Time for a bit of hero worship

Something on your mind, or a new challenge to meet? Then take a journey, suggests Jurgen Wolff, as he continues his summer-long series

One of the greatest luxuries of holidays is having time to think about yourself and where you'd like your life's journey to take you. Free from some of the pressures that face you during term-time, it's possible to have a different mindset. A useful tool for considering your future is a mythological model called "the hero's journey".

The late Joseph Campbell spent his life studying the myths of many different cultures. He found that one pattern kept recurring: the hero's journey. Typically, these are inspirational stories of a quest, in the course of which the protagonist not only reaches an objective, but in some way is transformed by the journey, and often finds out how to benefit others. Frequently, the stories are metaphorical, with the treasure that is being sought being a symbol of wisdom. Many contemporary stories, including the Star Wars films, still use this pattern.

This model of human experience is so strong that it can also guide "ordinary heroes". If there is something you would like to accomplish, considering yourself the hero in a quest can be tremendously energising. Beyond that, the steps of the hero's journey can serve you as a planning tool, whether your adventure is learning a new skill, facing a fear, or undertaking a new project.

I have listed the stages of the hero's journey below, as adapted from Campbell's model. You may find it enjoyable to use it to consider one of your life goals and to answer the questions that accompany each of the steps. It's best to do this in a relaxed state, when you won't be interrupted for 10 or 15 minutes.

* The hero is introduced in his or her ordinary world. What are you doing just before you embark on this journey?

* The call to adventure. What has made you realise that you have a problem or challenge and want to embark on this new adventure?

* The hero is reluctant at first, with a fear of the unknown. What is your greatest fear about this adventure?

* The hero is encouraged by the wise old woman or wise old man. Who could serve as a mentor for your journey?

* The hero passes the first threshold and enters the world of the story. What is the first step of your commitment to the adventure?

* The hero encounters tests and helpers. What will be the early challenges? Who'll give you support and encouragement, and who'll hinder you?

* The hero reaches the innermost cave and endures the supreme ordeal. What will be your greatest challenge?

* The hero seizes the sword and takes possession of the treasure. What is the "treasure" that you seek, and how will you know when you have found it?

* The hero returns to his or her ordinary world with the treasure and shares it with others. When you have completed your adventure, how will it change your life and how, directly or indirectly, will it benefit others?

Helen Keller, the blind mute, said: "Life is an adventure or it is nothing." Your holidays could be the right time to plan your next heroic adventure.

Next week: Let your mind explode - with ideas!Jurgen Wolff is a hypnotherapist and writer. His most recent book is 'Do Something Different', published by Virgin Business Guides. His free monthly Brainstorm creativity e-bulletin is available by request to BstormUK@aol.com.

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