My organization has recently launched a resilience initiative. There are messages on the power of staying positive, taking care of your physical, emotional and spiritual health, and maintaining a support network. All are important, but they are lipstick on a pig if you don’t have the right belief system about hardship. That night you are feeling desperate and sitting alone at the kitchen table, and you’re at your wits end, it’s hard to will yourself to look on the bright side. I know, I’ve been there. But the most powerful thing that happened to me when I was recovering from my illness was when something inside me told me to google- the hero’s journey. What I found changed everything. I met psychologist Joseph Campbell and the monomyth.
Campbell had studied the story of the underdog who rose up to overcome his or her challenge and found that this is a common theme found among every culture and throughout time from Beowulf to Rocky to Spider Man, Homer to Spielberg. Campbell asked himself why. The answer he came up with is that when we see ourselves as heroes, we cease to be victims of circumstance. It’s an important lesson, recognized the world over. We come, as Stoic philosopher and Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius advised in his meditations, to look for the lesson in every ill that befalls us. I once read that pain is the greatest teacher, the problem is that it gives you the test before it gives you the answer. Accepting the change of the status qou, whether loss of a job or loved one, failed marriage, or illness as part of your personal hero’s journey will allow you to take action rather than be paralyzed by fear. A conviction that tough times will make you stronger, will make you stronger.
This isn’t just myth and symbolism. Allow me to make the case based on my own experience. Cause and effect.
I wouldn’t be a writer with thousands of followers, had I not journaled every morning at three am trying to make sense of my life. I wouldn’t be able to inspire, had I not had to inspire myself first. I wouldn’t have studied philosophy, had I not needed a different way of thinking. Learning the relationship between thoughts, behavior, and emotion led to my becoming a well-compensated executive coach. I wouldn’t be a leader without learning that leadership development is another form of self-development. Had I not felt the pain of loss, I never would have had appreciation for the true wealth around me.
If you are sitting at the table at three in the morning, trying to make sense of things and figure out a way forward and need to find your true strength, google the hero’s journey. You will find that what one of my favorite philosophers, Bruce Lee, said “As you think, so shall you become” is true.
By most measures, I’m very successful, but its not because I overcame obstacles, its because every obstacle contained the gift of personal power. Embrace your journey.