Find Your True Calling In Life
Your Hero’s Journey
If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.
~ Joseph Campbell
At this point, I suspect that you find yourself in one of three situations:
- you are working on your Mission statement
- you found your Mission, and are working on your True Expression
- you found your True Expression and are contemplating the implications of implementing it in your life
Regardless of where you find yourself, this last lesson will bring an awareness and perspective to your life’s Calling, and will help you re-frame it within the Hero’s Journey.
What Is This Lesson About?
This lesson is based on the work of Joseph Campbell (1904 – 1987) who was an American mythology professor and writer, best known for his work in the fields of comparative mythology and comparative religion.
He mentored George Lucas, who based the Star Wars story in large part on Campbell’s mythology studies. Joseph Campbell is also responsible for the phrases “Follow your bliss” and “The Hero’s Journey.”
If you are already familiar with his work, then this last lesson will be a refresher. However, for those who are new to his work, you will discover the elegant mapping of the Hero’s Journey to your life story.
The Hero’s Journey is also called the Monomyth, the “single story” that every hero or heroin embarks on. After studying the mythologies of the world, Joseph Campbell found the same sequence of patterns present in the different stories of the cultures around the world. Although the details of the stories may be different, the stages of the journey all have a common thread.
How Is The Hero’s Journey Related To You?
The framework presented here, i.e. the Hero’s Journey, will bring an understanding of how your life’s Calling is integrated with the trajectory of your life.
You will be able to see your life story within the Hero’s Journey. With this perspective, you will be able to re-frame or create a map of your own life’s journey, and how your new-found Calling integrates with it.
The purpose of this last lesson is to give you the perspective that: finding, accepting and implementing your life’s Calling is the journey. As you embark on this journey, you will encounter various stages, recognizing them as an integral part of the journey itself will be a valuable guide to you.
Finding, accepting and taking action towards your True Calling in life is your Hero’s Journey.
What Is The Hero’s Journey?
Here’s a short description of the whole journey: “First, the hero is introduced in his ordinary world, where he receives the call to adventure. He is reluctant at first but is encouraged by the wise old man or woman to cross the first threshold, where he encounters tests and helpers. He reaches the innermost cave, where he endures the supreme ordeal. He seizes the sword or the treasure and is pursued on the road back to his world. He is resurrected and transformed by his experience. He returns to his ordinary world with a treasure, boon, or elixir to benefit his world.”
The journey can be described in three chapters and 12 steps that can be mapped into every hero’s (you) adventure (life).
The three chapters are:
- The Departure from the ordinary: you leave the comfort of the ordinary world.
- Transformation: you undergo difficulty and overcome it.
- The Return: you return with new knowledge and share it.
Many Hollywood movies are based on these three chapters. For example, the Start Wars trilogy, Lord Of The Rings, etc.
The 12 steps are:
- The ordinary
- The call to adventure
- Reluctant to accept
- Helping hand
- The threshold
- Innermost cave
- The supreme ordeal
- Slay the dragon and take possession of the gold
- The difficult return
- The return
During this journey, you will pass through the four stages of learning:
- You don’t know that you don’t know.
- You know that you don’t know.
- You are aware that you know the skill.
- You master the skill and you don’t think about it while doing it.
This is a lot to absorbs, so let’s break it down and examine it in detail. As you read through it, attempt to place your own progress within this journey.
But before we get into the details, here’s a very well produced 4 min Youtube video that describes the Hero’s Journey and the steps (note that the actual naming and order of the steps is different, it’s not so important).
I. The Departure From Ordinary (The Caterpillar)
1. The Ordinary (You Don’t Know That You Don’t Know)
The journey starts with you as the hero of the adventure, but at this point, you don’t know it. You are living an ordinary life, a routine has settled in.
However something has already started to stir deep inside, something that you are not necessarily conscious of at this point. Gradually, it becomes more prominent and you feel an uneasiness in your life.
2. The Call To Adventure
That uneasiness now takes a more prominent role in your life. Perhaps it’s a questioning of priorities and beliefs, something that was important to you before, now has lost some of its meaning. You may ask yourself, “is this all there is to life?”, “what am I supposed to do with my life?”, “who am I?”, etc.
The Universe is now calling you to start your adventure, to embark on the journey of self-discovery; to bring that uneasiness up to the surface in order to examine it and take action towards it.
