The story of the hero has not changed for thousands of years. Since ancient times our traditions and culture venerate the myth of the hero on a mission. A hero leaves his or her home, faces challenges, triumphs and usually returns home as a changed man or women.
In 1990 the late American writer and intellectual Joseph Campbell wrote of the hero’s journey — the mythological journey that all men and women go through in life. He believed that the highest purpose in life was to complete this journey like some mythological voyage.
A hero is without shape and beyond time; the human need for heroes transcends all cultures.
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The Need For a Story
What makes a hero unforgettable is not their strength but rather their will. We admire their ability to transcend defeat and persevere. When we watch them we temporarily become them. We live vicariously through them. This is the lure of sports — an average person can experience the glory of the players.
What makes a hero so undefeatable? What makes him stand up after being knocked down a hundred times? The answer is simple. A story. Not just any story, but one that involves a deeply personal path that the individual walks alone.
It may be a story that his or her grandparents told them while sitting around the fire or one a mentor once inspired in them or perhaps it’s the result of some deeply powerful event.
Regardless of the medium, the story has been absorbed deep into the hero. The ups and downs of his/her adventure are not seen as separate events but rather as parts of one whole.
Like a beautiful cloth the ups and downs of the journey weave together to form his life.
This is real motivation — motivation that sees past the failures and successes to some grander purpose of life.
Each goal, each step, each time you fall down is seen within a bigger context. Like seeing the forest in its beautiful entirety, a hero doesn’t focus on the individual trees and plants.
Focus Rather Than Reaction
When we look at the bigger picture of our lives, we see the highs and lows as part of the journey. We avoid myopically focusing on separate goals and focusing our attention on a million different tasks. Instead of just reacting to events, we keep our focus.
To be honest, I have stumbled for the majority of my life looking for real motivation — one that lasts. I have jumped from goal to goal like a series of unsuccessful college romances.
My goals have served me well, but my direction hasn’t remained consistent.
It wasn’t until I questioned what was MOST important for me that my story became more well-defined. I wanted to do too many things in life. I can’t be the hero of my own story if I am trying to do everything and do nothing at the same time.
So I defined it.
How to Find Your Story
The first step is defining what is most important is focusing on what you want and cut out the rest. This clarity came to me in the form of a yellow legal pad and twenty-five well-thought-out things I wanted in life.
These were my goals, my dreams and my desires. I had a lot but I could only pick five. Doing this focused my attention and my life on the few things I really wanted. It allowed me to regain my purpose without feeling scattered like I did before.
Deciding which five things were the most important for me and physically writing them down acted as an affirmation of my own values. I put them on my wall to remind me.
The most powerful change always comes from the simplest things.
The exercise in priorities was not my trick but rather Warren Buffet’s. Buffet recommended this to his pilot who was struggling with what to do with his life. He advised him that the secret to ruthless determination is to collect your focus and only invest it into several dreams. Do not disperse it among twenty.
The moral of the story is that if you want motivation that transcends the individual goals and to-do lists, one that unites them all together in a greater purpose, you must define your story.
You are already a hero. You just need to create your story and live it.
Focus Your Energy
Use the exercise above. Using pen and paper or computer, write twenty-five things you want in life. Pick five. Set aside some time, an hour or so, to do this. You don’t want to be distracted.
You now have two lists — one to focus all your energy on and one to avoid. Put your lists on your wall in a place you can see them daily.
Embark on the Journey
This is both exciting and scary. Don’t start tomorrow. Start now. Like literally NOW.
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There is no perfect time. Starting is the first step of the journey. Write down your goals. I break mine into yearly, every three months and weekly.
Happiness is a by-product of meaningful experience. It cannot be directly pursued, and if it is it won’t last.
Instead challenge yourself to battle the monsters in your life. Know that failure is part of the process.
The Hero Returns
The hero always returns home wiser and better. Reflect on your journey and share it with others. Nothing in life is as worthwhile as sharing with others.
Our modern world, with all the amazing progress and technology, has forgotten many of our roots. Modernity has slowly annexed the role of tradition.
As our world becomes more integrated, it becomes easier to forget our individual relationship with life.
We increasingly look outside for motivation. We love quotes and uplifting speeches, but rarely do we turn our attention inward and see that true motivation lies in your own story.
Define what you truly want in life and reclaim your motivation.
What helps you get through those hard times? Drop a comment below, and let me know how you keep yourself motivated.