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The Hero’s Journey

It is by going down into the abyss
that we recover the treasures of life.
Where you stumble, 
there lies your treasure.
The very cave you are afraid to enter
turns out to be the source of
what you are looking for.
(1991, Reflections on the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion, Selected and edited by Diane K. Osbon.) 

Human beings throughout recorded history have always sought meaning and purpose. Joseph Campbell used the phrases "the call to adventure” and "answering the call” to describe the search because they acknowledge an awareness of a mysterious force within us that pulls us towards something outside of us. A calling is not necessarily about our career. A calling is always about bringing forth something within us that lifts us to a higher level of being and effects how and what we contribute to the world. Answering your call can be done within your religion or not but it is always spiritual and mysterious. Once the inward journey has begun you can expect to face many challenges. Answering your call means the very foundation upon which you have created your life will be challenged, changed or scrapped entirely. In our culture people often use the phrase "follow your dream” synonymously with answering the call. Society supports the idea of following your dream but most people don’t hold to that belief when the result is complete failure. It seems people have an unspoken condition to following dreams: it is only worth it if you succeed. This understandably results in a belief that hard work, persistence, faith or some character trait will always lead to success. What if that’s not true? What if you go for your dream but fail in every way failure can be measured? Should you only answer your call if you know you will obtain it? Should you pick a known path that has minimal risk and guarantees security? My answer is no because answering the call to adventure is in itself the purpose and the only way to be the hero of your life. When people refuse to answer the call they experience consequences that at a minimum creates a life that feels inauthentic. A refusal means you live the life you were supposed to live and you may never experience what it means to be true to yourself. It is true that answering a call almost always involves serious risks. It is a valid concern that following your dream may result in financial insecurity. Following your dream can even threaten your life. Following your dream may impact or end relationships. These real concerns often cause people to not pursue their dreams at all. Sometimes people will convince themselves that they are pursuing their dream but they have unspoken conditions to their pursuit which limits the risks they are willing to take. I believe there has to be a balance of risk and responsibilities but in the end an authentic pursuit of your dream will require going down into the abyss. The journey is called the hero’s journey for a reason. Only those people willing to be heroic can make the journey. There is no promise of success and failure will occur. Heroes let go of the need to be comfortable. Heroes do not say "I will be heroic as long as it doesn't put my life, relationships or financial security at risk.” We all yearn to be the hero of our own lives but sadly many of us never truly embark on the journey. For those brave enough to risk everything and go on the hero’s journey the contribution they make and their inner growth is the answer to their call. The most important contribution they make is simply being who they truly want to be. A fulfilling life requires risk without promise of success. Fulfillment comes from being and doing what you feel called to do without the need for the approval of others. It is encouraging to remember that when people genuinely say yes to their call to adventure they can be fulfilled with any results they achieve. Truly embarking on the hero’s journey guarantees that you will become the hero of your life, and that is a good enough reason to go for it. Joseph Campbell said it perfectly, 
"If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it's not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That's why it's your path.” 

"We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

"If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be.”

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