Aug
19

Finding Inspiration on the Hero’s Journey

Last week I attended a dinner with the guest of honor, Getrude Matshe, my friend and renowned inspirational speaker. She was invited to meet some fellow Africans, “lost boys” of the Sudan. These boys are now men, some with their own families, most with at least two jobs. As I listened to Getrude talk with them, I heard memories and stories of deprivation, horror, loss and ultimately joy and gratitude. Getrude was invited to speak because of her stories that also contain elements and characteristics similar to their journeys.

Getrude is here in Tucson to give a workshop, “Making the Impossible Possible: How to Write a Book in 40 Hours.” Her own experiences led her to understand the power of stories. Many tribal groups in Africa have rich storytelling traditions. History and cultural norms are passed on and shared through storytelling. Getrude grew up in this tradition, and she often says it helps to know your story and the power it may have to motivate, inspire and even change others’ experiences and perceptions.

I know part of my purpose is to inspire and motivate my clients as well as those whom I mentor. I tell all of them to discover their story—how have they become who they are.

So what is it that great storytellers do to inspire and motivate others? I’ve learned that stories are delivered for different purposes and, because of that, have different structures. A story that inspires us has a different structure than one that makes us laugh, although certainly inspirational stories may well have numerous components. Let’s look more closely at the structure of stories that motivate.

The late mythologist Joseph Campbell was fascinated with stories. He particularly made a study of the foundational stories of cultures or religions. He found one thing common to all of them: the “Hero’s Journey.” The first major element of the hero’s journey was an experience that challenged the hero or potential hero with a seemingly impossible task. The task then required a choice or commitment. This choice or commitment was often necessitated because the seemingly ordinary life that the hero or heroine had been leading was thrown into disarray.

I suspect you have seen the Star Wars series. Think of the very first one. Remember that Luke’s life was initially ordinary and normal. Then his stepparents were attacked and killed, which necessitated that he make a choice. As is true of most heroes’ journeys, it was not a choice that he would have wanted to make, and the situation was not one that he would have wanted to be in.

Getrude’s journey out of Africa was necessitated because of economics, warfare and in no small part the AIDS epidemic. Like Luke Skywalker, she took up the challenge, and just as Luke found mentors in Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, so too has Getrude found mentors along the way. In fact one of Getrude’s amazing gifts is to so inspire others that they cannot help but want to mentor her.

It is not just mentors that one meets on the hero’s journey, but there are also often challenges, naysayers and even downright obstacles. Part of the story in the hero’s journey is how these obstacles are overcome. In fact it is the obstacles and challenges that transform the hero on his or her journey. It is how the hero addresses those challenges that ultimately bring about learning and growth. In Getrude’s case it helps to have a strong belief system that is built on the principle that all things are possible. This led to a strong supporting belief that if she’s willing to take on the challenge, support will appear. What I realized in listing to her story is that her willingness to take up the challenge led to the strengthening and full adoption of these beliefs. This kind of growth and learning then leads to the last part of the journey, which is the integration of the learning and the ability to inspire others.

So I’m coming full circle to last week’s dinner. I saw the sharing of mutual stories of transformation that further motivated, taught and inspired each other. Powerful motivational stories of transformation are the seeds of someone else’s hero’s journey. The more you’re willing to develop and learn from your story, the more likely you are to inspire others. I realize that that’s the business I’m in. I also know that I have been an inspiration to others, and I know that I have been on my own hero’s journey.

If you allow yourself to look back in time, I know you will find all of these components in your story. There were times that you did not pick up the gauntlet, and there were times when you let yourself be pulled off the journey. You may have succumbed to doubt or fear, but you know that without the obstacles you have overcome in your life, you would not be who you are today. Getrude told me that she realizes her gift is to hold up a mirror for people to examine their lives.

I witnessed Getrude the night before this dinner, and as part of helping host the event I asked a young woman who had been in the audience what she thought. With tears in her eyes she said, “It’s exactly what I needed to hear. I know I’ve been avoiding doing what I need to do in my life, and I can no longer do that.” Watching her take up the challenge cannot fail to impact those around her, and on it goes.

Take a few moments to thank all of those who have inspired you to be more than you thought you could be—those whose journey made you realize what was possible, those who either encouraged or challenged you at just the right time, or perhaps even a fictional or historical person whose journey provided just the spark to light your fire.

Now go out there and become a spark for someone else’s fire.

P.S. Do you want to share this post? Please do. Just be sure that it remains intact and includes the following bio.

About Terry: Terry Hickey, M.S., is a Certified NLP Professional Coach, Business Trainer and Consultant, a Certified Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and the co-owner of NLP Advantage Group. Originator of the Belief Breakthrough Method™, Terry specializes in teaching coaches and entrepreneurs how to rapidly resolve limiting beliefs about wealth and success. His tips and strategies can help you launch yourself into the future you want… NOW. http://terryhickey.com/

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