In every life there are many calls to adventure. When you accept, you may have fun. You may get beat down a bit, but you always grow. If you do enough of these, you become the hero of your own story. If you refuse enough of these, they stop coming. You may end up living a life of quiet desperation instead of really living. Think about this before you refuse the call to adventure.
Let me break this down for you so that you know the call when it happens.
We all start out in the ordinary world as ordinary people. Life is predictable. We know what to expect, but there is also something uncomfortable about it. Or like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, we may be in a space of Ignorance is Bliss.
Call to Adventure
Then the call to adventure hits! It could be something internal or outside the hero. Maybe it’s a life change like a new baby, a divorce, or a death. It could be an overwhelming feeling of not being fulfilled. It could be a problem or challenge. Who knows? It could be love! Or maybe it’s travel or job opportunity. Whatever it is, it fills you with desire and wonder about the possibilities.
There is always fear, uncertainty, anxiety, insecurity, and risk of failure. If there weren’t, it wouldn’t be an adventure. It also wouldn’t result in the growth required to become a hero. If you’re just doing what you expect, you’re not on a hero’s journey.
Refusal of the Call
Most heroes say no at first. Life may be uncomfortable, but it’s not that uncomfortable. The risk of moving forward may be too daunting. Change could be scary. The hero may feel unprepared. If he doesn’t change his mind, he stays in the ordinary world.
Meeting With the Mentor
Your own life’s adventure may be different, but in the mythological template, the hero now meets with a mentor. In modern day terms, this could be a book, motivational coach, spirit guide, dream, grandparent, tour guide, religious leader, or teacher of some sort. This person or tool provides the necessary guidance, training, equipment, inspiration or knowledge to make the leap. This is usually an actual person.
Crossing the Threshold
Changed by his experiences, the hero no longer fits in the Ordinary World. His view of it has changed. He has changed. Like it or not, the genie can’t go back in the bottle. This is another uncomfortable phase because the hero is not at home yet in the new world, but doesn’t belong in the old. Fortunately, he’s armed with new wisdom and resources that makes moving forward easier.
Tests, Allies, and Enemies
During this phase the hero learns how the new world operates. On a spiritual journey, this may mean coming to terms with the idea that not everyone finds the new you so wonderful. Perhaps you don’t know where to find people who believe like you do. Maybe you don’t know where the people in your life belong anymore. Lots of things are shifting around to create a new foundation.
As with most stages in life, there are some positives and negatives here. Setbacks could occur, but new alliances firm up. It’s a time for reorganizing and reviewing. Perhaps it’s time to remind oneself of why you’re on the journey in the first place.
Our hero now must face “death.” His biggest fear is before him. This is some sort of point of no return. It’s an “I will never be the same” or “If this happens, I will lose all I know of as myself” moment. On the other side of this is a rebirth. He’s got to lose himself to gain himself.
Now our hero gets his reward. There is time for celebration. He can catch his breath and replenish his energy. This reward could be love, peace, money, freedom, knowledge, or anything really.
The Road Back
The battle is over. Our hero has won, and there is nothing left to do but go back to the Ordinary World.
Oh, but wait! Surprise! The fight isn’t over! Something raises its ugly head, and the hero must once again prove his valor. Maybe it’s another rebirth where the hero incorporates all he’s learned. It could be that a purification is required to release the taint of the old self. Maybe he battles with old demons like addiction, greed, or fear.
Return with the Elixir
Victorious, the hero returns to the Ordinary World with his treasures and knowledge. He shares all he has, thus uplifting and changing the old world to a new one. Peace is restored. The hero has a place to call home, new friends, a new place in the social structure, and internal peace.
This pattern was identified by Joseph Campbell as an outline for many types of stories. I share it here because it’s also a basic template for life’s journey. Many people are called. Some answer. If you refuse the call to adventure, you can’t grow. This doesn’t mean that you can’t do it later. Just be aware that later eventually becomes never.
But let’s say you heed the call and start. There are many ways to get sidetracked along the way too. Campbell’s outline takes us to the end, but any journeyer can lose heart and drop out at any time. Starting a journey, even the most fabulous one, is not the same thing as finishing it. I’m hoping that by posting these phases, you get some insight into where you are along the path so that you don’t give up before the finish line.
Most people die with their song still inside them. This doesn’t have to be you. Be the hero of your own story. If not you then who?