Where are you in your heroic journey?
This is not a rhetorical question. Nor should it be answered flippantly. Certainly, it has taken many years (and experiences) to become who you are today. And it hasn’t been easy.
However, out of our setbacks, and even failures, we have been afforded the opportunity to develop our grit: by encountering difficulty and learning to cope with it. This has made us stronger and more masterful.
If you take the time to think about it, your journey as a hero began with a call that you just couldn’t ignore. This calling required that you put aside outmoded ways of being. It required facing unknown challenges.
To move forward into the unknown the hero questions everything, including self. You see, at the core of your heroic journey is your acceptance of your true self: through self-assessment, reflection, and often times painful exploration of insufficiencies. This requires brutal honesty.
If you think you haven’t begun your journey, know that denial can only last so long. Going back is not an option. Stagnation leads to decay, and eventually death. Instead, you can take a step forward.
The Heroic Journey Guidebook
The heroic journey doesn’t have a final destination, per se. It does, however, require careful attention, focus, and even vigilance to assess where you are and how to become your best self.
Consider Doug Conant. He turned around the once struggling Campbell Soup Company, and went on to successfully lead Nabisco Foods. What is really remarkable is how he overcame being fired without warning, and considers this to be “the best thing that ever happened to him.” Why? It allowed him the time for self-reflection and discovery.
According to Conant, many leaders today are blocked from embarking on their heroic journey because they are “trying to live the corporate story,” rather than their story. In their attempt to fulfill the expectations of the outside world, they “fail to reconcile the inside world, and remain stuck.”
Instead, we can create an entourage of excellence, find our individual leadership stories, and bring those stories to life.
Become Your Best Self
Over the past year, we’ve seen incredible acts of vulnerability and authenticity. And while we may never become heroes and sacrifice as so many did, we can become more authentic and capable of heroic deeds. We can embark on a heroic journey to our best self.
The journey to self is an intentional process. Discovering who you are and where you are at this particular point in life requires an honest assessment.
In The Blueprint: 6 Practical Steps to Lift Your Leadership to New Heights (Wiley, 2020), authors Doug Conant and Amy Federman share their experience, research, and expertise to guide you through the process.
To begin, the authors suggest three steps:
1. Write your entire life story.
a. Write by hand, rather than type.
b. If needed, start with a chronological outline, and add in the minutiae: all the intricate details you can recall.
c. Provide context. For example, what is your birth order, where were you born, what major events—near or far—were taking place, etc.
2. Identify your points of light. These are the people who influenced your life.
a. What were/are their standards for you?
b. How did they demonstrate care and affection for you?
c. How do you practice or model this for others?
3. Reflect and connect.
a. Explore your life story. Consider who and where you are right now.
b. Then, ask yourself: Are you living your story or the story someone else expects?
c. Inhabit your story heroically. Be a part of the story, and not just a footnote.
Your Next Act as a Hero
To act as a hero is to be intentional. It is to create the life that is the most accurate expression of who, what, and where you want to be. While this might sound like a tall order, your next act is just one small step away.
When you take an accurate and honest assessment of yourself and connect to what and where you want to go, you act like a hero—for yourself, and others. This allows you to:
· Envision who you want to be; your best self.
· Reflect on your strengths, and how you perceive yourself: intellectually, cognitively, emotionally, physically, socially, sexually, and spiritually.
· Transform your life.
After you’ve completed the first three steps, move on to the next three:
4. Plan. Design a life: a career, a way of being, that aligns with your true self. Identify the resources and goals you need to move forward.
5. Practice. This is where you can develop new habits. Keep them simple. Recognize each time you use your strengths and express your values.
6. Progress. Remember that heroes are not perfect; rather, they work to improve and reinforce positive habits. Your heroic journey is a process that takes perseverance.
Working with a trusted mentor or qualified coach is very helpful in this process, as is intentionality:
· Pay attention to who you are right now and recognize when you are your truest, best self.
· Take action. If needed, change your attitude, beliefs, and habits that require undoing and redoing.
· Share your story. Your heroic journey is meant to be shared, with authenticity, gratitude, and humility.
“You can either walk inside your story and own it, or you can stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.” - Brene Brown