In his iconic book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, author Joseph Campbell demonstrates how all epic tales share a common structure. Every ‘hero’ – whether historic, mythic or from Hollywood – travel along the ‘hero’s journey’. There are many identifiable stages to this journey, and the more you look, the more you’ll recognise them. First, the hero is living a so-called ‘normal’ life in the ‘ordinary world’. Then, something happens that ‘calls’ them to do something – to make a change in their life for a greater purpose. Campbell calls this ‘the call to adventure’. But the hero doesn’t answer the call right away. Instead they go through ‘the refusal of the call’ – pushing away the inevitable, doubting their own ability to answer it, and fearing what will happen to their ‘ordinary’ life if they take up the challenge.
Today I just want to look at this particular time in a hero’s life: the point of conjunction between hearing the call and refusing the call. The reason I want to talk about this today, is that I believe every human being is called to be a hero in their lives, and that the only difference between true heroes and ‘mere mortals’ is whether or not they choose to answer the call.
Hearing and Recognising Our Call to Change
Every one of us goes through some kind of ‘turning point’ at least once in our lives. These turning points often show up in the form of trauma or profound loss, such as warfare or violence, the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, financial devastation, a natural disaster, a devastating accident or a critical illness. When we are in the midst of such experiences, it can feel like our world has been turned upside down. But, once the dust has settled, most of us will look back and recognise how these upheavals transformed us and brought us to a new phase in our life. Accepting these apparent tragedies into our world, and allowing ourselves to be transformed by them (in a positive way), is part of our ‘hero’s journey’. What changes us from ‘ordinary’ people into a ‘heroes’ is using all that we’ve learned from our experience to help others.
But while such dramatic events are easy enough to identify as major ‘turning points’ in our lives, many other ‘calls to adventure’ are far more subtle, and can often be missed. Sometimes a seemingly minor ‘blip’ on our radar is actually a call to make a change in our life – and in the world. For example, back in 2007, on my 52nd birthday, my older sister made a random comment that would result in my whole life changing. She said, ‘You know, if Mom and Dad were alive today they’d be very proud of you.’ She was referring to the fact that, at the time, I was the director of a large department at a reputable college here in England, where it was my job to oversee the welfare of 25 members of staff and 750 performing arts students. By all social standards it was a great job. I was paid well and highly respected. Our parents had not lived long enough to see me attain this ‘success’ in life.
There was only one problem: I was miserable. I was stressed all the time. I would stay at work until 8pm, and take my work home with me, often working on weekends. It seemed like I could never catch up, and I was always stuck in the middle of gripes between senior management and members of staff. I had trouble falling asleep, but when I did manage to, I would often wake up in a panic in the middle of the night. As a way of ‘self-medicating’, I adopted the pattern that so many other educators I knew had fallen into, drowning my stresses with two large glasses of white wine every evening.
Originally, I had applied for the job because I had a deep love for teaching and course design, and I had imagined being in the role of a department director would enable me to make a difference in people’s lives. But, ironically, the demands of having to meet the ‘status quo’ of the job prevented me from using my natural talents and from being innovative in any way. On top of this (and perhaps the ultimate irony) was the fact that even though I was ostensibly earning a good salary, I never seemed to have enough money and I was going deeper and deeper into debt. All of this had put me into a state of helplessness, which was only marginally away from becoming an all-out depression.
Of course, my sister’s intention in telling me that ‘Mom and Dad would have been proud of you’ was to be kind and supportive. However, this remark switched on a light in my brain and I suddenly realised, ‘Oh my God. I’m making myself miserable because I’m trying to make my DEAD parents proud of me!’
Startled into a new awareness, I suddenly found myself faced with two choices:
- To continue along my path, stubbornly trying to make it work, even though I instinctively knew it was wrong for me OR
- To get off the path and make a radical change, even though I had no idea what to do or how to do it.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I had just heard my ‘call to adventure’.
Why Some Changemakers Refuse their Calling
In all honesty, I had known I was on the ‘wrong’ path for at least two years, but I had refused to heed the warning signs. There were many reasons why I refused to pay attention to ‘the call’.
- I didn’t trust my own judgement. ‘Climbing the corporate ladder’ seemed to be the way you were ‘supposed’ to do things in life. Surely (or so I believed), if I was struggling, it was down to my own inadequacies. I needed to try harder. I needed to make myself fit, to force myself to become what others expected of me. If everyone else was saying I needed to do this, then surely I must be wrong.
- I was fearful. I had come to believe that I ‘had to’ keep this job – my pension plan, my credit rating and all the other trappings – for my financial security. The thought of being without that security blanket seemed like a great black void and filled me with fear.
- I was trying to please others. I had spent most of the 70s, 80s and 90s as a freelance musician. I was a free spirit, but my parents and sister had always been derisive of my chosen lifestyle. When I moved to England in 1999, I consciously changed my ‘image’ by establishing myself in the educational sector. But while I loved teaching, I absolutely detested being part of the ‘establishment’. I felt like my wings had been clipped. The truth was that I abandoned my own happiness because I was trying to earn the respect of others who thought differently.
