12 Stages of the Hero’s Journey: Which Are You In Right Now?

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength
to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”
Christopher Reeve

What is the Hero’s Journey?

The Hero’s Journey is a cycle – a “there and back again” quest through the crucial events that make, or break, a hero.

Mythological researcher Joseph Campbell coined the phrase, after studying myths from all over the world and publishing the book, “The Hero with A Thousand Faces.”

So why is this important?

Because it’s what all great accomplishments are made of. No matter who you are, where you come from, what you’re trying to create, or what you fear most – someone has done it before you. We all walk a similar path, and identifying the steps on that path can give you insight into where you’ve been, and what you have yet to face.

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life
to something bigger than oneself.”
-Joseph Campbell

So ask yourself – where are you in the hero’s journey?

Stage 1: The Ordinary World: Status Quo

The hero exists in a normal world, yet he often doesn’t feel he fits in. He is somehow different, possessing characteristics that make him feel out of place, or out of the ordinary.

Stage 2: A Call to Adventure

The hero receives a mysterious invitation, message or challenge, which calls him to something greater. He may show reluctance to leave the ordinary world behind – he may question his capability or desire to fulfill the task at hand – but in the end, he accepts his destiny.

Stage 3: Meeting the Mentor

Once he has committed to the quest, consciously or unconsciously, his mentor appears, or becomes known. The mentor provides him with the tools he needs to move forward in the face of fear and the unknown.

Stage 4: Departure

The hero acts upon his call to adventure and crosses the threshold from his normal, safe home, into the “special new world.” We’re not in Kansas anymore!

Stage 5: Trials, Allies, Enemies

Finally out of his comfort zone, the hero is confronted with an ever more difficult series of challenges that test him in a variety of ways. Obstacles are thrown across his path, and his skills are tested to their limits. He gains deeper insight into his own character, and so do those around him.

He also needs to find out who can be trusted and who can’t. He may earn allies and meet enemies who will, each in their own way, help prepare him for the greater ordeals yet to come.

Stage 6: Approach

The “inmost cave” may represent many things in the Hero’s story such as an actual location in which lies a terrible danger, or an inner conflict that, up until now, the hero has not had to face. As he approaches the cave, he must make preparations before taking that final leap into the great unknown.

Stage 7: Crisis

The Supreme Ordeal may be a dangerous physical test or a deep inner crisis that he must face in order to survive, or for the world in which he lives to continue to exist.

This is the hero’s darkest hour. He must face his greatest fear, and draw upon all of his skills and experiences to overcome his most difficult challenge.

Only through some form of “death” can he be reborn, experiencing a metaphorical resurrection that somehow grants him greater power or insight necessary in order to fulfill his destiny or reach his journey’s end. This is the high-point of the Hero’s story – where everything he holds dear is put on the line. If he fails, he will either die, or life as he knows it will never be the same again.

Stage 8: Treasure

After defeating the enemy, surviving death and finally overcoming his greatest personal challenge, the hero is ultimately transformed into a new state, emerging from battle as a stronger person, and often with a prize.

Whatever the treasure may be (which may also facilitate his return to the Ordinary World) he must quickly put celebrations aside and prepare for the last leg of his journey.

Stage 9: The Path Home

The Hero’s journey is not yet over, and he may still need one last push back into the Ordinary World. The moment before he finally commits to the last stage of his journey may be a moment in which he must choose between his own personal objective, and that of a Higher Cause.

Stage 10: Resurrection

This is the climax, in which the hero must have his final and most dangerous encounter with death. The final battle represents something far greater than his own existence – its outcome has far-reaching consequences into the ordinary world, and the lives of those he’s left behind. If he fails, others will suffer. But ultimately, he will succeed, destroy his enemy, and emerge from battle cleansed and reborn.

Stage 11: Resolution

All the tangled plot lines are straightened out and everything starts falling into place. The hero moves forward in integrity and honor, with the wind at his back.

Stage 12: Return to Status Quo

This is the final stage of the Hero’s journey in which he returns home to his Ordinary World a changed person. He will have grown, learned many things, faced many terrible dangers and even death, but he now looks forward to the start of a new life. His return may bring fresh hope to those he left behind, a direct solution to their problems, or perhaps a new perspective for everyone to consider.

The final reward that he obtains may be literal or metaphoric. It could be a cause for celebration, self-realization, or an end to strife, but whatever it is it represents three things: change, success and proof of your journey.

The return home also signals the need for resolution for the story’s other key players. The hero’s doubters will be ostracized, his enemies punished and his allies rewarded. Ultimately he will return to where he started but things will clearly never be the same again…. He is now a hero.

Where are you in your own hero’s journey?

How can recognizing these stages help you conjure more courage, stamina and hope?

Share with us by commenting below.

And may you always be ready to answer the next call to adventure…

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