‘The goal is to die with memories, not dreams’
In 2002, I had a vision while studying at University. Although disinterested in my Politics course, I’d become fascinated by hypnotherapy and personal development. While pondering what to do when I left, and how I had no desire to follow a conventional path, this vision hit me. I saw myself speaking to an audience and inspiring them with my words.
What followed was a 15-year journey to become a personal development leader. It’s a journey that took many twists and turns. Via the route of becoming a tennis coach and then a hypnotherapist, while overcoming personal problems like insomnia, IBS, chronic shoulder pain, and loneliness, I was finally able to publish my book and embark on my life as an author and speaker.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Fifteen years is a long time! It’s too much effort, heartache and rejection.
Furthermore, you might be thinking it won’t take me that long to live my dreams. There’s an easier way and I’m smarter than that.
And maybe there is and maybe you are. However, what I’m about to share with you applies to any dreamer irrespective of their abilities or the nature of their dream.
There’s a three-stage process you must pass through to live your dreams. I want you to understand it. This way, you’ll appreciate why it can take longer than expected and, most importantly, not be discouraged.
The Hero’s Journey
The three-stage process I’m talking about is The Hero’s Journey. It’s creator is the writer Joseph Campbell, who developed this theory while studying ancient mythology. He discovered that there were certain key stages that every adventurer must pass through to achieve their goal.
Originally numbering 21, for the sake of brevity, I’m going to describe them under their 3 main headings (and use my journey as an example of how they apply). I want you to understand that you too are a potential hero. It’s my belief that we all have a meaningful contribution to make to this world.
Will you heed yours?
Stage 1: The Departure – February 2002 to September 2003
The Departure occurs the moment you set out on your quest. It also shines a light on the confusion you may experience.
In The Departure, the hero has ‘a calling’ (an idea for a new business, a goal they want to achieve). However, they are torn between the excitement of this dream and the comfort of the world they know.
For me, this occurred in February 2002 with the vision I mentioned at the start. I felt compelled to pursue it and, yet, it seemed impossible to achieve. Much deliberation ensued as my mind wavered between the two options.
The Hero’s Journey states that when making your Departure, you will face a ‘Threshold Guardian’ – an obstacle in the form of a monster or evil being that seeks to prevent your advance. For our times, this will present itself in the form of fearful/disapproving parents, colleagues, friends, a bank manager refusing to give a loan or a so-called expert warning that your journey will be fraught with hardship, or just plain impossible. Typically, they play on your greatest fears, claiming your quest could leave you broke and lonely.
Overcoming ‘Threshold Guardians’ is hard. As you can see from the length of time it took me to embark on my Departure (a full year and a half), their influence can cause a great deal of doubt.
Part of me accepted the ‘fact’ it’s virtually impossible to get a book published. Furthermore, I believed people when they told me I was too young and lacking in life experience. For a while, my fears of what might go wrong were stronger than my desire to explore the possibilities of my ‘calling’.
Eventually, I decided that I must stay true to my heart. Rejecting my parent’s pleas to consider a mainstream career in law or the corporate world, I trained, and then began working, as a tennis coach (the first step to me pursuing my greater dream of writing a book and becoming a personal development leader).
Stage 2: The Initiation: September 2003 – February 2012
This stage is about the trials you’ll experience in seeking to achieve the object of your quest. They’ll test you on three levels – physical, mental, spiritual – and the outcome, if passed through successful, will be a change in your consciousness.
My initiation was twofold. Not only did I need to learn a range of professional skills – how to coach and hypnotise people, how to write convincingly, how to build rapport, how to cope with failure – I also had to overcome my personal issues.
Both Luke Skywalker and Neo experience something similar in Star Wars and The Matrix. Their mentors – Yoda and Morpheus – push them through a series of trials aimed at altering their concept of reality. By mastering The Force and, for Neo, ‘setting his mind free’, they maximise their potential and develop the belief they can do anything.
It’s likely that your initiation will test you on many levels. You’ll need to develop the discipline to go the extra mile, the leadership qualities to convince others of your ideas and the resilience to overcome adversity. This may sound unappealing. However, it’s important to remember that going through these trials is what gives you the strength to rise above your old reality.
My Initiation took a lot longer than I’d have hoped or anticipated (eight and a half years). This was because I kept looking for an easy way out. I didn’t embrace the necessary hard work and, instead, told myself that I would only work when feeling inspired.
Eventually, I learned to accept the challenge of The Initiation. I made sure I did a minimum amount of writing every single day (1 hour). This was irrespective of how motivated I felt. Doing so enabled me to finish my book and prepared me for the final stage in my journey.
Stage 3: The Return: February 2012 – February 2017
The Return marks the moment the hero reveals themselves to the world. They make a stand. They say, this is who I am (by launching their product, creation, entering a competition etc) and set out to achieve what they initially intended.
For me, this occurred when I pressed enter on my laptop and published the first edition of my book on Amazon. It was the 8th February 2012 and I thought I was ready for superstardom.
What I soon learned, though, was that The Return doesn’t necessarily signify ‘the end’. I was hoping to sit back, watch the sales role in, live off the royalties and enjoy some speaking opportunities off the back the books success. This didn’t happen and it taught me an important lesson.
When you make your Return, you may well face even greater failure and rejection than you experienced during The Initiation. You may present yourself or, your project, to the world, and the world may turn around and say, ‘we’re not interested’.
But this is ok. It’s what The Initiation has prepared you for. You’ve already been tested to the limit and developed an unbreakable inner strength.
It’s normal to face inner resistance upon making your Return. The Hero’s Journey mentions that the hero will often feel the world cannot understand the new person they’ve become.
This was certainly the case with me. When I first published my book and launched my website, I was painfully aware that many people would find my point of view controversial.
This held me back. It stopped me promoting myself wholeheartedly. I hoped that people would chance upon my work without me having to make any noise.
Of course, this didn’t happen. Instead, I learned I needed to change my approach. Just as Luke Skywalker had to confront Darth Vader, and Neo had to fight Agent Smith, The Return demands that you face your greatest fear. For me, this was speaking my truth.
To be successful with my book and wider message, I had to get comfortable with bearing my soul to the world. For someone who had previously sought to cut himself off, it was a trying time. However, the more I forced myself out of my comfort zone, the more I realised that people warm to others who aren’t afraid to be themselves.
Soon, the result came in. The sales of my book increased, the interest in my website grew, I received some fantastic reviews on Amazon and I finally got some speaking gigs.
15 years after my original vision, I was finally living my dream.
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Do you want to learn more about living your own dreams? If so, grab a copy of my FREE course by clicking the link below. I call it, ‘How to Escape The System’ and it will provide you with the blueprint for breaking free form the 9 to 5, finding your passion and overcoming your fear. It also includes a 30 Day Challenge to get you started.
Joe Barnes is creator of the Screw The System website, author of the critically acclaimed Escape The System and long time contributor to Pick The Brain. His mission is to give all Dreamers, Adventurers and Entrepreneurs the inspiration and information necessary to pursue their true calling. He also works as a hypnotherapist and tennis coach.