“The cave you fear to enter, holds the treasure you seek”
Deconstructing that idea popularized by Joseph Campbell and reflecting on heroism, I think our society needs more heroes! Perhaps you are either already one, or you could prepare yourself to become one. I think we have been persuaded, incorrectly, to think that heroes are either anomalies born with super powers or people who act bravely under extraordinary circumstances. But put simply, a hero’s journey involves stepping out from the familiar, into an unknown territory where new challenges await.
Merriam-Webster offers a simple definition of hero: a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities. Based on that definition, why couldn’t you or I be a hero too? Who doesn’t have “fine qualities” that can be developed? Who isn’t capable of brave acts? The ‘great’ part of that definition seems dependent largely on circumstance, being in the right place when an opportunity presents itself. Being brave means acting with courage. Google calls courage as “the ability to do something that frightens one.” Each of us are capable of pushing beyond our comfort zones, of doing things that frighten us. We are all capable of being heroes!
Courage is a muscle, which gets stronger the more we use it, and it atrophies if it goes unused. The aforementioned ‘fine qualities’ operate in a very similar way. Being brave, courageous, honest, compassionate, kind, loving, generous, or strong are not birthrights. It’s not like you’re either that or you aren’t that, with no room in between. We can learn to be more kind, more honest, more courageous.
Each one of us has a comfort zone, a familiar reality where we can, with some level of confidence, predict how things are going to go. There’s value in having a comfort zone. It’s important to have. To not have a comfort zone would akin to spending all your time in a war zone or the wilderness, constantly afraid.
But stepping beyond your comfort zone to become more of the person you want to be has tremendous value. I don’t care who you are – how old, how privileged, how strong – there are innumerable valuable, positive lessons to be learned from pushing personal boundaries.
We, as human beings, are designed to seek challenge. We want adventure. We thrive while living out the Hero’s Journey.