3. Reluctant To Accept
There is often reluctance to accept the call. You disregard the call either because, i) the pain is not strong enough yet, ii) you fear change and the unknown or iii) you don’t know how to proceed. Therefore you choose to maintain the status quo, but the unease has not dissolved. So for a while, you live in pain and stagnation, reluctant to accept the call.
Accepting the call to adventure is a choice, you either accept it or ignore it. Ignoring the call will gradually bring about a fog in your life that will instill a comfortable numbness.
You need to know, the fog is not the world, it’s not even the state or the town or the neighborhood. It’s simply the spot you’ve chosen to stand at this moment. No longer just a matter of fate, but rather choice. ~ Johnathan Fields
The reluctance you face is your EGO’s attempt to steer you away from the call. Why? Because choosing to accept the call, and begin the journey, is equivalent to bringing awareness to part of the EGO and reveal it as the impostor that it is. The EGO does not want this.
4. Helping Hand
You come across an idea, a book, a philosophy, a movie, a person that will offer you the needed tool, information or knowledge that will be the spark to start the journey.
This helping hand may also encourage and inspire you to take action. With this guiding hand, the energy barrier to accepting the call becomes smaller and therefore, possible.
5. The Threshold
The helping hand leads you to the threshold, near the edge of your comfort zone.
This is a place or state of mind where you feel like you don’t belong, because things are different, things are new, you don’t understand all the rules. This is a sign that you are about to embark on the actual journey, you will be taken far away from your ordinary world and into a new reality.
II. Transformation (Metamorphosis)
6. Training (You Know That You Don’t Know)
You enter a state of learning and training. Even though you learn and discover this new world, in reality, you are really learning and discovering yourself. You become aware of how little you really know about this new world, you are way over your head.
You are likely to spend a considerable amount of time and energy in this step. You dig deep in the learning process, you read, watch and listen in order to absorb as much as possible. You may not realize that the transformation has already begun, and may even become frustrated by your seemingly slow progress.
7. The Innermost Cave
You become aware that the transformation that began in the previous step is really about inner transformation. You become aware that you are far from where you started. You are now at the deepest level.
You are between the stages of: “you know that you don’t know” and “you know that you know”.
This is a state of mind that will test your training against a fierce dragon. That dragon is your EGO, and what you are facing is the dilemma of finding, accepting and implementing your Calling.
The helping hand (or another resource) leads you to this innermost cave, but cannot enter it with you. You must choose to enter the cave by yourself. This is a very important step, because you know that entering the cave means that a personal battle is imminent. All the work you have done up to this point will serve you.
The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek. ~ Joseph Campbell
8. The Supreme Ordeal (You are aware that you know the skill)
The supreme ordeal may be a few things: i) the battle against your EGO for the acceptance of your Calling in life, ii) making the necessary lifestyle changes to start taking action towards your Calling, or iii) a major shift in mindset.
This ordeal may also contain elements of “letting go” of something or some idea that you have been holding onto.
Expect something to die, with the expectation that something else will be born.
The dark night of the soul comes just before revelation.
~ Joseph Campbell
9. Slay The Dragon And Take Possession Of The Gold
You take action and get past the major hurdle. Very likely, that hurdle was only in your mind.
You accept something new, maybe it’s your Calling in life. Something new is born.
You now have access to the gold that the dragon was guarding. The gold is analogous to an experiential understanding that was previously only available as intellectual information.
The poison that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. You assimilate the power of the dragon you slayed.
III. The Return (The Butterfly)
10. The Difficult Return
Your new-found Calling is not necessarily easy to incorporate in your life, because the rest of the world has not made this transformation with you. You are hesitant to expose yourself to ridicule, you feel vulnerable, you want to stay where you are because, after slaying the dragon, it’s now a place of comfort.
Family and friends will question you, sometimes strongly. Your actions will seem unreasonable and illogical to them. You are disturbing their EGOic perception of you, and themselves. They have the uncomfortable, intuitive, yet unconscious knowing that you moved forward while they did not.
The transformation is nearly complete, you are emerging from this experience as a new person. You may still face difficulties but they are easier to win, and with each round you become stronger.
You begin to expose your new self. Even though you still feel some vulnerability, you are nevertheless, transformed. You know this to be true.
You stand up for the first time and firmly anchor your feet and stand erect. You have battled the dragon and won, you have gained experience, knowledge and most importantly, confidence.
