Take a moment to reflect on yourself. Do goals that you’ve set seem impossible to achieve? Have you taken the time to set them? Do you feel stuck? The hero’s journey is the common thread woven throughout all storytelling. But, this cycle of adventure is important in more than just fairy tales because it’s personal. The hero’s journey is a map of life. It tells us that if you’re ready to head the call to adventure but feel lost on where to start, seeking guidance is the next step to take.
What Is The Hero’s Journey Exactly?
The hero or heroine’s journey is the cycle of adventure that your favorite book or movie character embarks on as you move through their story. This storyline can differ slightly but essentially can be broken down into three points. (Yes, this journey is also based on life itself.)
This is the jumping-off point of every story. Something happens to the main character, a discovery, or an event, that separates them from the “normal” world. An important sub-point in this stage is the aid (supernatural in some cases) the main character receives to push them to the threshold of separation. This can manifest as the discovery of magical powers, or that the main character is not who they thought they were.
*Spoiler alert* A perfect example of separation in popular literature is Harry Potter’s Hogwarts acceptance letter. When he receives his letter, Harry not only learns that he has magical powers, but also that he belongs in a world far different than the one he’s been a part of. Rubeus Hagrid bursts through the door on Harry’s eleventh birthday to push him over the threshold and onto his new hero’s journey.
This is the bulk of the hero’s journey—the entirety of the quest. Along the way, the hero encounters a mentor, helpers, and is tempted into a major conflict. The resolution of this conflict leads them to the final stage of their journey, their return.
Dorothy’s mission to find the Wizard of Oz in order to make it back to her family in Kansas is a classic example of the initiation stage. Glenda, her mentor, begins Dorothy’s journey with powerful ruby slippers and instructions to find Oz. Along the yellow-brick road, Dorothy meets her helpers, Scarecrow, the Tinman, and the Lion, and together they overcome their conflict with the Wicked Witch of the West and her (super creepy) flying monkeys.
This stage is the end of the hero’s journey. The character returns from their quest, but it’s more meaningful than just a homecoming. The important piece of a hero’s return is they come back changed in some way. This could be a personal change that alters their life or a lesson they learned that they must share.
Think about the end of any book you’ve read or movie you’ve seen. It’s probably a good example of the hero’s return. *Spoiler Alert* Harry Potter kills Lord Voldemort and Dorothy makes it back to her family in Kansas.
However, our heroes are changed. Harry learns a lot of lessons, the most important one being that, despite the death of his parents, he’s not alone. It’s okay for him to rely on his friends for help. Dorothy realizes that she can long for adventure, but her family is still important, and she shouldn’t take them for granted.
The Hero v. Heroine’s Journey
For the most part, the hero and heroine make the same journey. The main difference is the heroine must overcome the societal views of herself as a woman to fulfill her journey.
Back to our Wizard of Oz reference, Dorothy leads the quintessential heroine’s journey. During the separation stage, Dorothy must overcome the societal expectation that she will follow in her aunt’s footsteps and spend her life on her family’s farm. When she lands in Oz, the helpers she meets along her journey depend more on her rather than her depending on them, thus reversing society’s view of women’s dependence on men. Upon her return, Dorothy knows that she can live the life of adventure she wants, despite the expectations others have of her.
Seeking Guidance On Your Journey
So, you know the hero/heroine’s journey is important because it is a blueprint for life, but what does that mean for your life? If you’re stuck at the beginning and awaiting the push that doesn’t come, how do you take that leap? What if your mentor never shows up?
In an ideal world, these events would happen at the perfect time, but that’s not always the case. The following are tips if you find yourself seeking guidance in your hero/heroine’s journey:
1. Pause and Reflect
Take a quiet moment to block out the noise and be honest with yourself about where you are on your journey. Remember, according to the hero’s journey archetype, you won’t be standing at the adventure threshold until after the realization of a separation. What is it that you think has separated you from your normal life? Is it something you truly want to pursue?
In the same way, mentors don’t show up until the initiation stage after the heroes pass their threshold. Did you genuinely take that leap? Are you fully committed to your new journey? After you’ve considered where you honestly are on your journey, and you still feel stuck, it might be time to take matters into your own hands by seeking guidance.
2. Expand Your Network
Mentors can come from anywhere, and they don’t need to be people who know you best or for the longest. If you find yourself stuck at that threshold, wanting to heed the call but needing support, or you’ve already taken that leap and you need help, expand your network. Rather than wait for your mentor to come to you, seek them out yourself.
Seek like-minded people who share your values. If you find yourself feeling stuck, find some fresh inspiration in a new friend who pushes you to be your best.
3. Look Within
There is no one in the world who knows you better than you know yourself. If you feel like the best group of people surrounds you, and you’re supported in your quest, all you may need to take your next step could be within you already.
It can be easy to get distracted by the opinions of others. Let them think what they want, just don’t let that deter you from your path. Take a moment, pause, and listen.
Revisit the goals you set for yourself and your initial desire to fulfill them. Then, consider what you can do to further your journey. As helpful as a mentor can be, sometimes it can be yourself (your highest self and future-self included).
Stay Your Path
Wherever you are on your path, whether you know your next step or you’re still seeking guidance, it’s important to keep going. The worst thing you can do is quit. There is a reason for every separation, and that reason will only become obvious when you make it to the return stage of your hero’s journey. So, keep going. Lean on your helpers, push through conflict, and make it to your return.
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