“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.”
Can a book completely change your life ?
I think yes. If a book resonates with you in a profound way it can shake your soul and your take on life.
I just finished re-reading a great book that at one time helped me to start getting my life and emotions on track.
Back in my mid-twenties there was time when I felt lost and my emotions were all over the place. One day, I was having coffee with my good friend, Sani, and he gave me his copy of ‘The Power of Myth’ by Joseph Campbell – handwritten notes included. I figured there was nothing to lose by giving it a try. It moved me then, and fast forward almost twenty years later, it still moves me.
The whole book is great, but the chapter that stands out is called ‘The Hero’s Adventure’. The ‘hero’ refers to you, I, and every person. The adventure that the hero takes part in is the story of their own life. It’s the story of you. The journey that you take in your own life. It’s about how you overcome difficulty, exploit your potential and impact the lives of others.
The adventure of the hero helps them discover who they really are, not because they kill the monster, save the planet or win the love of the prince/princess. They discover who they are as they are forced to dig deep inside to unearth the qualities that make up their character. Those qualities, discovered and then applied in the real world, are what helps you discover who you are. As Campbell made the point,
“We’re so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it is all about.”
Insights that will help you reflect
I took away 15 insights from the chapter when I first read it years ago. You might find these helpful if you are thinking about how to change your life or find more meaning.
When I first read this chapter and tried to apply most of the insights I took from it, the way I saw myself and life changed.
- Keep an inner focus: the hero tries not to fall off their path or be distracted too much if it will delay them from living their purpose or discovering this.
- Humility: the hero might think their path, circumstances and life are unique compared to everyone else. That they are special or deserve to be recognised as special. However, they. realise this thinking will only lead to self-inflation and thinking in this way is a fantasy.
- Acceptance: the hero applies perspective to trials, pain and difficulties. They see these as chances for realism, focus and growth, not situations to keep him mentally or emotionally imprisoned. Even if the hero complains and moans occasionally, they know life hasn’t got a vendetta against them. They think about what they can do to improve things.
- Logic: the hero has a realistic sense of their limitations and strengths. They don’t suppose these will always be the same, because they know things can change. They don’t just give up. They know skills and habits can be learnt to improve weaknesses and they appreciate and celebrate what they are good at.
- Awareness: the hero knows the danger of being too self-absorbed. They may be determined to win and be successful at achieving their goals. However, self-absorption is only to achieve their purpose and not to take to forget the people in their life or the community that support them. Otherwise, the hero’s work and ideals can easily turn into something that ‘devours’ them and alienates others.
- Courage: the hero has to take risks even if are afraid. They know that fear, if allowed to take over, gets in the way of new experiences. They try not to assume the consequences of a situation or event will be worse than the probable reality.
- Self-discipline: the hero is careful in what they choose to provide energy and stimulation. This includes what affects their thoughts, their words and their actions. They know too much imbalance could derail the success of their life journey.
- Patience: the hero knows when to say no to others and to themselves and wait for the right kind of opportunity (not perfect opportunity). When it comes, patience is replaced by action.
- Compassion: the hero knows how crucial it is to have self- compassion when they’ve done something that threatens the success of the journey or has harmed others. They know how important it is to come back to the present instead of living in past with regrets. They focus on taking the right action, making amends and reconciliation. There is no time to waste energy on grudges or regrets.
- Flow: the hero realises that life turns in cycles and seasons (success and loss, clarity and confusion, joy and sorrow). They concentrate their personal will and power to go with these flows.
- Responsibility and determination: the hero never blames someone or something else for their circumstances if in their heart they cannot truly say they’ve tried their best in whatever situation they face.
- Honesty: the hero must be prepared to ‘go against the crowd’ but not to be a rebel for the sake of it. The hero confronts any conflict in their heart by ultimately being honest (not rude) with themselves and others. They know the greater prize is to follow one’s heart if this will lead to growth, renewal and happiness.
- Love: the hero is conscious about the impact his thoughts, words and action have, both on themselves and others.
- Respect: the hero respects equally the ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ inside themselves and in others, understanding both are crucial for wholeness and success. They respect that we all have our own unique blend and mix of the masculine and feminine inside us. By being themselves, the hero helps others to be comfortable with who they are too.
- Service: the hero realises using their life and energy to be of service in small and big ways is how they can contribute. In the words of Campbell, “the influence of a vital person vitalises.
I think some of questions that The Power of Myth encourages readers to think about are very practical questions in age of hyper-living and insecurity that’s also matched by amazing opportunities at the same time. They help you reflect on yourself and the kind of person you want to be.
How do I overcome difficulty?
What might be the best way to get my life back on track?
How can I contribute to the life of the world, friends, family and ‘neighbours?’
How can I find out who I am?
What can I learn from others who have taken their own path in the world to help me on my journey?
To make my biggest dreams real, what must I commit myself to?
What is the best way to direct my passion into something that is productive?
How can I best live in a way that honours my values and what I believe in?
How do I deal with reality and the randomness of life – especially when at times things might seem cruel, underserved and unfair?
How do I manifest and honour the creative in me?
Campbell basically argues that myths, when understood and interpreted properly, provide a valuable source of instruction in heroism. By this, he doesn’t mean celebrity. He means the kind of heroism that can be applied to daily life, as part of the bigger and personal journey of striving to make the best of your one life.
So, some of the heroic acts that the hero in many myths and stories carries out externally demonstrate qualities that everyone can apply internally. Campbell argues that the better emphasis is to try and embody these qualities and extract their value so we can apply these in our own daily lives.
In essence, how can we heroes to ourselves in whatever stage of our own personal journey we are on, whatever ‘dragons’ or ‘rainbows’ we are facing? In learning how to be a hero to yourself, you are more likely to eventually forge the direction and shape of your own life.
I’d thoroughly recommended checking out Campbell’s chapter, if not the whole book, or catching some of his interviews on YouTube.
What to do next?
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Check out some other articles I’ve written. I hope they help you.
- Give yourself permission to live the life you want
- 3 Tips on HOW TO BE HAPPIER
- 4 Tips On Job Hunting And Handling Uncertainty
- Why Having A Life Purpose Helps You To Be Happier