We all grew up with the larger than life stories of heroes. Even today they fascinate us.
The hero’s journey is a triumphant tale told after the hero has climbed tall mountains, beaten great odds, and persevered through the desert. We know how the story ends. It was never in doubt. The fearless hero battles the elements and the monsters to emerge triumphant.
But that’s not the journey most of us find ourselves on. We don’t know how this story ends. We do have doubt and fear– sometimes severe. Will we accomplish our goal? Will we be able to lose the weight this time? Will we be able to stand up to the person who intimidates us? Do we have what it takes – or are we just deluding ourselves? Do we know enough? Have enough smarts, talent, or experience?
One of the most difficult things as a coach is to not get caught up in other people’s fear- particularly when they are overwhelmed by it. As a person who cares very deeply about people it hurts to see them in pain. I want to wade out there and rescue them. And for many years in my life I did try to rescue people- and failed miserably. It took me a long time to realize it just isn’t possible to take away someone else’s fear. But, it is possible to help them navigate it. And they can do it.
Years ago I stumbled across the metaphor of being a lighthouse on the shore shining its beacon to lead a troubled ship to shore. The lighthouse didn’t wade out to meet the floundering ship. It didn’t send out a tow boat to drag it in. It stood on the shore steady and sure. Now when I feel the pull to “rescue” someone, I remember that I’m no good to them in the water. My job is to stand steady and sure. To hold the faith when they’ve lost it. To see their genius and their capability when they can’t remember it. And to light up the shore line in the darkness.
You see I know what it feels like to be in the grip of fear and self-doubt so bad you don’t know whether you’ll ever reach the shore let alone see a light in the darkness. On every journey I’ve been on; from running marathons, to learning to fly as a teenager, to being one of only a few women in a squadron of men , to starting a business; the outcome was never a sure thing. It’s not just in marathons that you “hit the wall”. It’s in every big challenge. But I also know that navigating those turbulent journeys are what made me who I am today. Those challenges call forth the highest Self to the promised land of who we really are. Overcoming, persevering, and keeping the faith in the darkness is the hero’s journey.
It’s so much more than overcoming the obstacles outside of us or winning the race. It’s so much more than making the money,or losing the weight. It’s bigger than fame by far. The heroic journey is the inner journey on the way to these goals. It’s confronting the demons that haunt us and wrestling them to the ground. It’s naming our fears and doubts -calling them out and going toe to toe- even when we’re scared silly. And ultimately it’s about making friends with our inner beast. Our helplessness, smallness, and our fears are the soul’s way of calling us to remember who we really are. A calling to become who we really are.
The hero’s journey is not about being fearless. It’s about being scared freaking silly- and moving forward anyway.
If you’re not scared silly you’re not thinking big enough.