Hey Friend! I love a good hero story, don’t you? Cheering on the underdog to beat the bad guys. It’s the best! Maybe you don’t know the term “hero journey” but you have certainly experienced it. It is the story in our favorite books, movies, and throughout history. It’s the story we all love.
It’s also the story of our life with important life lessons for abundance if we pay attention.
What is the hero journey?
The hero journey is a cycle of growth, of hearing a call to greatness and acting on it.
It looks like this:
An ordinary person living an ordinary life is suddenly called to go on a challenging adventure that will help mankind in some way.
The person is reluctant to go – even scared, but with the help of a wise mentor proceeds. Our now-hero enters an unknown world and experiences tremendous difficulties.
Eventually our hero comes to the greatest ordeal yet – the main crisis facing the enemy. After a great battle, the enemy is defeated and the hero gains the reward that will help all mankind.
But wait! Our hero isn’t safe just yet. On the return home our hero faces a final struggle against a hidden evil that is even harder than the main crisis. In this final win, the hero is transformed with wisdom and spiritual powers. Sweet victory!
(See The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell, p. 211)
Does this sound familiar?
When I first learned about the hero journey, I was fascinated and thrilled as I could see patterns and truths not only in the lives of my favorite heroes in books and on the big screen, but also in my own life.
If you look carefully you will see this pattern in your favorite hero stories. For example: Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lion King, and Lord of the Rings. In these stories, the hero follows this path, capturing our hearts and keeping us on the edge of our seats as we cheer. Sara McGuire, at vengage.com shows us how our favorite characters in some of our favorite movies go through each step of the hero journey.
The idea of the hero journey is based on the work of Joseph Campbell. As an expert researcher in the field of mythology, Campbell noticed patterns in the hero stories throughout the history of the world and documented these patterns in his 1949 book The Hero with a Thousand Faces in which he explained a hero journey of 17 steps. That book and his work inspired storytellers such as George Lucas of the Star Wars films, as well as Hollywood executive Christopher Vogler who modified Campbell’s ideas into a simpler 12 step hero journey.
As I describe the hero journey here, I’ve created a more personal version adapted to you and your life as a woman living day to day doing her best to live life abundantly.
The Hero Journey and Living Life Abundantly
The hero journey is your story too. You are starring as the hero in your own life. There are important lessons we can learn from the hero journey that lead to greater abundance. When we are aware of these lessons we can act in ways that bring abundance. If we don’t know about them we may miss opportunities for growth and greatness all together.
Let’s first establish a foundational understanding of what the hero journey is and what each step along the hero journey looks like. I hope to help you recognize and successfully navigate the steps in your own hero journey. Then, I’ll share four life lessons for abundance from the Hero Journey.
Steps on Your Hero Journey:
Mundane Ordinary World: You are comfortably living your life in the ordinary world.
A New-Ordinary: You leave the world of the unknown and return to a “new-ordinary world” with the power and freedom that accompanies transformation.
You Receive Another Call to Greatness! The cycle continues, spiraling upward into growth and progress and greater goodness done in the world.
In this journey, there are important life lessons that will either make or break you. Understanding these lessons will either propel you to greatness or hinder your progress. Being aware of them gives you confidence and courage.
Life Lesson #1
Recognize Your Calls to Greatness and Who is Calling You.
In the Hero Journey, the hero is living a comfortable life. Think of Frodo in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Frodo is living happily in the Shire, no worries, but no real growth opportunities either. Eat, drink and be merry! But then Gandalf tells him that he must destroy the One Ring. He is given a call to adventure. He is called to do something hard, outside himself and his comfort zone, to benefit others.
Another example is from Star Wars: Luke Skywalker is living an average life working in Tatooine when he gets the plea for help from Princess Leia. In both these examples our ordinary heroes are called to do something great.
You also have calls to greatness. Can you think of what they are?
