Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Call Refused (Your Own Hero's Journey)

In the hero’s journey model, the hero (you) starts out in his or her normal life, and then something happens that offers an opportunity for change. It may be an outer event (a relationship starts or ends, schooling begins, illness happens), or something inner (you get disillusioned and restless, or become curious to try something new). This opportunity for change is known as “the call to adventure”-- whether that “adventure” is something you sought after or something that was thrust upon you (getting fired, for instance, or having your spouse leave you).  Sometimes change clobbers you on the head, whether you seek it or not.

We can see the call to adventure exemplified in so many movies and books. In the film Avatar, marine Jake Sully gets the call to adventure when summoned to Pandora for a mission. In The Wizard of Oz, the tornado sweeps Dorothy into her adventure. And in Good Will Hunting, Will’s adventure launches when he’s caught solving the math puzzle.

But the call to adventure doesn’t just happen in movies. It also happens in our lives, over and over. Sometimes we may enthusiastically follow the call—sometimes too enthusiastically, in fact, taking on more than we’re ready for. But at other times, and more typically, we resist the call because we fear change. This phenomenon is known as “the call refused”—when the hero (you), tries to keep life as it has been, whether that’s possible or not.

Undoubtedly, you have been called to adventure many times, although you may not have framed events in quite that light. How many of those calls have you followed? When in your life have you refused that call? What opportunities have you let slip by? What did you begin but never finish? What people did you let get away from you, with whom maybe you could have had meaningful relationship? What inner urgings are you ignoring now? What outer changes are you resisting instead of embracing?

I’d like to invite you to take 15 minutes right now to write about how you’ve resisted the call in your own life, and with what consequence. It may help to spend five minutes brainstorming first, just listing the times you’ve refused the call. Chances are something surprising will pop up for you. Then, start writing.

At the least, the exercise will help you to remember that you can reframe everything that happens in your life as part of your heroic journey, and to acknowledge that everything offers opportunities for learning and transformation. Please let me know how it works for you!

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