Hero's Journey, My Journey & Yours
Hero's Journey, My Journey & Yours
If you feel lost or stuck in some aspect of your life, this writing serves as a guide to understanding and navigating life’s challenges.
You might be grappling with an unhappy relationship, feeling trapped in an addiction, struggling with life-debilitating health problems, or you might be in the midst of a career change. Whatever it be, this piece will enable you to see the big picture and approach it with a fresh perspective by helping you:
→ understand your story
→ identify which stage you’re at
→ how to move forward and what to expect

The structure of our exploration:
The context of each stage based on The Hero’s Journey—a brief explanation of what the stage is about.
Examples from famous stories—including Harry Potter, Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit, Moana, and The Matrix.
My journey—the story behind my career transition from a yoga teacher to a life coach.
Questions—your turn to reflect on the questions provided to delve into your own journey.

Briefly on The Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell:
Whether consciously or intuitively, you are already familiar with The Hero’s Journey for it’s been embedded in myths, stories, and every human life throughout history.
The twelve stages of The Hero’s Journey include:
1. The Ordinary World
2. Call To Adventure
3. Refusal Of The Call
4. Meeting The Mentor
5. Crossing The Threshold
6. Test, Allies, Enemies
7. The Approach
8. The Ordeal
9. The Reward
10. The Road Back
11. Resurrection
12. Return With The Elixir
The stages could be skipped, repeated, or they may change order depending on the unfolding of each story as they did in mine: stages two and three are combined; stages four and five are switched places in the following exploration.



Time for the deep dive!
Stage 1 | THE ORDINARY WORLD
This is where we all start. In The Ordinary World, our lives feel inauthentic, unfulfilling, and stagnant. We end up in this world by chasing wins that actually don’t matter to us and/or doing what others want or expect us to do. In the midst of our dull lives, we deep down hope that there's more to life.

From famous stories: Harry Potter, being unaware he is a wizard, lives in the Muggle world. His life is shaped and ruled by others. He feels unseen, unheard, and powerless. Frodo Baggins lives in the Shire where everything is boringly pleasant. Moana agrees to live her life away from the ocean like everybody else despite her desire to explore deep waters.

From my journey: YOGA ONLINE
I’m a yoga teacher. I create free content on social media and paid programs online. I despise the constant marketing aspect of what I do. I feel insincere. I resent the process and myself for taking part in it. None of these are conscious to me at the time. I feel unmotivated, resentful, and trapped while normalizing living with tremendous stress that eats me alive.

To clarify, I talk about my experience with teaching yoga online and trying to make a living out of it. I’m not saying this applies to everyone in the industry. There are many amazing teachers doing a great job online. However, I couldn’t find my place in this world that felt genuine to me.

Your turn: What is your Ordinary World like?





Stages 2 & 3 | CALL TO ADVENTURE & REFUSAL OF THE CALL
This is where we receive calls to change, whether they come as opportunities, persons, setbacks, or life-altering problems, and this is also where we refuse them. Most of us get stuck at this stage for a while, avoiding or ignoring the calls one after another. Unfortunately, some live their lives at this stage, unable to overcome the fear of uncertainty and follow their authentic paths.

From famous stories: Hagrid reveals to Harry that he is a wizard and invites him to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry responds, “No, you've made a mistake. I mean... I can't be a wizard. I mean, I'm just Harry. Just Harry.” In The Hobbit, Gandalf tells Bilbo Baggins that he’s looking for someone to share in an adventure. Bilbo replies, “An adventure? No, I don't imagine anyone west of Bree who would have much interest in adventures. Nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things. Make you late for dinner."

From my journey: ‘KEEP PUSHING’
The mental-emotional state I’m in acts as a constant call to change. I’m stressed, irritated, and deeply unhappy. But I remind myself, “Nobody should know how I really feel. Act normal.” My body is silently screaming at me: “This is not working, we’re miserable, something has to change.” I ignore all calls of any form. In fact, I blame my inadequacy for my struggles. I suppress whatever I consider to be an obstacle to productivity and keep pushing each day.

Your turn: In what forms have your calls to change arrived? How did you respond to them? Why?





Stage 4 | CROSSING THE THRESHOLD
This is where we step into the new world, the unknown, whether it’s a physical environment like a new country, a new workspace, or a new family, and/or it is the depths of our psyche. Once we cross the threshold, change is inevitable and there is no point of return.

