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Hero’s Journey® Change Model

Posted by Julie Elledge, Ph.D., PCC | October 1, 2021 | Comments (0)

Embedded within the human psyche is an understanding of how humans change. Whether deliberately or not, this understanding has been translated into storytelling. Story after story, through centuries and across cultures, each one exhibits the same structure and archetypes. Joseph Campbell identified this phenomenon and describes the story model as the Hero’s Journey® — The universal quest for self-transformation. The journey of the hero is about the courage to seek the depths; the image of creative rebirth; the internal cycle of change within us; the uncanny discovery that the seeker is the mystery which the seeker seeks to know.” Heroes engage willingly in the struggle for a worthy goal, face down obstacles, overcome fears, and push through self-doubt. As people we can relate with every step of the hero’s tale, even if it is subconsciously.  As coaches, we can guide clients to consciously accept their role as heroes of their own story through the Hero’s Journey® Change Model. By framing their struggles in the light of a hero on a journey, clients and coaches enter into a partnership, gaining a unique set of tools and powerful insight. 

Mentors and Coaches 

No Hero’s Journey® is complete without a wizard, mentor or in the case of coaching, a coach! An expert that knows the path ahead, the coach partners with clients to visualize a new future. In Lord of the Rings, Frodo, very much like clients, yearns for adventure and change when Gandalf arrives. Like all heroes and clients, he is resistant to leave the familiar behind. Torn between his wandering heart and the comforts of home, he hesitates. In the end (which is really the beginning) Frodo, like clients, is pushed to adventure. 

Once upon his adventure, Frodo’s need for guidance remains.  Together Frodo and Gandalf develop goals, problem solve at important junctures, and, when necessary, resist adversaries. The mentor, like a coach, has experience in the world of change and has a better idea of the challenges to come. Though they may want to explain in detail every challenge, hardship, and difficulty the adventure will have in store for the hero, they know that is not the way forward. The adventure is the client’s, the mentor must allow them to struggle and succeed. 

Treasure Maps and Coaching Plans 

Heroes use maps to seek their treasure just like Indiana Jones in “Raiders of The Lost Ark”orJack Sparrow in “Pirates of the Caribbean.” The map provides the client with a starting point, revealing future steps as they gain knowledge of who they can be. Importantly, maps do not allow heroes to skip to the end. The treasure is earned by completing every leg of the journey, in order, and with attention to detail. 

Because the Hero’s Journey® Change Model is a storytelling approach to coaching, forming coaching plans in the spirit of a treasure map invites clients into the coaching process using their sense of amusement and play. Exercising both the coach and the client’s imagination, the map shines a light on the big picture of the coaching plans and, at the same time, sets reasonable expectations of where they are headed with each coaching session and how clients move from one stage of their journey to the next. 

For clients, the process of accepting the challenge of each stage and unraveling the essential question like a puzzle brings an element of intrigue and self-discipline into the client-driven process. For the coach, prior knowledge of the path ahead informs them which tools and techniques are the best fit for the adventure to come. 

Side Adventures and Proximal Goals 

Side adventures are essential to the triumph of the hero. In “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” Harry must unravel the secrets surrounding the mysterious character of Sirius Black.  

He undertakes a proximal goal (facing Sirius) that is immediate and relates to his end goal (facing Lord Voldemort). Through the side adventure the hero gains an ally, acquires knowledge, processes complex emotions and grows as an individual. 

In the realm of coaching with the Hero’s Journey® Change Model, coaches help clients explore who they are and what they are capable of with proximal goals. These SMART goals carried out between sessions explore clients’ concerns and opportunities. They help them creatively process and express their feelings, perceptions, concerns and beliefs in a way that is respectful and true to their preferences and talents. With each goal achieved, mentors guide clients with tools to help them in their larger quest. 

Elixirs and Distal Goals 

A treasure, the love of a prince or princess, a cure, or the crown are elixirs that heroes seek. This final distal goal, essential to every story, may be clear as day in the stories we read. It might not be so clear to clients. Even if the client can verbalize the goal, it may not be what it appears. For example, a client might seek a wealth target. It is possible that attaining this benchmark of wealth will make the client feel fulfilled, but more likely this client needs to improve their sense of financial well-being. The remedy to this more complex goal may have nothing to do with reaching the client’s wealth target. I will explain more about this phenomenon and how to tease out a client’s true distal goal in this series’ next blog post ”Shadow Stories and Financial Well-being in Coaching,” but for now, suffice to say that it is essential. 

Treasure maps, side adventures, elixirs and wizards— The Hero’s Journey® Change Model is a truly unique approach to coaching that you have to learn more about to fully appreciate. While I have highlighted some of the unique portions in this blog post, The Hero’s Journey® Change Model is an approved derivative of Joseph Campbell’s intellectual property and an evidence-based approach developed specifically for coaching.  Each of our classes that help coaches to implement this remarkable model are approved by the International Coaching Federation for continuing education. Join us at MentorAgility.com. Your adventure awaits. 

The mark HERO’S JOURNEY® and any copyrighted material authored by Joseph Campbell are used under license from the Joseph Campbell Foundation (www.jcf.org).

© Mentor Agility 2021

Headshot of Coaching World contributor Julie Elledge

Julie Elledge, Ph.D., PCC

Julie Elledge, Ph.D., PCC is the founder of Mentor Agility and Raconteur Coaching. Because of her passion for using storytelling in transformative coaching, Mentor Agility has brought together an impressive roster of recognized and award winning master storytellers to enrich the profession of coaching. She has three board certifications in professional coaching: PCC, BCC, and NB-HWC. She is also a licensed family therapist, an educator with her Ph.D. in Education, author, and a recognized expert in creativity and organizational dynamics. She has coached in multiple disciplines for over 25 years and worked on education initiatives with Apple Education, Twentieth Century Fox, NOAA, BP and INEEL. To learn more about finding your authentic coaching voice visit Mentor Agility website.

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts featured on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the International Coach Federation (ICF). The publication of a guest post on the ICF Blog does not equate to an ICF endorsement or guarantee of the products or services provided by the author.

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