Perspectives: The importance of accepting your hero’s journey and watching for mentors along the way

Stock image, St. George News

OPINION — A hero’s journey is common to most stories and mythologies. Watch nearly any epic movie and you’ll see the protagonist follow a familiar pattern. It begins with a calling or purpose that leads the would-be hero out of ordinary life and into a journey of personal growth.

As the hero travels through the tests, traps and trials that are found outside our comfort zone, mentors and helpers provide needed insight and encouragement. Eventually, the hero faces an ultimate test that requires his or her purest efforts.

When that test has been met and overcome, the hero may return to ordinary life, empowered with legitimate strength and abilities that can be used to help others.

Once this pattern has been pointed out and recognized, it’s nearly impossible not to see it at work in movies, plays, books, songs and other stories. But this doesn’t mean that it should be limited to abstract storytelling.

How differently would you live your life if you sincerely believed that you were in the middle of your own hero’s journey?

A hero’s journey should not be understood as some self-aggrandizing Walter Mitty fantasy. Instead, it speaks to humanity’s timeless need for individuals who have consciously chosen to live out their full story by accepting their deepest sense of personal mission.

Their journey forges them into the kind of people who are uniquely equipped to help others as they move forward. It should never be mistaken as a pathway to status.

Status can poison our inter-relationships, even as it poisons our self-image. After all, it requires us to think of others as adversaries and to compulsively compare positions.

But the journey is about becoming the best version of ourselves. Typically, that happens through a long, often difficult process that is known only to the person who is undergoing the journey.

Though there may be common themes to describe the hero’s journey, it is a highly individualized experience. It requires greater humility, perseverance and a serious willingness to learn.

This is how truly great people are produced.

Patanjali explained the concept more than 2000 years ago:

When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break your bonds; your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.

So why do so few people choose to become the hero of their life story?

Genuinely heroic things are, by their very nature, quite rare. They require a willingness to go above and beyond what others are doing without compromising our personal character.

There are other costs as well. A person doing heroic things can expect to be misunderstood, betrayed and hated. They’ll experience failure and run into walls as part of their journey. Sometimes they will find themselves as the antagonist.

The difference between the hero and everyone else is the hero’s willingness to see the journey through – whatever it takes.

One of the surest indications that you are experiencing your own hero’s journey is the appearance of mentors.

These are individuals who possess the specific knowledge or skills that we must master as part of our growth. It’s fascinating to look back over my own life’s path and to recognize how certain mentors came into my life at precisely the moment their help was needed.

I met some of my most influential mentors shortly after moving to Southern Utah in 1996.

Abe Neighbor was the kindly old man from Brookside who first introduced me to the timeless wisdom that could be gleaned from old books. His love of liberty, combined with a willingness to read original sources and to do his own study was a powerful example to me.

Reading about what the founders of this nation were thinking – in their own words – is a far better resource than simply reading someone else’s opinion of the founders.

Jerry Askeroth was another life-changing mentor.

He was a tall, thin, painfully shy writer with a sharp – but not cruel – sense of humor. He encouraged me to write and provided me with needed criticism and encouragement during our regular breakfast meetings at the Bear Paw Diner.

What’s remarkable to me is that the full impact these mentors were having on me wasn’t clear until many years later. Small adjustments that I made under their tutelage many years ago continue to affect the current trajectory of my life today.

Each of us is currently writing an epic story by the lives we choose to lead.

It is intensely liberating to choose to take off our mental shackles, ignore the naysayers and critics and take the first steps of that heroic journey.

You’ll need no one’s permission but your own.

Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events and liberty viewed through what he calls the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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