often one of resistance. Who am I to go on a journey? I’m not ready. I don’t need this. It’s fine with the way things are. Why go if I am not sure I will succeed.
Suppressing your life force
This resistance comes from our inner demons. Our fears, insecurities, our feeling of not being good enough. They hijack our heads and our hearts.
Which doesn’t mean the resistance is entirely unreasonable. The Hero’s Journey is tough and dangerous, both physically and emotionally. It is easier and safer to stay at home.
At least, that is how it seems. The desires, needs, and aspirations that underpin the Hero’s Journey emerge from deep within us. They are forces that give energy, meaning, direction and joy to our life.
So we can’t really ignore them or reason them away. If we do, we pay a terrible price: a life of depression, resentment, cynicism, and a permanent sense of being unfulfilled and devoid of meaning.
Go on a trip!
This is no way to live. As humans we are built to discover, to go on an adventure, to express our natural inner growth in the outer world. The Journey of the Hero is thus a confirmation of our deepest motivations and the enormous power that is central to life itself.
Luckily, we often eventually cross the threshold and go on our journey, in search of ‘something’. Gradually we wake up, grow in ways we could never have imagined and find new ways to change our life for the better.
This applies to you, too. Life invites you to explore, to follow your calling. So tell us: what is the hero inside of you in search of?