Calls to Greatness
For me, some calls from ordinary life to greatness have come in big ways: pursuing my education, marriage, becoming a mother, homeschooling my children, leading Aspire Scholar Academy, and now starting this website. Each time the call came, I left one comfortable way of living to embrace another new and scary adventure. Each adventure and call required leaving my comfort zone and venturing out into uncharted territory. And each brought with it great challenges and exquisite joy and blessings.
Some of my calls to greatness have come in small ways.
I remember heading to the grocery store one afternoon. I wasn’t feeling very well that day and the shopping would take all my energy. I had a thought. I had recently heard of a woman in my church congregation that was homebound due to chronic illness. I hadn’t met her yet. I just had a name. I thought to call her and ask if I could pick anything up for her at the store.
I hesitated…making that call felt awkward! And I didn’t feel well so taking the extra time to find her apartment and haul her groceries up to her would be taxing for me. But…I just did it and in the end was rewarded with her gratitude and the knowledge I had truly been a tool in God’s hand that day.
And I made a new friend as a bonus! It was a simple thing. But I could have easily dismissed it and refused the call.
Maybe it is slowing down in the rush of the day to stop and really listen to a friend and have a conversation. Or to listen to your child in the moment. Or to put away your plans for the day and do the thing you feel impressed by God to do for someone else that day.
Who is Calling You?
I believe that God has power to conduct his work in this world anyway he wants. But he often chooses to enlist us, frail humans, to do his work for him. He gives us calls to action – he inspires us or presents us with opportunities to do something great to make the world a better place, to help someone else, and to move his work forward.
This is how he does his work in the world and within our hearts.
What does it feel like to receive a call to greatness? For me it comes as an idea that keeps returning. I start seeing that idea in everything and I recognize a pattern that puts all the pieces together.
It can also can come from an outside suggestion. Or a feeling that moves me to action. As the call crystalizes in my heart and mind, I receive a peace and confidence through the Spirit confirming that this is what God wants me to do.
Once I accept the call, I feel a committed determination. Then I get to work and marvel as I feel God’s orchestration and help.
Calls to greatness can also look like any of the following: gain an education, serve a religious mission, get involved in a charity, lead an organization, take on the care of a sick family member, create a friendship, forgive someone, write a book, start a business, research family history, change to a more healthy lifestyle, paint a painting, start a family, repent and change from a personal sin or weakness.
I believe you have great purpose, life missions, and co-missions with God to accomplish in your life. Through the Spirit you are invited in small and big ways to accept calls to greatness – to help God fulfill his work and his glory and to be a tool in God’s hand.
I believe we all do.
It’s important we recognize these calls for what they are. And be determined to act. How sad to not recognize the calls as they come, or to choose not to act because we’re scared or don’t want to be uncomfortable. I believe as we understand who is calling us, we will have the courage to act on the calls more often.
Life Lesson #2
Seek Help from a Trusted Mentor
Our favorite story heroes have great trusted mentors to guide them and help them on their way.
As we embark on our calls to greatness, we too need to seek out wise mentors.
John Rampton of inc.com gives 10 reasons why we need a mentor:
- Mentors provide information and knowledge.
- Mentors can see where we need to improve where we often cannot.
- Mentors find ways to stimulate our growth.
- Mentors offer encouragement and help keep us going.
- Mentors are disciplinarians that create necessary boundaries that we cannot see ourselves.
- Mentors are sounding boards to our ideas.
- Mentors are trusted advisors.
- Mentors can connect us to others that can help us.
- Mentors have the experiences you can learn from to prevent making the same mistakes beginners make.
- Mentors help you out of care and passion for you and the work you are doing.
For me, mentors have come in the form of a friend, a spiritual leader, or a parent. Sometimes mentors can be authors of books, thinkers, and communicators we’ve never met but whose words inspire and encourage us.
The thing is to find someone that is successfully doing the thing you want to do. They don’t have to be perfect at it, but just enough ahead to know the obstacles you will face to guide you through to success.
