“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”
– Joseph Campbell
The Hero’s Journey
In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell describes the Hero’s Journey as a life-altering quest where, after passing through trials, the hero is transformed to a higher level of consciousness.
The stages of the journey are:
1) The “call.” The hero sets off on a quest.
2) The journey into unknown territory.
3) The supreme ordeal. As Campbell puts it, “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”
4) Sharing the wisdom gained.
Being on a Hero’s Journey enhances the hero’s perception. They feel like unseen forces are intervening to protect and guide them. The hero has a sense that everything happens for a reason.
The Hero’s Journey of Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was on a Hero’s Journey in his life long quest to become president. In Lincoln’s case, his Hero’s Journey made him aware of the lessons and stories in every day experiences. Life had meaning and seemingly random incidents held significance. He could draw out the deeper gist that existed just below the surface of most people’s perception.
Grasping “The Big Picture”
Several years ago, when I worked in Honduras, I came across two stonecutters.
“What are you doing?” I asked the first stonecutter.
“Squaring the stone,” the man replied.
“What are you doing?” I asked the second stonecutter.
“I am building a cathedral,” the man replied.
Okay. The second guy was a little presumptuous, but he still gets points for seeing the big picture.
Your Hero’s Journey
I believe that we are all on a Hero’s Journey, and like Lincoln, we are endowed with the ability to discern the profound stories and parables that unfold before our eyes every day. We have only to be prepared to see them.
Convert Affliction to Anecdote (Activity)
Put yourself in the right perspective to capture the stories of your daily life.
Write down the significant bad things that have happened to you in life. Then, as bad and unfair as these incidents might have seemed at the time, identify some lessons you learned from them, or how you became a better person as a result.
Here are some examples (based on personal experience):
1) How missing a flight and having to spend the night in a strange city with your kids became a treasured memory.
2) How an illness indicated you that you needed to make changes in your unhealthy life style.
3) How being replaced by a chimpanzee at your job led you down the challenging path to work that was closer to your heart.
4). How you looked deep inside yourself for the fortitude to bounce back from a dismal failure.
Are the catastrophes of life bad, or is life just trying to teach us a lesson?
The Hero’s Perspective: Change Your Unholy Mess to Unparalleled Metaphor
You show me someone who is on a Hero’s Journey and I’ll show you a resilient, unflinching individual who converts life’s challenges into stories of inspiration, strength and humor.
To paraphrase author Norman Maclean, from A River Runs Through It,
“In the end, all our failures and successes merge into one, and a story runs through it.”