When we think about our heroes it’s easy and natural to refer to our service men and women, humanitarian campaigners or even the classic comic book legends. The interesting thing about these reference points for heroes is that they are so often ‘external’ to ourselves – that is, we always think of somebody else!
However, we know that the hero’s journey, as described by Joseph Campbell, is a distinctly human experience that is achievable for everyone – but only if we have the courage to choose it.
What is the hero’s journey?
The hero’s journey sees us taking the road less travelled, where we say no to both the benign safety of the ‘expected’ life mapped out for us by society and culture, as well as denying the path of rebellion where we exist on the fringe of what is considered normal and appropriate in our community. One choice is safe, the other is usually destructive to ourselves and our loved ones – but neither allows us to live with vision, courage and service to others.
The third choice is the road less travelled, the hero’s journey, and we follow our hearts. We go our own way, adventure on our own unique path and face our fears head on in service to a goal that’s bigger than us. This is the path of all great leaders, entrepreneurs and pioneers in their fields. And it’s not for the faint-hearted.
It might look like choosing to leave a ‘safe’ job to start your own business, or to straighten out our life and maybe overcome unhelpful addictions so that we can contribute to others, or it might mean following creative, heart-based pursuits even if there’s no likelihood of earning a decent dollar by doing so.
What does it mean to be leaders in our lives?
When we choose to be leaders in our life, business or family – rather than simply allowing life to happen to us as passive receptacles of other’s expectations – we are choosing the experience of the hero’s journey.
It requires more personal growth than any other choice. It demands courage, insight, wisdom, resilience and contribution to something bigger than ourselves. It’s a journey of discovering who we really are, of massive internal transformation which changes us in such a way that we can never return to who we were before. Indeed, the very process of facing our fears transforms us to the ‘next level’ of living, working and being.
The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.
I believe we all experience the whispers of the hero’s journey – callings if you like, to step up and follow our dream. It’s just that some of us can’t hear those messages because we allow them to be drowned out by the expectations of others, or we choose not to listen to them because we are afraid.
The thing that differentiates leaders from everyone else is the choice to listen to and follow those whispers because the rewards outweigh the numbing sense of safety in staying put where we are, even (and especially) when it seems risky and frightening.
Leaders choose to step forward into the unknown, to navigate uncertainty, face challenges and seek the right guidance along the way.
So, which path do you choose?
My question to you is: Will you choose to be the hero of your own life?
When will you decide to say ‘no’ to the expected, safe and predictable in favour of following your intuition, your heart and your dreams?
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.
If you’ve already made these choices, you’ll know that the journey transforms you in undeniable and undoable ways. And if you’re hearing the whispers, but still haven’t decided to step forward into your leadership journey, then what or who are you waiting for?
If you’re thinking of taking the road less travelled, of being a leader in your life, my message to you is simple: you have the power to choose.
I’d love to hear your story.