One of the timeless stories in our human existence is ‘The Hero’s Journey’. Attributed to Joseph Cambell, the American academic and researcher, this powerful metaphor for change has been revealed in many of his books (e.g. The Hero With 1000 Faces) and interview series (e.g. The Power of Myth, with Bill Moyer).
Fictional writers often use this personal transformation model to develop their characters and storylines and as a global metaphor, it translates readily across cultures and nations.
The hero’s journey was famously used in collaboration with George Lucas, during the writing, planning and production of the first Star Wars movie – one of the biggest grossing film releases of all time.
One of the big challenges we can face, as trainers, coaches and consultants, is making powerful, yet detailed work, understandable and relatable to everyday people, who need practical help to get through their own major change challenges. We all might benefit from this as well!
Big picture and road maps
It can be very helpful to have large scale roadmaps, to help us navigate turbulent conditions and new journeys. Especially when we get stuck in dead ends and limiting patterns of belief, behaviour, attitude and perception, etc.
So here is a simplified version of The Hero’s Journey, offered to you as a high level roadmap, to navigate your own personal challenges and difficult situations more effectively…
Explore – Decide – Commit – Engage – Complete – Review – Share
When we understand our bigger picture and where we are in this Hero’s Journey process, we can clarify the immediate learning opportunities being presented to us and change our conditioned and ‘stuck’ responses to something new.
When the context is clear, we are more likely to engage and empower ourselves to move through blocks and obstacles, that are apparently holding us back.
This stage is about exploring the current situation and hearing our inner calling, amongst all the noise.
Exploring our present challenges involves taking stock of where we are, whats holding us back and where we would like to be.
This stage prompts us to explore not only the what, but the why.
What purpose is the current situation serving?
What if, everything happens for you and not to you?
What if, your present difficulties were simply showing your next evolutionary journey options?
This stage is about metal reframing and preparing our ability to move forward.
Starting to map out where you are now and creating a compelling vision of the future you strongly relate to, is a key part of this activity.
Beginning with the end in mind and working back from that, creating simple milestones, can liberate many levels of clarity and structured thinking. Right to left thinking.
Even just creating a powerful intention or well crafted vision of the future, will often be enough to convince your brain that something needs to change and that the time is now.
What do you need to do to create an outline gameplan of the way ahead?
This stage is about emotional commitment, not mental brainpower.
No matter how ‘clever’ you are in your head, if your heart is not in it, then it’s likely you will run out of steam part way through, before completing the journey. Head without heart aligned is a very short term strategy.
At this point, there is a real emotional threshold to cross – a point of no return, that fully commits you to your new chosen path. This can often feel like being thrown in at the deep end, to see if you can swim.
Something to consider here, is that this Hero’s Journey process is running in our personal evolution cycles, whether we are consciously aware of it or not!
Often when we cross an emotional commitment threshold, a mentor or teacher of some kind can appear, somewhat magically at times.
What will you do to fully commit to your desired outcome, that means no going back?
Once emotionally committed and having crossed the threshold, this Engage stage is about facing your ‘inner demons’ that come up and transforming them into positive and usable resources.
Our demons in this regard, are our fears, uncertainties, insecurities, self doubts and unspoken truths.
Often we don’t want to confront our deepest and darkest fears and can live a life of pretence, causing unnecessary suffering. As some spiritual teachers put it ‘pain is an inevitable part of life, however suffering is optional’.
The longer you avoid facing your demons and fears, the longer the period of suffering.
The transformation and turning point is when you can look yourself in the eye and accept your fears as a valid and acknowledged part of you. To quote Louise Hays book, you ‘feel the fear and do it anyway”. This is not about the absence of fear, but its transcendence.
Often compassion and self love are key components to liberating suffering and transforming demons into sources of strength and empowerment. So being kind to yourself is important.
What will it take for you to face up to these hidden parts of you, that are striving to get your attention and acceptance?
This stage is about gathering and organising your newly liberated resources and applying them to the necessary work ahead.
There could be new skills and capability sets that require discovery, alignment and honing. Maybe there are new ways of perceiving things or paradigm shifts that completely change your outlook.
So this is a practical application process that can often iterate around other areas of engagement, empowerment and transformation of fears into strengths.
What new resources will you apply, to revolutionise your journey and personal capabilities, to complete your task?
This stage is about completing the work and finding your way home.
The abilities include keeping going to the end and facing every new challenge with new and improved resources.
Commit, engage, equip and complete are all components of what is called glibly by some, as ‘execution’ of work requirements.
Being flexible in your approaches and finding new ways to tackle problems arising is drawing on the levels of emotional resilience and commitment previously created.
It’s this personal firepower and determination to succeed, against all odds, that drives and delivers the necessary work.
Can you be driven, yet flexible enough in your approaches, to allow different ways of completing the task to emerge?
Review is a repeating stage throughout the journey, for without feedback, we cannot understand where we are or what we have actually achieved. Nor can we recognise the value of our work (or non-value add activity).
This stage iterates with equip and complete in particular.
Its important to be clear about the priorities and criteria we use to review progress and how this information helps us re-plan, re-organise, lead and do the essential work.
In team based scenarios, both effective leadership and followership should be properly supported during review processes.
Do your personal and professional review processes motivate and inspire you and others involved?
This stage is about sharing your learning and stories, in useful ways, with those who care.
Otherwise known as ‘knowledge management’ in many business environments, the processes of capturing and sharing best practices and expert know-how could be framed a celebration of the whole hero’s journey.
Sharing stories with other key stakeholders involved will clarify very different insights and learning experiences, from the same roller coaster ride shared experience you all had.
How do you capture and celebrate your personal and professional learnings and who benefits from this afterwards?
And finally… You are a Hero already! – Did you know?
We are all ‘Hero’s’ in our own lives, many times over, often engaged with multiple journeys simultaneously, be they personal, professional, spiritual, physical, etc.
As Joseph Cambell remarked, simply being born is a transformational hero’s journey, from a tiny water creature to an air breathing baby.
Having used this simplified Hero’s Journey format in many trainings and coaching conversations, as well as structures for performance support learning technology systems (see https://www.nextlevelconsulting.co/innovations/learning-technology-new-genre-performance-support-coaching-system-creation) its value as a self-referencing guide and orientation road map cannot be understated.
How many Hero’s Journeys have you been on already, without knowing it?
If you want some help navigating through major challenges and want to connect more deeply with ‘The Super Hero that is You!’, then get in touch…
Nick Le Clere is a strategic change consultant and facilitator, executive leadership coach, trainer, innovator and speaker, running online webinars and learning events for business clients and conscious business leaders of the future.
To book an initial strategy session appointment – please click here.