From famous stories: Harry Potter crosses the threshold as he passes through the barrier between platforms 9 and 10, onto Platform 9¾ to catch the train Hogwart Express to a new world: Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Frodo begins his journey to the unknown as he steps out of the Shire, and Moana, as she sails beyond the reef.

From my journey: THE UNKNOWN ILLNESS
I start suffering some life-hindering health problems due to reasons nobody can point out. Almost overnight, I find myself forcefully moved to a new world: I am not ‘very healthy and driven’ anymore, instead I belong to the world of ‘unhealthy and desperate.’ While unhealthy being factual, desperate is the addition by the immense self-pity I experience. I don’t want to be in this new world; I want to go back to my very healthy [?], driven, and secretly desperate life. I am ready to choose my secret suffering over dealing with the unknown but this time I’m not offered such an option. I’ve crossed the threshold; I’m already in the territory of no return.

Your turn: What is your New World like? What have made you cross the threshold?





Stage 5 | MEETING THE MENTOR
This is where the hero encounters a mentor who provides them with wisdom, knowledge, guidance, and/or tools to help the hero face the unknown. The mentor doesn’t necessarily have to be a real person or even a human being. People whom we haven’t met but always looked up to or experiences that equipped us with valuable insights can be our mentors.

From famous stories: Professor Dumbledore is one of many mentors Harry Potter meets throughout his journey in Hogwarts. He guides Harry, shares his wisdom, and provides him with tools and knowledge when necessary. In The Matrix, Morpheus mentors Neo, and in Moana, it’s her dead grandmother who helps Moana overcome her fears and move forward on her journey.

From my journey: WISE OLD MAN
Medical professionals, due to their training and being overworked for years, don’t register patients as people. I am, like many others, only some numbers, MRI scans, and various medical findings to them. Being sent from one medical specialist to another, I am left with papers of findings, conflicting diagnoses, a few drug prescriptions based on different diagnoses, and no clue on how to get any better. None of my questions find their answers: Is it possible to recover the loss in my vision? What if I lose more of my vision? Am I going to go blind? What is causing all these? What can I do to prevent more vision loss? What about the headaches? Am I going to suffer from headaches for the rest of my life? Is there anything I can do to decrease the frequency or severity of the headaches besides taking painkillers—because I don’t want to take painkillers every day three to four times? What’s happening to me? Why?

Thanks to the opportunities the modern world provides me, I go online to find answers to my questions to eventually discover Gabor Maté and his work. I listen to virtually all of his talks on YouTube on autoimmune diseases. I cry my eyes out as I hear him talking. The tears are both of happiness and grief: I’m happy to find him and encouraged to learn that there are things that I can do to help my body heal; I’m full of grief for losing my health-full life and sense of self. I buy all Gabor Maté books—except the one about parenting, and read every single one of them.

Your turn: Are there particular experiences or relationships that have had a profound impact on your life? What values and principles did you derive from them?





Stage 6 | TEST, ALLIES, ENEMIES
This is where we learn the dynamics in our new world: interpersonal relations, culture, authority figures, rules, doctrines, and so on. We get close to our enemies, make friends, and explore boundaries. This stage is where we’re prepared for the ordeals ahead.

From famous stories: A significant part of the first movie, The Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, is allocated for this stage as it introduces Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and its culture while Harry Potter has glimpses of his allies and enemies. Whereas in The Prisoner of Azkaban the preparation for the approaching ordeal takes a prominent ground as Professor Lupin trains Harry for his soon-to-come encounters with Dementors.

From my journey: TEST, RE-TEST, REPEAT
Half-heartedly adjusting to my new world, I start experimenting with diverse agencies, including diet, drugs, movement styles, various habits, holistic treatments, and the like to identify my ‘enemies’—factors negatively affecting my health, and to meet my ‘allies’—factors that have a positive influence on my state of wellbeing. As I test, re-test, and repeat, I get better at managing my symptoms.

Your turn: What are the dynamics of your New World—interpersonal relations, rules, authority figures, established set of beliefs, etc.?





Stage 7 | APPROACH TO THE INMOST CAVE
This is where we face our biggest fears. The inmost cave may represent an actual cave where the hero faces a dragon—everything one fears—like in various myths, or it may be the depths of our psyche, home to everything we, consciously and unconsciously, keep in the dark. But it’s also where the most precious treasure is hidden, that may be a physical object like money, a status change like a promotion at work, self-growth like gaining wisdom or going through a transformation, or love and acceptance. Only when we confront what we fear the most, can we meet our treasure.