Allow this new-found confidence to shine. Not in the EGOic sense, but with the purpose of being true to yourself and serving others. You are about to become a beacon.
12. The Return (You mastered the skill and you don’t think about it while doing it)
You return to the ordinary world with the experience and knowledge that you gained on the journey. You re-enter your old world, but as a new person, you are now operating at a higher level.
From your new vantage point, you could never have imagined this new state of mind when you started on this adventure.
People may or may not recognize your new found state, regardless, you are now ready to help and serve others.
Then the journey starts over again.
Your Life’s True Calling Will Save The World
By finding and taking action towards your Calling in life, you are saving (and healing) yourself from the misalignment that plagues most of Western culture. By doing so you are living according to nature.
Moyers: “In this sense, unlike heroes such as Prometheus or Jesus, we’re not going on our journey to save the world but to save ourselves.”
Campbell: “But in doing that, you save the world. The influence of a vital person vitalizes, there’s no doubt about it. The world without spirit is wasteland. People have the notion of saving the world by shifting things around, changing the rules, and who’s on top, and so forth. No, no! Any world is a valid world if it’s alive. The thing to do is to bring life to it, and the only way to do that is to find in your own case where the life is and become alive yourself.”
Bill Moyers Interviews Joseph Campbell
Bill Moyers interviewed Joseph Campbell as part of a 1988 PBS TV special series. A total of 24 hours of footage were captured and 6 hours of those were used to create the PBS special.
The quotes below are snippets from episode 1 called The Hero’s Adventure.
“…there is a certain typical hero sequence of actions, which can be detected in stories from all over the world, and from many, many periods of history. And I think it’s essentially, you might say, the one deed done by many, many different people.”
“Well, there are two types of deed. One is the physical deed; the hero who has performed a war act or a physical act of heroism and saving a life, that’s a hero act. Giving himself, sacrificing himself to another. And the other kind is the spiritual hero, who has learned or found a mode of experiencing the supernormal range of human spiritual life, and then come back and communicated it. It’s a cycle, it’s a going and a return, that the hero cycle represents.
But then this can be seen also in the simple initiation ritual, where a child has to give up his childhood and become an adult, has to die, you might say, to his infantile personality and psyche and come back as a self-responsible adult. It’s a fundamental experience that everyone has to undergo, where in our childhood for at least 14 years, and then to get out of that posture of dependency, psychological dependency, into one of psychological self-responsibility, requires a death and resurrection, and that is the basic motif of the hero journey, Leaving one condition, finding the source of life to bring you forth in a richer or more mature or other condition.”
“If the person doesn’t listen to the demands of his own spiritual and heart life, and insists on a certain program, you’re going to have a schizophrenic crack-up. The person has put himself off-center; he has aligned himself with a programmatic life, and it’s not the one the body’s interested in at all. And the world’s full of people who have stopped listening to themselves.”
“…our life evokes our character, and you find out more about yourself as you go on. And it’s very nice to be able to put yourself in situations that will evoke your higher nature, rather than your lower.”
“The real dragon is in you.” “That’s your ego, holding you in.”
“My general formula for my students is, follow your bliss, I mean, find where it is, and don’t be afraid to follow it.”
“Well, if the work that you’re doing is the work that you chose to do because you are enjoying it, that’s it. But if you think, “Oh, gee, I couldn’t do that,” you know, that’s your dragon blocking you in. “Oh, no, I couldn’t be a writer, oh, no, I couldn’t do what so-and-so is doing.”
Moyers: “But you say I have to take that journey and go down there and slay those dragons. Do I have to go alone?”
Campbell: “If you have someone who can help you, that’s fine, too. But ultimately the last trick has to be done by you.”
“He is ready for it. This is a very interesting thing about these mythological themes. The achievement of the hero is one that he is ready for, and it’s really a manifestation of his character. And it’s amusing, the way in which the landscape and the conditions of the environment match the readiness of the hero. The adventure that he’s ready for is the one that he gets.”
“…these the main character is the hero or heroine, that is to say, someone who has found or achieved or done something beyond the normal range of achievement and experience. A hero properly is someone who has given his life to something bigger than himself or other than himself.”
Reframe your own personal journey of finding, accepting and implementing your life’s Calling according to the three chapters and the 12 steps of the Hero’s Journey.
The great life is one hero’s journey after another. ~ Joseph Campbell