“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Viktor Frankl (“Man’s Search for Meaning”)
Being average is easy. Letting your past circumstances dictate your present life is something we all struggle with.
It doesn’t have to be that way. We can embrace our struggles and learn from them.
You’ve probably heard the term – The Hero’s Journey – before. The phrase was coined by author, Joseph Campbell, in his book “The Hero With a Thousand Faces.” The term Campbell uses is Monomyth, which is a cyclical journey typically undertaken by a “hero”. During this journey, the hero goes through three primary stages – The Departure, The Initiation and The Return. Each stage has multiple subsections.
A very high level summary:
The Departure: The hero goes from their ordinary world to into some sort of call to action. In this stage, the hero begins the journey down a dark path.
The Initiation: The hero begins to encounter trials that test their will, which individually leads to a climactic ordeal that nearly brings them to an end.
The Return: The hero fights their way back and is “resurrected” into a new light. With the experience of the “Ordeal” they have a much better appreciation for the freedom they now experience.
There are many movies that highlight the Hero’s Journey. Some examples are Star Wars, The Lion King and The Lord of the Rings (and most other “super-hero” based movies). Then, you have movies like Fight Club or The Wizard of Oz, both highlighting the immense struggle of the human spirit followed by redemption.
One of the greatest movies of all time, The Shawshank Redemption, may be the best example.
The story of Andy Dufresne, sent to prison to serve two life sentences, unfairly convicted of murder. Andy experienced extreme challenges. From being beaten to being raped, it would’ve been easy for him to cash it in. You know the story – he spends twenty years planning his escape and one chisel at a time eventually escapes prison.
One of the most popular movie lines of all time sums it up best – “I guess it comes down to a simple choice really. Get busy living, or get busy dying.”
Andy knew he had a choice. He had the awareness, the hope and vision to bring himself out of the immense challenges he faced.
We all face these challenges in some way in our lives. Probably not to that extent, but there’s no doubt we go through the hero’s journey. It’s a topic I’m fascinated with. I get to work with people like Adam Helbling, who is a great example of this. He went from being on top of the world to a free fall which led to a near-fatal car accident just three years ago. Now paralyzed from the chest down, he’s found his Redemption and is teaching others about perspective. He’s nailing his Hero’s Journey.
Look, here’s the thing – I know you’ve probably been knocked around by life and may be dealing with something even today (or know someone who is). I can tell you that there’s magic in seeing the silver lining and keeping the perspective that someday redemption will be at hand. It’s not easy but changing your perspective is paramount.
The truth is that our greatest struggles are many times are greatest contribution to others. Think about your own journey – are you embracing the role of the Hero?
Here’s what I want you to do. Think about someone you know that’s going through or has been through this immense struggle. Talk to them about The Hero’s Journey and see if you can give them some inspiration and hope that things will get better. The human spirit is an amazing thing if we don’t suffocate it.