From famous stories: Harry Potter enters the inmost cave as he descends to the trapdoor underneath Fluffy, the three-headed dog, where the three wizards use their specific skills to unlock each step forward. In the Mines of Moria, after Frodo sees the shadow of Gollum, Gandalf talks about the story of Gollum and the Ring. Learning what happens to one when they’re ruled by the Ring, Frodo says, "I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened." Gandalf replies sharing a piece of his wisdom, "So do all who live to see such times but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."

From my journey: THE HIDDEN TREASURE
Deep down I still reject the reality of my new world and desperately hope to find a way back to my Ordinary World through a rigorous investigation in practical applications. Although some noteworthy improvements occur, I see no significant change. I feel defeated. As self-pity, self-blame, and despair build up, I lose any sight of light in my existential darkness. As a believer in the light of conscious awareness, I start an adventure—“Nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things,” as Bilbo Baggins puts— into the depths of my psyche, where I ultimately meet the hidden treasure: acceptance of what is.

Your turn: What is your Inmost Cave like? What was the hidden treasure expecting to be found?





Stage 8 | THE ORDEAL
This is the toughest one of them all. This is where we hit rock-bottom, face a form of death, and potentially where we take our first steps to be reborn, transformed. While in the stories this stage is relatively short-lived, in real life, it can take weeks, months, years, or even be the last stage one experiences.
 
From famous stories: Harry Potter faces Professor Quirrell as an embodied version of Voldemort in the Chamber of Secrets. He must claim power through his true self to stand out against Voldemort. Moana confronts Te Kā, a corrupted form of Te Fiti, resulting in a horrible defeat. Resisting the idea of giving up, she must restore her confidence and derive strength from her true self. In the Lord of The Rings, The Fellowship fights the army of Saruman, leading to the death of Gandalf. They must find the strength to rise back stronger.

From my journey: FAILED EXISTENCE
“I lost everything: my passion, my professional direction, my identity, my health. I am unsuccessful, weak, and dependent. The game is over. I’ve failed miserably.” This is how I tell my story in the silence of my mind.

One day, as I am about to enter the bedroom, I suddenly stop. I bring my gaze to the beige tiles on the floor and I see a dark, overpotent vortex. I feel terrified of, first, having such a vision, second, being sucked into the vortex. “If I step forward, I’ll disappear,” I think. I freeze, but then, the dread is followed by a desperate relief: “Nothing more can happen to me. I’ve long gone.” The acceptance of my ‘failed existence’ wipes off all the fear. The vision of the vortex vanishes and I see the beige tiles again. I step on exactly where I saw the vortex and continue my way.

As lost as I feel, being experienced in failing, I’m evoked: registering the experience as of a failed existence awakens me to the possibility of a new one. If something is a failure, it is retryable.

Your turn: What was your rock-bottom like? To what learnings, insights, and/or realizations has it led you?





Stage 9 | THE REWARD
This is where we’re rewarded with what we need to move forward on our journey. The reward may be physical, like an object, or psychological, like a sense of direction, self-confidence, insight, etc.

From famous stories: The reward comes to Harry as a sense of belonging and purpose in the wizarding world. Moana discovers her true identity as an explorer of deep waters and leader. Bilbo Baggins gains a new sense of self as an adventerous, courageous, and resourceful hobbit. Neo becomes awakened to the truth of the Matrix and his role in shaping the future of humanity.

From my journey: GLIMPSE
Over time a simple but consistent self-inquiry grows into a meaningful intention: I want to be there for myself and others through tough times, hear their stories, and help them claim compassion and responsibility to foster change. The question, “How I can do this?” leads me to life coaching. I catch a glimpse of hope after a long time.

Your turn: In what form has your reward come to you?





Stage 10 | THE ROAD BACK
This is where we feel ready to return home, The Ordinary World, with our reward. But we’re not in the clear yet. We need to figure out how to exist as a new person in The Ordinary World while confronting the same old temptations and freshly emerging challenges. Unfortunately, this is also where we might fall back to our old ways, as it often happens in the context of addictions.

From famous stories: Harry returns to his normal life at Hogwarts with a newfound confidence and understanding of his role in the wizarding world. Moana sails back to her island to share her wisdom and knowledge about the ocean as a visionary explorer and leader. Neo returns to the real world to continue the fight against the machines and liberate humanity from their control. Frodo returns to the Shire, but he struggles to readjust to normal life and eventually departs Middle-earth to find solace in the Undying Lands.

