I came across the concept of the hero’s journey when I needed it most — while struggling with my father’s death. Among his shelves of books was “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” by the famous cultural anthropologist Joseph Campbell. It describes a story that has been told in every culture since ancient times.
While it has many variations, the hero’s journey has a simple core plot: The character answers a call to leave home, faces all kind of obstacles, discovers a treasure and returns home victorious and enriched.
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What struck me most, however, was Campbell’s point that every hero possesses the preparation, tools and support to succeed in his or her quest, whether it’s a magical weapon, a latent special power or characters who appear at the darkest moment to offer support and guidance along the way.
After reading the book and reflecting on my own journey, I took an inventory of all the resources in my favor — supportive, savvy friends; past successes improvising in new situations; a gym membership to work off the stress, etc. — and realized I was up to the dual challenges of grieving while sorting out my father’s estate.
Becoming the hero of your story doesn’t necessarily demand extraordinary acts of bravery or selflessness but rather the ability to slay one’s inner dragons and conquer challenges that threaten to overwhelm you. This can take patience, faith and small but persistent steps in the right direction.
If facing the conflict in your story seems daunting, you can help yourself in one of these two ways.
1. Change your attitude: Take charge by reframing the challenge as an opportunity. Ask yourself, “What is this situation testing?” Consider this obstacle as a personal growth workout and target the emotional and spiritual muscles you need to strengthen.
2. Marshal your resources: When life presents you with challenges, prepare to tackle them by becoming consciously aware of your personal strengths and all the resources — people, practices, inspirations and lessons learned from previous experiences — that support you.
The challenges in your life story are yours alone to face. By changing your attitude and marshaling your resources in a consistently positive direction, you may discover that the challenges confronting you are more possible than you realize.