More Than Fiction.

The Hero’s Journey was framed by Joseph Campbell in 1949 to explain how stories are developed. His template for story structure appears in almost every movie and novel. As it turns out, the structure is not only useful in fictional stories. It also follows the patterns of our own real-life personal growth journeys.

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Bringing The Hero’s Journey To Life

This works so well in story-telling because it’s relatable. We connect to the hero because we believe we are the hero.

Whether literally or metaphorically everyone has walked in the hero’s shoes at one point or another. Luckily, when we’re aware of it, we can use what we know about the hero’s journey to create the life we want.

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The Three Stages of The Hero’s Journey

There are three stages to the Hero’s Journey, each a critical phase in their evolution. In the world of story, the hero moves from one stage to the next. In the real world, we move back and forth through the different phases depending on where life takes us. By understanding the stages, we can make sure to get the most out of each while we’re there. We often have more control over them than we realize.

The Departure

In the beginning, the hero goes about everyday life as an ordinary person in an ordinary world. But something isn’t right. They feel a certain unrest, like something is missing. This motivates them to make a change, even if they’re not sure what that might be exactly. In real life, this might be a job we are content with but that leaves us unfulfilled. It could be a relationship that is comfortable, but brings us little joy. Or it might be a passion that we’ve long ignored for no good reason. Something is nudging us toward the edge of our comfort zone. And it’s almost time we make a decision.

The Initiation

That decision is whether or not we will stick our necks out enough to pursue the calling. In the Hero’s Journey, the Initiation Stage is when the main character is pushed to the point where they have no choice but to set out on an adventure. This adventure occurs in a different “place”, the Special World. For us, this means we’ve decided to test ourselves by expanding into new areas and taking on new challenges. During the Initiation Stage we enter into a period of growth and development which will change us forever.

The Return

In the Hero’s Journey, the Return Stage is the result of their call to adventure and pursuit of greater meaning. The triumphant hero returns back to the Ordinary World a changed person. They have overcome hardships and have improved in the process. It is the happy ending. In real life, the “return” is not always as smooth or happy, but we’re fundamentally better than we were before. We’ve persevered. We’ve grown. We now see the world and our lives from a new perspective.

Becoming The Hero of Your Story

Keeping one foot in the Ordinary World and the other in a place that pushes us to grow beyond our comfort zone is a healthy balance to strike.

Once we’ve ventured into the Special World, and experienced the kind of growth available to us there, we understand the potential it holds.

The path to create the life we’ve imagined runs through all three stages of the Hero’s Journey. The sweet spot is in the twilight between the Special World and the Ordinary World where we can learn, grow, and apply, all at the same time.

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