From my journey: LIFE COACHING
Now, it is time for me to figure out how to ‘life-coach.’ I feel both terrified and excited: Is it really possible? Can I really do this? Isn’t it too late for starting all over? What would others say and think? Self-doubt is great, but feelings of hope for a meaningful life weigh even greater. I convince my freaking being by reminding how human mind and behaviour have always been of great interest to me, and how I’ve been reading books on psychology, neuroscience, and self-development since high school. ‘We’ve got this,’ my inner team-spirited voice encourages. ‘You’ve always wanted to be in this field, only you thought it was not possible,” another voice adds on. ‘It’s true,’ I reassure, ‘I enjoy listening to people, I genuinely care for them, and I’ve always been passionately curious about the human psyche.’ I am convinced: it’s worth trying!
 
I start studying life coaching and psychology through online courses; I follow other coaches’ work; I read books on a wide range of topics, including coaching, psychology, neuroscience, mindfulness, and whatever I find valuable. I’m dedicated to equip myself with whatever I need to help myself and others live a healthy, authentic, and fulfilling life.

Your turn: How did your Road Back look like?





Stage 11 | RESURRECTION
This is our final battle whose outcome extends beyond our existence, affecting the lives of others in The Ordinary World. This is where we put all the learnings, insights, and training we’ve gathered along our journey into practice. The battle usually ends with a form of death, which may be an identity death, overcoming an illness, ending an unhealthy relationship, freeing from an addiction, or the like.

From famous stories: Harry's confrontation with Voldemort in the Chamber of Secrets represents his symbolic death and rebirth as he faces his greatest fear and emerges stronger and more determined to fight to good fight in the wizarding world. Frodo’s journey transforms him from a simple hobbit to a hero who puts aside his own happiness and peace for the greater good of Middle-earth. Neo undergoes a symbolic death and rebirth as he sacrifices himself to save humanity from the machines. He is not one of the unconscious anymore, he has awakened.

From my journey: RE-BIRTH
Despite intensively educating myself on coaching and all other relevant aspects, and even having started to work with clients, I’m resistant to the idea of sharing this new me with the world. I’m afraid that people won’t take me seriously, or even worse, they’ll ridicule me: ‘What the heck is even a life coach?’

I am proud to be a yoga practitioner and a teacher, and I want to keep being so for the rest of my life. But, I don’t want to hide behind my yoga practice anymore. It is time to say goodbye to my identity a yoga teacher and to start the birth to a new one as a helper, a life coach.

Your turn: How has your Resurrection unfolded?





Stage 12 | RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR
This is where we share our “elixir” with others and make a difference in The Ordinary World. The elixir may be a piece of training, guidance, or a new form of love you offer to others.
 
From famous stories: Having met his true self and empowered by his Hogwarts family, Harry is ready to use his learnings and skills to protect the wizarding world from the forces of Voldemort. Moana’s ‘elixir’ is both literal as of the restored heart of Te Fiti and metaphorical as it’s the symbol of the knowledge, courage, and growth she has gained throughout her journey. She uses her elixir to inspire her community to re-connect with their true heritage and to foster abundance and health on their home island. Neo carries with him the knowledge and experience gained from his journey to bring about a new era of freedom and enlightenment for humanity.

From my journey: SKILLED AUTHENTICITY
My ‘elixir’ stems from the combination of all these three: my own experience and insights, everything I’ve been equipping myself with to be a skilled helper, and my caring nature. I consider myself to be fortunate to be on this path and I’m eager to share my ‘elixir’ with everyone who finds value in it. Today, I proudly identify my professional path as of a life coach—a dedicated helper in collaboration for healthier, more authentic and fulfilling lives.

Your turn: What is your ‘elixir’ that drives positive change in your life and the lives of those you touch?





Last words:
I’m grateful for every single factor that has played a role in this journey, including my ‘unknown illness.’ In fact, I see her—yes, it’s a she—as my determined helper and greatest mentor. Whenever I cross boundaries in the ways of abusing or neglecting my body or psyche, she warns me through her indisputable signals. Together, we prevent the potential deterioration of my body's current malfunctions, and who knows, maybe one day, as I get to know my 'unknown illness' better and better, we can even recover what's been lost.

Finally, I want to leave you and myself with this: Life is not what happens to us, it’s what we do with what happens to us.

Feel free to share your reflections, questions, or simply connect with me by clicking here – I'd love to hear from you!

Selen Yesilada — a life coach on an "Authentic Quest"
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