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It’s About the Journey and the Destination: A Quick Guide to the Hero’s Journey Framework

hero's journey


One of the biggest film franchises across the globe was a critical flop. The original Star Wars film was ripped apart by critics, but still became a cult classic and continues to be an uber-successful franchise.

How did this happen?

A classic story of a Hero’s Journey won the hearts of millions of moviegoers. The initial success of Star Wars wasn’t because of a marketing mastermind but because the story of a small-town boy, Luke Skywalker, beating the odds and creating an impact across the galaxy resonated with viewers.

Luke Skywalker: A Prime Example of the Hero’s Journey

Luke is a great example of the Hero’s Journey. In the original Star Wars film, Luke is living a simple village existence, he receives a calling to leave Tatooine and become involved in a struggle on a greater scale. Teamed up with the Rebel Alliance, he goes through a series of challenging tests where success, victory, and even survival is not guaranteed. Luke confronts terrible threats and dangers. Through this experience, he improves, he learns, and he channels his talents and gifts. Fundamentally, as an individual, he is changed by his experience. Upon the defeat of this test, he is ready to share his newfound talents and gifts with the world.

The Universal Relevance of the Hero’s Journey

We can all relate to the Hero’s Journey and apply this mythos to our own life. You are on your own Hero’s Journey. If you look at any big struggle you have or are experiencing, the struggle is where you discovered or gained the gifts you now have and you move on throughout the world sharing those gifts.

Understanding the Hero’s Journey Framework

What is the Hero’s Journey?

Mythologist Joseph Campbell was an academic who first identified and shared this pattern. In 1949 he published his book Hero With a Thousand Faces, in which he described the Hero’s Journey as the “monomyth”, an overarching myth found in societies across time and the globe.

The Three Stages of the Hero’s Journey

There are three main stages of the Hero’s Journey.

  1. The Departure: Stepping into the Unknown

The first is a departure or separation where the individual (hero) leaves a familiar place or way of being to embark on an adventure. A modern example of this could be leaving home to go to college or quitting a comfortable position you’ve held.

  1. The Ordeal: Confronting Challenges and Acquiring Gifts

The next stage is sometimes referred to as ordeal or initiation. At this stage, the hero enters the unknown. You head into an unfamiliar, uncertain space or location and experience challenges, struggles, and people as part of the new experience. This looks like moving into your college dorm or starting your new position at a startup. This is where you fight a dragon or duel with Darth Vader. You face a test. This is the experience where you typically acquire a gift. The result of the challenges you faced. Often this can look like an internal change or a gaining of life skills. Moving across the country to go to college gave you a level of independence. Or working at a new startup helped you maximize your pitch.

  1. The Return: Sharing Your Gifts with the World

This gift acquisition leads to the final stage – the return. You can return home, literally or figuratively, with the gift or change you earned through your struggle ready to share it with the world or your community.

Embracing Your Hero’s Journey

This framework gives context, meaning, and purpose to your life experience- both struggle and success. Each stage in this process has value and propels your personal growth. If you’re struggling you can remember you are in the initiation phase but you’re still a Hero. You’re a Hero at every stage, each stage is a part of your personal development. You embark on your own Hero Journey, and I embark on mine.

The Hero’s Journey is a blueprint of a consistent human experience. You will have your own unique aspects to yours, but in many ways, we will be doing the same work on the same Hero’s Journey. The events and learnings are different but the journey is the same.

In conclusion, the Hero’s Journey framework serves as a profound guide for understanding and navigating our own life’s adventures. Just as Star Wars captured the hearts of audiences worldwide by embracing this narrative structure, we too can embark on our personal Hero’s Journey, drawing strength from the challenges we encounter and utilizing our acquired gifts to leave a lasting impact on the world. It is not solely about reaching the destination; it is about embracing the journey and the growth it affords us along the way.

This article is related to a podcast interview with David Shechtman – Listen here.

Photography by Kelley Raye //

Dr. Caneel Joyce is a CEO Coach and social scientist who helps people break out of the invisible traps and make whole-life changes easily and naturally.

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