Any piece of wisdom can be reduced to a cliché, including the indisputable fact that life is a journey. Nevertheless, one way or another, we are always in motion in an effort to accomplish something and, consciously or otherwise, be transformed in the process. In fact, this metamorphosis is such an integral part of our existence that we roll our eyes at the banality of it anytime someone repeats the mantra:
It’s about the journey, not the destination.
And so, somewhere along the way (see? our point exactly), this wonderful truth has lost its meaning. But let’s really ponder on it for a second. Time might be a relative concept, but change and progress are tangible. Sometimes, we literally pack our suitcases and travel, other times we sit down to work through an emotional problem in our journals – in both instances we arrive either at a location or at a conclusion.
You reading this article right now is a journey in and of itself because, with every word, you are moving forward.
The Hero’s Journey
The goal – the destination – gives us orientation. Without a sense of direction, we would not be able to go anywhere. But it is the journey that unpacks the real meaning of our escapade. Nowhere is this more visible than in stories.
Joseph Campbell, an American writer and professor of literature, discovered a narrative pattern that he systematized into a theory of the monomyth. In his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, he presented a common template for stories: a hero sets out on an adventure, overcomes a set of obstacles, and returns home changed.
The archetypal hero’s journey is very much part of our everyday quests as well. And since summer is the perfect time for adventures big or small, we thought we’d show you how to reflect on them as you go. Because it isn’t always obvious that the journey is our story. With every step we take, we both discover and create ourselves. So pack your tote bag and let’s go.
“Get up, get up, there are worlds to conquer.”
― V.E. Schwab
Departure: The Call of the Wild
The first stage of the hero’s journey is the call to adventure. More specifically, you answering it (or not) and leaving your ordinary world (or not) to pursue a goal.
Have you ever wanted to start a new passion project but fear and doubt stopped you halfway to the drawing board? Have you ever felt that initiating a conversation with that special someone could be the beginning of a wonderful relationship but your lack of confidence stood in the way? Or maybe you opened a word document and after deleting the first line of your novel for the twentieth time you lost faith?
We feel you. If life being a journey is such a cliché, going out of your comfort zone is an even bigger one. But the choice is simple, you either risk it and learn from potential failure or stay under a warm and cozy blanket of security. What is there to gain, and what is there to lose? If we had an answer, we would certainly enlighten you, yet one thing is certain ― no innovation has ever been achieved by staying in the same place, and no solution has been found by treading the same path. We know you know that.
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and make a trail.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Initiation: Distance from A to B
The second stage is the work you need to put in to achieve what you set out to do. It’s about crossing the threshold, about the ordeal and the results that it brings.
Here we have a heartwarming story for you. During the 2010 Zheng-Kai Marathon, Jacqueline Nyetipei Kiplimo witnessed a double amputee competitor who struggled to drink water. She could have easily run ahead of the athlete and won the race. Instead, she ran alongside him for over 20 km helping him hydrate at every watering station on the route. Needless to say, this incredible act of kindness slowed her down and caused her to finish 2nd. She not only lost the race but also the prize of $10,000.
In our book, Jacqueline Nyetipei Kiplimo won big time. Here, it’s literally about the journey, not the destination. It’s about whose life you change in your own quest. It’s about who you are and who you become in the process. We can easily bridge the gap between point A and point B. But the full result involves how we do it.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
― Robert Frost
Return: There and Back Again
The final stage of the hero’s journey is your victory and triumphant return home. It’s about knowing that the place you come back to is the same place you left for adventure, yet somehow, everything is different now.
Have you heard of Plato’s allegory of the cave? In this story, there are people chained in the grotto with their faces toward the back wall. They can’t see anything apart from shadows moving on the wall in very dim light. This is the only reality they know and they never question it. Until one of them breaks the chains and walks out of the cave. He is blinded by sunlight and stunned by the beautiful world outside. Enlightened, he returns to the grotto and tells the others about his findings but nobody believes him.
It is because none of the others answered the call to adventure. The one who did is now a changed man who knows new possibilities and can therefore reach new heights. There is no going back from this catharsis.
The path is made by walking and, more often than not, bravery pays off. We would never encourage you to be reckless, but progress is an action word – you need to take a step in some direction anyway. Go where your heart yearns to be and travel in more ways than one.
We’d also like to take this opportunity to thank you all for making Intelligent Change part of your journey. Nothing motivates us more to keep uncovering new, less traveled paths for you than your support.