Ultimately, for me, I look to God as my most important Mentor. I often don’t know what I’m doing as I blunder along on my hero journey. But as I seek inspiration from the One who gave me the Call, I feel reassured to get the best help I can. Sometimes that help comes in the form of other people put in my path that can answer my questions. Other times courses come my way or I receive spiritual impressions that help solve my problems.
Just this morning as I was waking up I said a silent prayer there in the coziness of my warm covers for help for a specific problem I needed to solve that day. Just as the words of my plea came out an immediate, clear idea came to my mind that I hadn’t thought about for years but was the perfect answer to my problem. It was the exact solution I needed in that moment for the work I needed to do that day. God is so good! I am mentored by the Spirit this way often when I am fulfilling a call that I know God has commissioned of me.
The nice thing about this Mentor is that, unlike those favorite movie characters listed above, this Mentor isn’t going anywhere, is all powerful, and is infallible.
Life Lesson #3
Expect and Embrace Hardship & Opposition in Your Hero Journey
I received and accepted a call: I WOULD create this website to share my message of abundance, even though the idea terrified me and I knew nothing about starting a website. But I knew it was a call from God and I felt thrilled to share this message. I started on the path and felt great enthusiasm. I felt like Frodo heading out of the Shire to destroy the ring. Then, the opposition came in like the Black Riders on their huge horses.
I realized that there would be haters to my message.
I started to feel defeated even before I got started. As I was confiding in a friend about my discouragement, she said, “Welcome to the hero journey!” And that totally changed how I saw my roadblock. She was right!
Think about your favorite hero movies: did Hans Solo just waltz onto the Death Star unopposed and casually pluck Princess Leia from captivity? Did Simba just show up at Pride Rock and was crowned king? Did Harry, Ron, and Hermione gain the Philosopher’s Stone with one try?
And if they did that would be a boring story.
It’s in the tension, the struggle, the opposition that things are interesting and growth happens.
Did I think it would be easy-peasy to send out a message I felt called by God to share? That there would be no opposition. Well, I had hoped. But not so.
Anytime we are creating something great or following a call to greatness, there will be opposition. There will be trials, struggle, and push-back. And if we can know that ahead of time and plan on it, we will not be thrown off by it.
We will be prepared to dig deep and keep pushing forward even amidst hurdles. The hardships will not deter us, they will motivate us. As we push through we grow in power and resiliency.
Kristen Kieffer from well-storied.com explains this in terms of an author using the hero journey, but her words apply to us living our own hero journey just as beautifully:
“Trials and tribulations begin to crop up, forcing the hero to fight hard to keep moving forward. In many cases, these conflicts prey upon your hero’s doubts, fears, or personal character flaws, jostling your hero’s resolve. Still, your hero presses forward, determined to achieve their story goal and complete their journey despite the heightened stakes and increasingly dangerous conflicts on the road.” ~Kristen Kieffer
While listening to the Feel Good Effect podcast one day, I heard guest Candice Kumai explain that, unlike American culture, in her heritage Japanese culture, hardships are expected. Worst case scenarios are what you count on.
This really intrigued me! I have a nice habit of trying to avoid hardship.
She said that when you expect hardship you are resilient and keep pressing on. You are not surprised or discouraged by hardship. You welcome and embrace it and it doesn’t stop you in your tracks. That was super eye-opening to me. I felt determined to change my mindset on that and instead of dread hardship, embrace it.
I’m not sure why we get caught off guard when things get hard. We are warned in scripture that we will have opposition but also that it will be ok. Opposition will make us better, stronger, and all things will work together for our good when we are on the Lord’s call.
I like to imagine scenes from epic stories and brave heroes battling for good when I read the following verses of scripture. And I like to picture myself – and you – right there with them. For we all will fight tribulation as we courageously press forward on our hero journey:
So when things are way more difficult than you imagined on your journey to something great, take heart. Hard is part of the process and will be for our good in the end. And heroes before and after you have it just as hard.
You can do it! You’ve got this and God’s got you.
