1. Why the Heroic Journey? It's Everyone's Story

The heroic journey tells the truth about the basic experience of being a teenager and provides common ground for conversations with peers and adults—the conversations that help become the author of your life and deal with the challenges and tests on the journey. The underlying pattern of the journey provides a common understanding of the territory, but each person will follow their own path and create their own reality.

From the Known to the Unknown. You can expect to leave the known world of childhood and cross a threshold into a new world of mystery and challenges and tests and new experiences. You can expect the fastest period of growth and development since you were an infant. 

Growth and Maturity. You can expect to find that you are growing smarter, more mature, more responsible, savvier about how the world works, socially more skilled, and more and more able to imagine what it will be like to be a young adult.

Knowing Your Story Makes a Difference

What Can I Expect?

What’s normal even if confusing or weird? The heroic journey tells the story about what to expect and how to make sense out of the vast range of experiences encountered as a teenager. One advantage is that simply knowing the range of natural challenges that come with being a teenager—and how tough they can be—can help you realize that, if you feel like you are struggling, it’s probably not that you are somehow lacking. It’s that the challenges guarantee that you will struggle at times.

What Can I Do About It?

How do I manage my journey? The heroic journey also provides a structure for figuring out how to respond to those experiences—how to self-manage, how to get the support you need and how to support others. It doesn’t solve all the problems but it can guide you in dealing with them effectively.

It's Useful Throughout Life

The heroic journey will be valuable at any point in your life because the heroic journey is a spiral that we follow multiple times. It’s the story of change at any age. If you get good at managing the journey as a teenager, you will have a good preparation for being a successful adult. It can also prepare you to be a leader or an effective follower.  

The Heroic Journey is Built Into Our DNA

This is not a new model that has to be learned. Most of the stories we have read, the movies we have watched and the make-believe we have created have been based on the heroic journey. Star Wars, The Odyssey, Harry Potter and most books for children have all taught us about the heroic journey. 

The only differences between the heroic myths and stories and our own personal heroic stories are the following:

  1. The heroic myths are grand and our own heroism is mostly, though not always, lived out in our daily lives and seems unremarkable in comparison.
  2. The heroic myths tell about occasional journeys and our own journeys are surprisingly frequent and even overlapping at times.
  3. Most of the heroic figures in the myths are larger than life whereas we, with some exceptions, are normal people doing what we need to do to make a difference.

The heroic journey is the story of change and growth in its healthiest form.  It is about becoming increasingly competent, mature, wise, resilient, and able to meet the shifting challenges of the world. The life of each individual is made up of many small (and sometimes some very large) heroic journeys, each testing and developing us in different ways.

The heroic journey really is our story and it is the one that can challenge and support us in leading the changes we need to lead and creating the life we want for ourselves. We just need to say “yes.”

“Being the Author” of a Life is at the Heart of the Journey

It does not imply total control, but it does mean taking responsibility for choices. Synonyms for author include such terms as creator, originator, founder, maker, prime mover, architect, and designer.  Some teenagers take on the author role early in their journey. Others take it on slowly in the beginning and then seem to blossom. Some really resist taking on that responsibility and drag it out to painful degrees.

Pulled in Different Directions

The Gravity of Childhood vs. the Gravity of Adulthood.

 As a teenager you can expect to have two forces of gravity acting on you.

One gravity is the gravity of childhood, which tries to pull you back into the old ways.The other gravity is the gravity is the gravity of adulthood, which tries to pull you into becoming a young adult. The childhood gravity gets weaker as you get older, but it will be a factor throughout your teenage years. As you get older the adult gravity gets stronger and helps draw you into young adulthood.

You will often feel pulled in different directions and often feel like you’re rafting in whitewater, on an emotional rollercoaster or in a crazed game of bumper cars. You will feel connected and at times disconnected. You will sometimes feel confident and sometimes insecure. Your world will at times seem to come together and at other times seem to fall apart. Sometimes you will be ready to engage and other times want to withdraw.

These two competing gravities come with the territory—it’s natural and inescapable. Everyone experiences it, but everyone will experience it in his or her own way. It’s one of the reasons that being a teenager can be so confusing. It’s also one of the reasons that the teen years can be so confusing and frustrating for parents.

It’s a Rollercoaster With Lots of Ups and Downs. Not only is it natural to get pulled in lots of different directions, but you can also expect to experience lots of ups and downs. Some ups and downs are big and some are little.  Some last a long time and some are fleeting. Sometimes you will experience an “up” in one part of your life and a “down” in another. Understanding that these ups and downs are normal and natural is important. It is also important to get increasing good at managing these ups and downs.

Successes and Setbacks. You can expect to have successes and you can expect to experience disappointments and setbacks and have to recover. The teenage journey has so many ways to be tested and so much unknown to deal with that the setbacks are inevitable—just part of the journey, not an indication that you are failing.

The Roller Coaster of Emotions

Why pay attention to feelings? Because they are a critical part of the experience in their own right and because they influence thoughts and actions in important ways. Talking about feelings can also provide common ground for people of diverse opinions, perspectives, and beliefs. Where thoughts and beliefs may differ, feelings are often shared and provide a bond, a connection.

Hiding from feelings or ignoring them can be problematic. A lot of risky behavior is a way of avoiding or muting feelings. This is particularly true for drug and alcohol use and risky sexual behaviors. Feelings can be really confusing, but they are much better experienced and dealt with than ignored.

The Range of Emotions That Can Be Experienced

There is a stunning range of emotions, so samples are provided below just to provide some vocabulary for the conversations.  You can safely assume that you will experience many, if not most, of these emotions at different points on the journey.  Often there will be a mix of emotions happening at the same time.




Note. This list is particularly important for teenage boys, as boys usually do not naturally come equipped with the same emotional vocabulary—that is true.

The Challenges on the Journey Affect You on Five Levels

This is one reason that being a teenager can be so difficult. You are tested intellectually, emotionally, physically, socially and spiritually. It’s how you grow and mature, but that’s a lot of testing and it can be confusing and daunting. You will be tested intellectually, emotionally, physically, socially and even spiritually.

Intellectual Tests

These include not only course content in school, but also developing new ways of understanding the world—from what’s going on in your school and family to how to understand what goes on at a global level. There is also a wide range of competencies to be developed beyond school—relationship skills, self-management, and job or volunteer skills, etc.

Emotional Tests

These are often the toughest. This partly because of the emotional roller coaster of adolescence and partly because you have to figure out how to understand and manage your emotions.

Physical Tests

These tests range from those that come with maturity and the changes in your body that naturally happen to becoming skilled at sports or dance or other physical activities. Physical challenges can also include maintaining health or recovering from injuries or illness.

Social Tests

These can seem to be constant as you figure out how to establish deeper peer relationships, fit into groups, form boyfriend/girlfriend relationships and deal with changing family relationships.

Spiritual Tests

Spiritual tests can range from awakening spiritually and forming beliefs to challenging beliefs you have had.

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