In storytelling, we often talk about the arc of our hero—the path of change and improvement they follow while trying to reach their goals and satisfy their desires.
At the start of the story, something is holding them back from what they want. The something could be tangible, such as being imprisoned, or it could be psychological, such as being insecure—or any other wound, false belief, or fear. In many stories, both tangible and psychological somethings could be involved.
At the same time, the protagonist often doesn’t know what they really want, what they really desire. Their deepest longing or need might be known only on a subconscious level.
As I’ve pointed out before: All these psychological things that make our characters seem real apply to us too. After all, we are real. *smile*
Also like our characters, we have an arc—a path of change. Unfortunately, we don’t have an author behind the scenes of our life, making sure we succeed, and there’s no guarantee of a happy ending. However, we might be able to take lessons from the hero’s journey of our characters and apply it to our life.
Our Real Life Hero’s Journey
In our stories, by the end, our character is able to do something they weren’t able to do at the beginning. Maybe they learned how to overcome their fear, or maybe they were able to give up unhealthy behaviors. In the big picture, the hero’s journey is about learning to do things they don’t yet know how to do to become “better” than they are.
The same applies to us. There’s plenty we don’t yet know, and thus, there’s plenty we can learn to better ourselves.
Our problem often isn’t finding something to improve. Our problem often comes down to how we can improve.
How Can We Further Our Journey?
Just as our characters face external and internal obstacles, they also have external and internal resources to overcome those obstacles. They might have money or friends or mentors to help them along their path, and they might also have strengths and insights about themselves as additional tools.
Likewise, we can reach outward and inward to make progress along our journey as well. The key to our progress, however, might be our resourcefulness. How good are we at identifying and applying sources of assistance?
Reaching out to external resources to help us learn new things and overcome obstacles includes:
- Asking friends and family for help
- Honing our “Google-fu” to find online advice
- Searching for mentors, real or virtual (those we simply imitate without direct mentoring)
- Practicing our skills
- Offering our talents to others to improve our financial situation
- Etc., etc.
Reaching into our internal resources to help us learn new things and overcome obstacles includes:
- Identifying our long-term goals
- Thinking about what really matters to us and will make us happy
- Differentiating our identity (who we think we are, or who we present to the world) vs. our essence (our potential)
- Prioritizing our time to match our goals
- Figuring out our false beliefs or what else is internally holding us back
- Etc., etc.
All of those resources, however, require effort. We must expend effort to find them, do them, and apply them. That effort is where we often run into trouble.
We Are Worthy of the Effort to Improve
We don’t always have control over our external resources. Sometimes the money we need to fulfill our goals simply isn’t there. Sometimes our family and friends aren’t supportive or able to help us. But our internal resources are under our control.
Taking advantage of those resources doesn’t cost money. They just require us to put in the effort and be self-aware (which is often easier said than done, but isn’t impossible by any means).
That said, our internal issues can cause more than internal obstacles. They can also constrain our resourcefulness for external resources. So addressing our internal issues will often help our external situation as well.
For example, if we don’t think we’re worthy of being helped, we’ll hesitate to reach out and ask for assistance. If we doubt our talents, we won’t put in the effort to improve.
The internet is filled with resources for us to improve ourselves. People have learned to build an entire house from scratch by watching YouTube videos. If we’re resourceful, we can find just about any type of advice on almost any subject.
But resourcefulness will get us only so far. If we’ve ever known how to fix some aspect of our lives but didn’t implement the change, we might want to ask ourselves why we held back. (*raises hand* Been there, done that. Every day.)
Maybe we have a solid reason—such as prioritizing other aspects of improvement—but maybe we don’t. Maybe we’re just holding ourselves back.
So the first thing we have to do is identify and address any internal issues that prevent us from seeing ourselves as deserving of being better. We have to see ourselves as being worthy of the effort.
Worthy of Being Better? Change Might Be Easier
Change is hard. Our characters know this. If change were easy, our stories would be one page long. *smile*
But we also know that our characters often get into their own way. Their fears about what they’re capable of, their wounds telling them something is impossible, or their false beliefs whispering how they’re unworthy all hold them back from their potential—their essence.
In our stories, something triggers our characters to start on the path of change. For us, there’s no “first page” of our lives to create that trigger. We get to choose what that trigger might be.
Our trigger could be anything that gets us to see ourselves as being worthy of improvement—a moment of confidence, a good review or feedback comment on our writing, or a recognition that we’re not unworthy simply for not knowing yet. Our trigger might even be a blog post, pointing out that there’s enough crap in the world holding us back already and there’s no reason to add to our obstacles with doubts of our worthiness. *smile*
As writers, we see evidence all the time that change is possible. We know how change happens for our characters. We know the benefits they experience when they improve their lives and make progress toward their goals.
So as writers, we should understand better than most what might help us along our hero’s journey, how we might overcome our obstacles. And we know more than most about the rewards we can find along the way. *smile*
How are you trying to improve yourself? What are you trying to learn or change? Do you feel that you deserve to be better, or is putting in the effort hard? Does viewing your life like one of your characters help you see how to make changes? Do you see yourself as the hero of your life?