These three beliefs held me hostage along a life path that was not mine, and prevented me from answering (or even recognising) the ‘call’ of my life. And, I’m not alone in this. Most people who find themselves stuck in a life they hate are holding on to beliefs such as these.
But that day, when I realised that at least part of the reason I was driving myself into a depressed state was because I was trying to gain my deceased parents’ respect – I finally stopped ignoring the ‘call’.
One week later, I walked out on my job.
You’ve Answered ‘The Call’. Now What?
So there I was: 52 years old. I had no money in the bank. I had no job. I had no life partner to fall back on. I had no game plan. Basically, I didn’t know ‘what I wanted to be when I grew up’. By all accounts, what I had just done was completely reckless. But within my soul, I knew my decision had been a matter of life and death.
Over the next few months I spent a lot of time walking along the sea front, roaming through the woods, reading, journaling and contemplating. Eventually I came to understand three important things about myself:
- I was an entrepreneur at heart, but I had never given myself full permission to be one because I had held other people’s value systems as more important than my own.
- I was a writer at heart, but I had never given myself full permission to write except as a hobby, as I was afraid of what would happen if I shared my ideas with the world.
- I was a changemaker at heart, but I had never believed enough in myself to discover exactly what that meant, or what I was being called to change.
It was time to give myself full permission to be the entrepreneur, the writer and the changemaker. This meant I had to create my life. There was no blueprint to follow, no cookie-cutter pattern to use. Changemakers… well… they change things. They make things up. They shake things up. It’s in their nature. After all, they cannot ‘change’ things by following the rules.
And while that may all sound very exciting, it’s also scary as hell. Rest assured, all ‘successful’ changemakers in history have gone through several baptisms of fire. And that’s part of the ‘hero’s journey’ as well (Campbell calls this ‘descending into the underworld’).
Since that time, I’ve been gradually unfolding the entrepreneur-writer-changemaker that is authentically ‘me’. Today, my life is rich and wonderful. I’m nearly 59 (next week) and I can see a life ahead of me filled with amazing and fulfilling adventures. The work I am doing (especially here at the 7 Graces Project) is meaningful, innovative and satisfying. And most of all, I know it is genuinely impacting people’s lives for the better.
Had I continued to allow my fears, my lack of self-belief and my surrender to the value systems of others to prevent me from answering the call of the Universe, I would never have stepped into my own hero’s journey and become the changemaker destined to bring something special to the rest of the world.
Turning Point to Tipping Point – Free Event
Earlier this week, I was privileged to be able to share this story with a woman named Tera Maxwell, Ph.D. who has honoured me by selecting me as a winner of the “Top 20 Conscious Entrepreneur Awards”. To celebrate the 20 winners of this award, Tera is hosting a wonderful free event called ‘From Turning Point to Tipping Point’ from February 10th to March 1st, 2014. During that period, Tera will be broadcasting 20 video interviews, where each of the winners will share stories of their own ‘turning points’, along with how they reached the ‘tipping point’ that made all the difference in their enterprise.
You can sign up for this free event
(and find out who the other 19 winners are) at:
What’s YOUR Turning Point?
As I said earlier, I believe every human being is a hero. Some of us have heard the call and have already stepped into our hero’s journey. Others may hear the call, but are resisting it due to fears, lack of self-belief, and surrendering to the values of others.
Still others are being called, but do not yet recognise the call. Until they do, they’ll find themselves continually pushing against the traumas and turning points in their lives, trying to ‘fix’ things (or fix themselves) rather than see the opportunities they are being given.
But eventually, all of us will hear the call. It might take years; it might take lifetimes (if you believe in that sort of thing). On this note, I’d like to share with you the opening lines from my 2009 book The Garden of the Soul:
You are already the hero of your own life. You did not earn this title. You did not have to. You were born the hero. It is your birthright. If you do not take up your birthright, no one else will do it for you. If you leave it unclaimed, the universe will remain bereft of something it passionately desires. The world will continue to long for that which only you can fulfil. It will dream of you again and again. It will call to you repeatedly. It will cry for you.
Then, one day, in this lifetime or the next, or the next after that, you will finally take up the path of least resistance to the Self, and simply become the person you were always meant to be. And on that day, ever so easily, you will see that you were always the hero of this story – your story – and that all you ever needed in order to be the hero, was to look within the simple stories of your own life.
So now it’s your turn:
- What has been your turning point in life?
- What are you listening to?
- What are you resisting?
- How will you step into becoming the changemaker you were born to become?
- What is the change you will create in the world?
Please share your thoughts and experiences below!
24th January 2014
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Find out more about how changing the paradigm can help make the world a better place:
The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell, by Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing. Brit Writers Awards Finalist eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues
Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media. eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.
Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at http://tweepelicious.com
The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging: An Effective, Creative & Ethical Way of Marketing for Visionaries & New Paradigm Business Leaders. To receive an update when that book is available, just click here. As a thank-you gift for showing your interest, you’ll get instant access to an exclusive, free 5-page PDF revealing the exact same blogging template we use with our clients and we teach to participants on the ethical marketing training courses at the 7 Graces Project.
LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales. Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors.
Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.
(not just for Londoners, as we meet also on Skype)