There is no enemy (no dragon in its lair, no hater, no obstacle) that is so invincible that it can’t be overcome with God on our side.
“If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
When we have a conviction that the work we are doing – that the call that has brought us on the hero journey – is from God, it helps us push forward with confidence, determination, and patience through the expected trials and tribulations we encounter on our hero journey. We can persevere.
Life Lesson #4
Choose Greatness Over Mediocrity
When the going gets hard, it can be so tempting to bail. To lose hope. To give up. To say never mind and think it’s just not worth it. But RESIST the pull to turn around and abandon your call. Too often in life people give up before they find the treasure or reach transformation. It feels too hard so instead of pushing through they turn around and head back to the comfort of the “normal life”.
The problem with that is you get stuck in mediocrity. You get stuck in the NO GROWTH ZONE.
Then your self-esteem and worldview gets distorted: you doubt you can succeed, you feel numb and dull in your life, you feel aimless and without a purpose. You stop progressing.
Sometimes if we are not careful, we never engage in our calls to greatness due to our fear of the unknown and unwillingness to be uncomfortable.
We stay stuck in a stagnant treadmill of humdrum.
This cycle of mediocrity is NOT the Abundant Life. It is exactly the opposite.
Abundance is growth and progress! Abundance is purpose, courage, faithful action, and hope.
Imagine if Frodo gave into the distracting lure of the ring and never made it to Mount Doom? What if Harry Potter just decided it was too scary to face Voldemort? What if Simba decided it just wasn’t worth the pain and effort to confront his guilt and fight Scar?
They would have refused the call to greatness and we all would have thrown popcorn at the movie screen.
Scott Jeffrey wrote a great article about the hero journey at scottjeffrey.com. He says:
“Because of our fear of the unknown, many of us refuse the call to adventure. We delay our journey in many ways:
- Put important things aside
- Distract ourselves with social media and other people’s lives.
- Make excuses.
- Become lazy.”
Isn’t that fascinating? And tragic!
When we put important things aside, procrastinate, distract ourselves, make excuses, and become lazy we are actually saying “no thank you” to God’s calls to greatness for us.
That is sobering to me.
But the thing is…we can keep saying no, but we will keep confronting the same problems in ourselves until we get them figured out. We have lessons to learn in this life. We have work to do.
“And if you return from the moment of despair—from inside the dragon’s lair—without the reward (or lesson), you will undoubtedly be presented with a similar adventure repeated ad infinitum until either the lesson is learned or you give up.” ~ Scott Jeffrey
Instead of running on the treadmill of mediocrity, let’s take on the challenge of greatness!
The Hero Journey is the Story of Abundance!
We’ve learned here that the hero journey is actually our story.
The hero journey is a continual growth cycle of:
- Listening for and acting on calls to greatness.
- Seeking out trusted mentors.
- Choosing greatness over mediocrity.
- Persevering through expected hardship.
- Overcoming weakness.
- Helping others.
- Becoming stronger, better, and more powerful to accept the next call to greatness.
An abundant life is a growing life. It is an expanding life. It is a life that has purpose and joy and action. It is a life of working hard for something greater than yourself. It is a life of greatness. And you were made for greatness!
You have the seeds of deity in you – who are you not to be great? This is expressed so beautifully in one of my favorite quotes:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
~ Marianne Williamson
So hey, Friend, what is calling to you? What are you being invited to do? I encourage you to slow down in your busy life, pay careful attention, listen, and then act courageously on the calls to greatness you receive.
There is so much joy, purpose, and power on the other side of ordinary.
Hey, Friend, are you ready to live life more intentionally and to accept those calls to greatness? Check out this article on living life mission. I think you’ll find it especially interesting and supportive as you embark on your hero journey. Read the whole series to learn what life mission is, how it can transform your life, and how to live life mission. There is an awesome connection between living life mission and your hero journey. See you there!
Want to learn more about opposition? Here’s a favorite talk you might also like.
Photo credit storm: Photo by Matt Hardy on Unsplash
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