The hero’s journey is a storytelling method introduced by Joseph Campbell who analyzed vast numbers of myths and fairy tales. He found that all heroes follow a journey with 12 distinct steps, although not all 12 are mandatory for the story. (Some sources argue for 17 steps.) This so called hero’s journey or “monomyth” is also used in movies and blockbusters like Star Wars in order to create a compelling story that thrills its audience.
When do I use this method?
You can use this method if you want to coach people – for example in situations, where your client is confronted with a situation that requires a change or where the client faces stormy weathers in a personal or business situation. The clients are guided through the 12 steps and can reflect upon how they, themselves, have tackled or would tackle these problems and how a hero would do this. Usually one gets a lot of new ideas out of this method, which is why it can also be used for any ideation session, e.g. if you have issues in a project. You can also use this method if you need to tell a boring story, project or process in a much more compelling way.
How do I use this method?
The journey of the hero consists of these 12 steps that you can use in order to tell your story. These 12 steps are divided into three sections, which are: the departure or separation where the hero leaves his ordinary world and follows the call to adventure; the initiation, where the hero experiences many adventures on his way; and finally the return, where the hero comes back with a solution.
Here are the 12 steps in detail (according the references provided left):
- The ordinary world: The hero is described in his current environment, a mundane, normal situation.
- Call to adventure: There is something missing in the ordinary world or there is a reason why the status quo changes. This gives the hero a call to start for the unknown – the hero gets a quest or a task to fulfil.
- Refusal: This call into the unknown is often at first refused by the hero. Why at all should the hero leave the safety of the ordinary world? This refusal can stem from fear or the feeling of having another duty or obligation.
- Meet the mentor: The hero meets a guide or magical helper who trains him and provides information to solve the quest.
- Cross the threshold: The hero steps into the adventure and leaves the known world behind.
- Test, allies and enemies: The hero meets allies and enemies and has to fight his way through a series of tests and tasks until the end point of the quest.
- Approach: The hero and his allies prepare for the worst situation ever.
- Ordeal: The hero nearly dies when he meets the evil boss, but the hero succeeds and grows.
- Reward: The hero gets an insight or a powerful object like an elixir, which helps him in his quest.
- Way back: the hero fights his way back to the ordinary world.
- Resurrection: The hero experiences a resurrection and is transformed by all the new experiences.
- Return with the elixir: The hero brings the elixir and his learnings back to the ordinary world that benefits from it.
What are the benefits?
The hero’s journey is a storytelling approach that helps you transform a mundane account into an interesting adventure. It also brings new perspectives to an existing problem – it helps you discover unusual ways of solving an issue.
Special thanks also go to my colleague Beate Riefer, who provided a lot of input concerning this method.
Try out this method and let us know about your experiences by commenting to this post!