Do you find yourself frustrated with the current state of your life? Or maybe a specific part of your life? At the end of the day, maybe you don’t know whether what you’re doing now is what you want to do with your life.
The map of the Hero’s Journey is absolutely true for every one of us in our journeys to become the very best versions of ourselves. In the beginning, we have to step out of the expectations and limits that others have for us, then hone our skills and strengths, and finally use the culmination of our experience to make a difference in the lives of the people around us.
We look at these fictional and factual figures, and we may feel frustrated, and wonder: Why can't I do that?
If we allow those feelings to fester, and we make choice after choice after choice to accept what we can get rather than what we really want, the easier it is to distance ourselves from those figures who have followed their bliss, and more so distance ourselves from the opportunity to follow our own bliss.
So, have you ever had a moment where it seemed as if the most relevant experiences of your life had prepared you for that very moment?
The monomyth begins with the main character, or Hero, in one place, and ends with him in another — both physically and emotionally. Campbell asserts that this Hero is the same regardless of the story, and that he appears in different forms. This is important because the hero can be the star quarterback or he can be the accountant in cubicle nine. The paths are different but the journey is the same... But Campbell’s thesis is not simply that nearly every culture in history has found an identical and effective way to tell stories; it’s that the commonalities in storytelling exist because they are a fundamental part of the human experience. The monomyth isn’t only the structure of how we tell the undertakings of heroes and characters in stories, it’s also how we relate those stories to ourselves, and, in a very real way, how we understand the things that are happening to us.
I would take it a step further.
I believe that while the monomyth is exceptional for storytelling, and therefore exceptional for exploring cultural ideas, it can have just as great an impact when applied to an individual — when applied to you. Put somewhat more directly, the Hero’s Journey is the perfect lens through which to view any change in your life — whatever new journey you’re taking, you will go through all of the phases of the monomyth as you grow, adapt, and ultimately fulfill your goal.
Of course, I’m not the only one who suggests this. For years, the Campbellian model has been used by people in various fields to help people advance; for example, some therapists use it with their patients to help structure psychoanalysis. Similarly, it’s used to help people deal with the grieving process — after all, the 5 stages are grief each have their mirror in the monomyth. Still others use it for mindset or success coaching — helping people understand where they are in the journey not only provides a sense of comfort and control, but also a clear path, making it easier, conceptually, to get to the next phase.
Because all changes in your life can fit into this structure, whether you realize it or not, at any given time you’re going through at least one such journey — and mastering the ideology of the monomyth will make you more successful. Because not only is the Hero’s Journey a lens for viewing change, but it’s also an excellent operating thesis for propelling change forward.
Indeed, the heroes of the 21st century will need different skills and abilities than those of yore. They need a narrative that helps them orient in the increasingly complex world in which they live. They need flexibility to deal with ever-changing social and technological landscapes. They need listening and negotiation skills to be able to work with others whose opinions and needs may differ. They need to reframe the terms of the battle from "us vs. them" to "where do we share a common goal, and how can we collaborate to create something bigger than each of us?" As educators, we have an opportunity to help our students develop appropriate 21st century narratives to take with them on their journey...
Back in the olden days, there was a clear distinction between storyteller and audience. Now that we have literally hundreds of new social story platforms, we are co-creating stories with others all the time. As such, our new heroes are no longer lone warriors. Instead, they can witness each others' epic wins and fails, and offer support to one another from worlds away when the going gets tough.
Of course, the social storyweb creates all kinds of new quests for our young heroes. We have new issues of identity and digital citizenship...