The Hero’s Journey – what you have in common with Luke Skywalker

There’s a lot of talk in the personal and professional development world about “goals”.

Setting goals for the day/week/month/quarter/year is very much the language of coaching.

For many of my clients, these goals become something more significant. 

I like to call them quests.

Joseph Campbell’s famous book “The Hero’s Journey” explains how the main characters of many ancient and modern myths and legends, from Odysseus in Ancient Greece to Simba at Pride Rock, from Bilbo Baggins in Middle Earth to Dorothy in Oz, travel through a sequence of events:

  • the audience meets the hero in the ordinary world
  • the hero receives the call to adventure – a challenge, a quest or a problem that must be faced
  • the hero expresses fear and is reluctant or refuses the call
  • a meeting with a mentor provides encouragement, wisdom or magical gifts to push the hero past fear and doubt
  • the hero finally accepts the challenge and crosses the threshold into the special world
  • the hero learns about the special world through tests, encountering allies and enemies
  • the hero makes the final preparations and approaches the inner-most cave
  • the hero endures the ordeal, the central crisis in which the hero confronts his greatest fear and tastes death
  • the hero enjoys the reward of having confronted fear and death
  • the hero takes the road back and recommits to completing the journey
  • the hero faces the climactic ordeal that purifies, redeems and transforms the hero on the threshold of home
  • the hero returns with the elixir to benefit the ordinary world

It was, reputedly, Campbell’s book that inspired George Lucas to create the world of Star Wars and “the hero’s journey” can be seen not just in the evolution of Luke Skywalker but also many of the other characters, both light and dark.

Campbell also describes the characters appearing in the hero’s journey as “archetypes”.

  • the hero – who endures service and sacrifice
  • the mentor – who guides
  • the threshold guardian – who tests the hero
  • the herald – who warns and challenges
  • the shapeshifter – who questions and deceives
  • the shadow – who destroys
  • the trickster – who disrupts

I’ll bet you can identify all of these archetypes as characters who have appeared in your own journey?

Can you also spot the times when you have been called to play one of the archetypes in order to contribute to another hero’s journey?

We are all mentors, threshold guardians and heralds at some time.

Most of the people I meet are heroes.

Whether it’s a client building their dental business, a manager learning the ropes or a single mum balancing career and parenting, one can trace Campbell’s journey in their story.

Sometimes we have to go beyond the superficial obsession with goals:

“I’m going to lose some weight by this date”

“I’m going to hit a sales target by this date.”

“I’m going to build my business into this entity by this date.”

Instead, we have to ask ourselves:

“What is my quest here. On what hero’s journey am I called?”

Whether your quest is to build a business or a child, this morning I salute you.

You are a hero.

Published by

Chris Barrow

Chris Barrow has been active as a consultant, trainer and coach to the UK dental profession for over 20 years. As a writer, his blog enjoys a strong following and he is a regular contributor to the dental press. Naturally direct, assertive and determined, he has the ability to reach conclusions quickly, as well as the sharp reflexes and lightness of touch to innovate, change tack and push boundaries. In 2014 he appeared as a “castaway” in the first season of the popular reality TV show “The Island with Bear Grylls”. His main professional focus is as Coach Barrow, providing coaching and mentorship to independent dentistry.