One pattern I’ve seen among my readers (and especially CGC members) is that we’re all progressing through our own version of the hero’s journey. In our cases this isn’t about vanquishing some personified foe through violent means. It’s an inner journey where we start out living much like everyone else, we soon find ourselves dissatisfied with “normal” life, and we progress through phases of exploration, discovery, conscious creation, and ultimately leadership.
Resisting the Journey
Just as many reluctant heroes initially resist the journey they’re about to take anyway, we harbor similar patterns of resistance that keep us stuck. A common pattern is to resist what we don’t want, mistakenly thinking this will somehow help us progress.
Resisting scarcity doesn’t create abundance.
Resisting loneliness doesn’t create social flow.
Resisting meaningless work doesn’t create fulfilling work.
Even when we know this, we still succumb to these traps. One reason is that we’re actually resisting something greater, and it’s this greater challenge that scares us and makes us pull back.
Each part of our journey comes with its own challenges, and these challenges tend to increase in magnitude and difficulty as we progress.
Life doesn’t become golden just because you’ve achieved financial abundance. You simply graduate to a whole new set of challenges.
In a way scarcity is easier than abundance. Scarcity is filled with little distractions, such as figuring out how to pay your bills, dealing with late fees, not being able to afford what you want, having to prioritize expenses, finding ways to save small sums of money, and having to miss out on experiences. These issues may seem stressful at times, but in the grand scheme of things, they’re pretty easy to deal with. You cope with them. You get used to them. They become familiar. You believe you can handle these challenges.
It’s the challenges on the other side of scarcity that you may not be sure you can handle yet. What are some of those challenges?
What will you do with the rest of your life? How will you stay healthy as you age? How’s your relationship life, and how will you improve it? Will you do something worthwhile for the world, and if so, how are you going to make that real? How will you motivate yourself if you don’t need to work much to pay your bills? How will you 10X your business? What will you create this year? What will you do for the benefit of humanity?
Scarcity lets you off the hook. It gives you a socially acceptable excuse not to invest serious effort in the next level of challenges. You don’t have to tackle much bigger demons when you’re busy fending off endless waves of baby demons.
Scarcity-level problems are comfortable partly because they’re so common. When you’re working on such problems, you’ll always have plenty of company. You can always find lots of people in the same boat, and it’s a crowded boat.
Scarcity is a convenient, socially acceptable, forgivable excuse. As long as you continue using it as an excuse, you’re excusing yourself from your hero’s journey, and you’re choosing to remain on the farm.
Preparing for the Next Phase
If you want to move beyond the early part of your hero’s journey, it’s wise to start preparing yourself for the problems and challenges of the next phase.
Don’t just intend the fun parts of the next phase, like whipping around your new lightsaber. Imagine the bigger challenges too. Where’s your personal Death Star on this path?
For many people I think it has something to do with the role of leadership. There are many aspects of leadership we can resist.
Picture anyone that you consider to be in a leadership role today. Now imagine that you suddenly changed places with that person. Their job is now yours. What aspects of that role would scare you? What are your objections to leading immediately?
Is it the public scrutiny? Is it a potential loss of freedom? Is it a lack of confidence or skill? Is it having a whole bunch of obligations on your plate? Is it the challenge of making good decisions under pressure?
A good way to progress is to start surrendering to the bigger challenges on your hero’s journey. Surrender to the likelihood that you may need to get up on a stage and speak now and then. Surrender to the challenge of finding something more meaningful to do with your life than just working to cover your expenses. Surrender to the challenge of finding your real tribe instead of tolerating an unsupportive social circle that doesn’t really understand you.
Inviting the Uncomfortable
To embrace your hero’s journey, you have to leave your comfort zone behind – again and again.
Being a hero is uncomfortable. At times it can be terrifying. It’s easier to be a farmer.
Would you rather hang out with farmers or Jedis?
Hanging out with Jedis is scarier. They always challenge you to do better. They don’t let you settle. You’re frequently going to feel inadequate and uncomfortable in their presence.
On some level you have to want this kind of challenge. You have to intend and invite it. If you can’t do that, you’re still resisting it, and you’re likely to remain a farmer… and you’ll keep right on dealing with the various problems of your farmer phase, year after year. How will you pay for those tractor repairs? Yawn.
Much of my own hero’s journey has been uncomfortable. It was uncomfortable to start a business in my early 20s when I didn’t really know what I was doing. It was uncomfortable to decline income sources that didn’t feel aligned, not knowing how I’d replace them. It was uncomfortable to begin sharing intimate details of my life online. It was uncomfortable to go through a divorce and seek out a more aligned relationship. There’s a lot of discomfort on this path. And there’s also a lot of fun.
But with that discomfort comes a lot of growth. With that discomfort comes genuine connection to replace superficial interactions. With that discomfort comes lots of character sculpting and skill building. With that discomfort comes strength.
One of the most uncomfortable aspects of this journey is wanting to wake up and do something meaningful with your life while sensing that much of the world just wants you to go back to sleep. And yet there’s value in inviting this kind of challenge too. It can be pretty powerful when you resolve to live by your own values regardless of how the world responds. Eventually you learn that you can actually make the world bend to your will instead of the other way around. Maybe it’s a Jedi mind trick, or maybe the universe was just testing you all along to see how certain you were.
I know there’s a hero inside you, and it wants you to graduate from your farmer phase. It wants you to deliberately embrace the uncomfortable, so you can progress to bigger challenges. It wants you to feel strong and be strong. It wants you to turn towards challenges that scare you, so you can grow stronger still.
What types of challenges are you ready to graduate from? And what bigger challenges are you ready to invite?
When you get confused about what to do next, pause and ask yourself, What does my inner hero want me to do next?
And whenever you get stuck on a farm-level problem or challenge, here’s an even better question to ask: What does my inner hero prefer to work on instead of this?