Scientists discovered the key to a meaningful life
Have you been feeling restless or aimless, unable to see the point of your daily routine? Scientists conducted eight studies and claim to have found a way to a meaningful life: framing your life as a hero’s journey. However, that doesn’t mean having a “movie star’s life”; an ordinary life can have similar aspects to become as meaningful.
Humans have inspired each other for thousands of years with tales of heroism and bravery. In turn, we’ve led lives that mimic the same path of being called to a higher purpose, failing, and ultimately achieving success. Perhaps you must follow a similar path if your life feels aimless.
This article will discuss how scientists discovered we could live meaningful lives by following the Hero’s Journey’s example. Later, I will elaborate on the latter so that you determine you’re already leading a similar life.
How did scientists link the Hero’s Journey to a meaningful life?
In 1949, mythologist Joseph Campbell outlined Hero’s Journey to draw attention to the typical narrative structure of the most enduring stories throughout history. It usually involves a character going on a wild adventure, overcoming obstacles, and then becoming a changed person.
Recently, US and Canadian scientists tested whether this could be a blueprint for reflecting on our lives. Perhaps it could affect how we see our daily struggles.
“It might seem difficult for people to imagine themselves as mythical heroes, but our results suggest this is not required,” behavioral scientist Benjamin Rogers said. “The lives of everyday people can – and do – have the elements of a Hero’s Journey, and most any life can be restoried as such.”
Rogers and his colleagues shortened the Hero’s Journey’s 17 steps into seven elements that translate to modern life: a lead protagonist, a shift of circumstances, a quest, a challenge, allies, a personal transformation, and a resulting legacy.
Then, they created and tested a 21-item Hero’s Journey Scale (HJS) to measure how this narrative structure matches people’s life stories. For example, the scientists asked people how often they encounter novelty instead of estimating their openness to change for the shift element.
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The researchers gathered over 1,200 individual narratives from online and face-to-face interviews. Afterward, they analyzed these samples and found those that contained more of their HJ elements reported higher levels of meaning.
Most felt they led good lives and had lower levels of depression. “People who use the hero’s journey to tell their story appear better equipped to frame the ambiguity of life as meaningful to them,” the researchers wrote in their paper.
However, reframing one’s life according to the Hero’s Journey can also have negative effects. For example, a person may become more self-centered or devote themselves to misguided goals.
What are the Hero’s Journey’s steps?
If you’re struggling to lead a meaningful life, perhaps emulating aspects of their fictional heroes could help you. See the Hero’s Journey’s parts and see whether they fit parts of your life:
- Call to Adventure: The protagonist reluctantly accepts the call to adventure.
- Refusal: The main character tries to reject the call, leading to consequences that make the adventure more important than ever.
- Supernatural Aid: The protagonist encounters a magical guide who bestows physical or fantastical powers for their quest.
- Crossing the First Threshold: The hero begins their journey and enters a different world.
- Belly of the Whale: The protagonist faces the first true obstacle of their journey.
- The Roads of Trials: Tests and challenges kickstart the hero’s transformation.
- Meeting the Mentor: The hero finds companions or friends to help them in their adventure.
- Avoiding Temptation: Something tries to tempt the protagonist to abandon their mission.
- Atonement With the Past: The main character faces the true purpose of their journey, usually related to their past or something dear to them.
- Apotheosis or Climax: The main character realizes their true power, skill, and purpose.
- The Ultimate Boon: The hero finds fulfillment in achieving their original objective.
- Refusal of the Return: The main character tries to return home, but they may not want to anymore.
- The Magic Flight: Other forces may emerge and challenge the hero as the latter returns home.
- Rescue from Without: The hero continues to gain more allies as they return home.
- Crossing the Return Threshold: The protagonist crosses back into their original world.
- Master of Two Worlds: The hero inhabits two worlds simultaneously by applying the tools and skills they acquired in their journey to their regular world.
- Freedom to Live: The protagonist lives freely, earning a period of peace and rest.
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Scientists say people could lead meaningful lives by following the Hero’s Journey narrative structure. If you struggle to see purpose in your day-to-day, this technique may help you.
However, the researchers suggested further studies to confirm how the Hero’s Journey and one’s perspective can affect behavior. Also, they conducted the study in the United States,
Learn more about this study on the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology website. Also, check out more digital tips and trends at Inquirer Tech.