How to make meaningful change by finding the adventure

Change is hard. It can be hard to initiate and even harder to maintain. So how does one start to make a change and stick to it when the going gets tough?

Visual representation of the Force Field Theory. Drive for change (excitement for what the change brings) faces pressure from the status quo (resistance to losing the status quo), making change difficult
Force Field Theory suggests that positive forces for change combat obstacles to change. When the drive for change (driving forces) outweighs the pressure of the status quo (restraining forces), change becomes possible.

We can often experience anxiety when making large changes. This isn’t surprising. Any big change takes us away from the familiar and pushes us into a new state of being. This reflex to stay in the more comfortable status quo rather than taking a risk, though, can stop us from making changes in our lives that really need to happen. We get frozen when the restraining forces (things that make us fearful to move forward and away from our status quo) outweigh the driving forces (things that make us feel excited for the new possibilities when we make the change).

One way we can help to unfreeze ourselves is to adjust our perception of the change, so that the discomfort of staying the same is greater than the discomfort of making the change. If we can visualize the new status quo as more exciting than it is scary, we can increase our likelihood of being successful.

So how does one change the restraining force of anxiety into a driving force of excitement? Why not use the hero’s journey to see yourself as the hero in an adventure?

The Hero’s Journey

You may be familiar with the hero’s journey, but even if you haven’t heard the term before, odds are you’ve experienced it by reading or watching the many stories that follow this arc. Essentially, it’s the arc a hero follows to be thrust out of the everyday and into an adventure to achieve some goal.

Visual depicting the 3 acts and 17 stages of the Hero's journey as described by Joseph Campbell
The 3 Acts and 17 stages of the Hero’s Journey as described by Joseph Campbell

Act 1 – The Departure

We start our story with the ‘departure’. This is where the hero hears the call for adventure — they start in a place of normality, but receive some information that encourages them to head out into the unknown.

Initially, the hero rejects the call. For various reasons, you may feel like the status quo isn’t something you’d like to leave behind. All your things are here. You’re comfortable. You may worry that you’re not the hero that’s required to take this journey. Maybe you don’t think you have the skills, the strength, or the courage.

Finally, though, the hero realizes their destiny. They decide to commit to the journey, sometimes through the assistance of a helper or a guide, and embark. It’s on!

From metaphor to action

If this is you right now, consider what you stand to gain from embarking on your adventure. Compare that to what you stand to gain from staying where you are right now. Can you make an argument to start your own journey of change? What assistance would you need to make the decision to ‘depart’?

Act 2 – Initiation

Once our hero is on the road, they face challenges that must be overcome. If you’re familiar with the Kubler-Ross change curve, this would be the trough, sometimes called ‘crisis’ or ‘resistance’. All you need to know is that the first stage of this act is the ‘road of trials’ to know that this is the hard part!

The hero undergoes a series of tests to start their transformation, and often fails one or more of those tests. After the trials, they may meet with a helper that offers them items that will assist them in the future. They may also get tempted to abandon their goal. They must stay the course, though, and push themselves to confront whatever it is that holds ultimate power over their life.

Finally, if they’ve avoided the temptation to abandon the quest and kept pushing, they will reach the point of realization and attain the goal of their quest.

From metaphor to action

If you’re currently on the road, consider what trials you’re facing. Who in your life can serve as a helper, offering you knowledge, support, or tools to help you push forward? What might serve as a temptation to abandon your aims? How can you resist that temptation?

Act 3 – Return

Now, this is it. The hero has attained the goal of their quest and faces the prospect of returning home with their new found enlightenment, a changed person. Initially, they may resist returning to their everyday life, but one cannot journey forever. Eventually they need to return. Key in this phase is to retain the knowledge gained during the journey and integrate it into their life.

The hero is now master of two worlds and has freedom.

From metaphor to action

Have you recently embarked on a change journey and attained the goals you were targeting? Resist the urge to keep pushing forward unendingly, and figure out your return. Know that we can’t exist in a state of constant change.

So, how will you take the knowledge and skills you’ve built through this journey and incorporate them into a new normal? Which ‘two worlds’ are you the master of now?

Why apply the Hero’s Journey to your life?

It can be scary to take a leap and leave what’s familiar behind. I’m experiencing that now, as I leave my corporate life behind to realize my dream of coaching people and working for myself for the first time in my life. When you make a shift that you know needs to happen, though, something amazing happens.

Suddenly you meet wonderful people. Since I’ve decided to embark on my new path, I’ve been amazed to find supportive people all around me. I’ve made new connections with people that I really enjoy. Surprisingly, I have also found myself connecting differently with the people that were already in my life. When you decide to follow your authenticity and take the journey, people respond differently than when you’re trapped in your everyday, focused on who you should be instead of who you’re meant to be.

When you stop ignoring the call to adventure in your life, people can sense the change in you.

The first step is the hardest step, but by telling yourself a new story, you can develop the courage to take your own hero’s journey.

We don’t all have huge changes we need or want to make, but we can all find little adventures to pursue. What dreams have you been putting off? How can you use a sense of adventure to help you make progress towards your goals?

Could you use support in starting or sustaining your own change? Coaching can help you change your perspective and make the progress you’re hoping for. Contact me or set up a free consultation today to learn how working with a coach can help you.

1. Force Field Analysis. University of Cambridge Institute for Manufacturing (n.d.).
2. Integrated Change Management. Project Management Institute. (n.d.).
3. Hero’s journey. Wikipedia. (2023, February 25).

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