|In the late 1980’s like so many other people, I was mesmerized by Bill Moyer’s Power of Myth interview series with Joseph Campbell. This is when I first became consciously aware that the heroic journey was not just a story about ancient history or idealizing someone on a pedestal, but actually had relevance to my personal life. It wasn’t until many years later, though, that I began to fully experience its true power and apply it in my day-to-day reality.
What I now know is that we are all heroic. The very process of transforming from an embryo to a fetus to a baby was our first act of heroism. None of us would be here today if we hadn’t repeatedly demonstrated acts of heroism to step outside of our comfort zone, explore the world around us and master new skills.
|The heroic journey is embedded in our archetypal programming as human beings. It is a template for how to effectively handle life’s changes that will inevitably come our way. Understanding that there is a path that we must follow to live a heroic life can help reframe what is happening in terms of its value to our personal growth, clarify the best choices to make, and give us hope when we encounter difficult times. In his book Deep Change: Discovering the Leader Within, Robert Quinn discusses the fact that the hero’s journey is basically a theory of change. He states, “Change is hell. Yet not to change, to stay on the path of slow death, is also hell. The difference is that the hell of deep change is the hero’s journey. The journey puts us on a path of exhilaration, growth, and progress.”
On a practical level, experiencing our lives from a heroic perspective means that every situation and person we encounter becomes an opportunity to demonstrate our personal heroism. Our “labyrinth of experiences” will present us with a variety of moral, ethical, psychological, and interpersonal tests to see how well we can put our principles into real life practice. Our heroism within will also urge us to become the best human beings we are capable of becoming.
Our heroic maturity is revealed by how we respond to our challenges. Can we embody traits such as integrity, truthfulness, authenticity, patience, commitment to quality, and adherence to personal value no matter what comes our direction? Do we treat others with fairness and dignity, nurture and encourage them to be their best, and give back to society more than we take?
We all have heroic potential. The choice is ours day by day, situation by situation, whether we fulfill that potential. We decide within ourselves if we feel like a victim of circumstance or an active participant in our unfolding heroic script. We may not have control over all of the events or the people we encounter, but we do have control over what meaning we assign to our experiences and our perception about their contribution to our lives as a whole. As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once said, “It is our duty as men and women to proceed as though the limits to our abilities do not exist.” Continually tapping into our heroism within helps us leap over our own limitations and attain the dreams we never thought were possible.