I’m about to assert something that might make you uncomfortable: You are a hero.
We all can be if we take a page out of Joseph Campbell’s book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Long-time Brian Clark fans should recognize the construct, as he’s taught marketers about taking their prospects on a hero’s journey for the better part of two decades.
Campbell’s framework, aka a monomyth, isn’t just a potent storytelling structure and marketing tool. It’s also a perfect psychological construct to help you reframe your life’s story to find new meaning as you write your next chapter.
We Can Be Heroes
The hero’s journey involves a protagonist (hero) who embarks on an adventure, triumphs over a defining crisis, and returns home positively transformed. (Think Luke Skywalker’s evolution from Tatooine bumpkin to Jedi knight).
Now, let’s personalize that story. New research shows putting your life in a mythological context with you as the hero can increase your well-being, satisfaction, and resilience. No need to do any embellishing — as the study’s author, Benjamin A. Rogers, says
The way that people tell their life story shapes how meaningful their lives feel. And you don’t have to live a super heroic life or be a person of adventure — virtually anyone can rewrite their story as a Hero’s Journey.
After all, our brains are wired to tell stories. So if you feel the best is in the past, the future is dim, and you’re at a crossroads — in other words, if you believe the outdated story of midlife — now’s the perfect time for what Rogers calls a “re-storying intervention.”
The hero’s journey as a psychological tool isn’t new; therapists have used this construct for years. Some of the ways experts suggest using it include:
- Reflective journaling: Take the seven elements of the hero’s journey from Rogers’ research and free write on them: protagonist, shift, quest, allies, challenge, transformation, and legacy. Reflect on your unique attributes, core values, challenges, mentors, experiences, and how you want to be remembered.
- Decide who would “star” as you: Psychologist Nancy Irwin says noticing the qualities of the person you’d pick to play you in the movie of your life helps you see yourself objectively vs. subjectively.
- Go on a real heroic quest: It can be as simple as trying something new to practice overcoming fear. Rogers advises asking yourself, “If I want to have a more meaningful life, what are the kinds of things I could do?”
- Be flexible: You’ll likely have to change directions along the way, so first, notice how far you’ve come and then carry on.
It’s said the joy is in the journey, but that’s often easier stated than seen. By reframing your story and embracing any uncertainty along the way, you’ll discover the courage of a true hero — and the meaning necessary to fuel your ongoing quest.