“Somebody should tell us…right at the start of our lives…that we are dying. Then we might live to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.” ~Michael Landon
Lifewriting is about being the hero in our own stories. To do this, we must understand not only storytelling, but what heroes really are. They are not people without fear. They are people who act despite fear.
It is FEAR in one form or another that manifests in step #2 of The Hero’s Journey: The Hero Rejects The Challenge
An example of this is the “Mountaintop” speech Martin Luther King gave the day before his assassination. He knew. He KNEW that he probably wouldn’t survive his mission. And I don’t doubt at all that he prayed, and cried, and asked God to lift the burden from his shoulders. He tried to reject the challenge. And hinted at that in his speech, given to provide strength to his followers.
He probably saw what was coming, and this is what he said to explain why he didn’t walk away:
“It really doesn’t matter what happens now,” King told the church. “I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane, there were six of us, the pilot said over the public address system, ‘We are sorry for the delay, but we have Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked, and to be sure that nothing would be wrong with the plane, we had to check out everything carefully. And we’ve had the plane protected and guarded all night,’ ”
Do you have to wonder why they needed to guard that plane? HE KNEW. Everyone knew.
“And then I got to Memphis, and some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers? Well, I don’t know what will happen now,” he continued. “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now,” he said. “I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land.
“I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.“
And then he went out to die.
He knew. As we all know. When we are confronted with a challenge, whether world-changing or life-changing, we risk a death, whether large or small. Every time. If large, it is obvious why we might shy away.
But what if the challenge is to change a job? Stop lying? Gain physical power? Open our hearts to love? Set goals we care about and admit we care?
The fear of admitting that WE HAVE AGENCY. That our actions influence our results, can cripple us. And it can hide as depression, anger, emotional disconnnect. Belief that “it’s all luck”, that “it takes money to make money”, that “My body doesn’t work right” or “people are petty for judging me.”
That “relationships don’t work” or “there are no jobs” or “my life can’t be better until the whole world changes.” That “they are against me” or “I’m too old/young/black/white/gay/smart/uneducated to succeed.” Whatever.
There is too much risk. We might hurt. We don’t know what to do.
It is not up to us to know, in advance, what will happen. It is up to us to create lives of meaning and joy. MLK’s joy was ecstatic: serving his God by serving his people, a joy so huge it was larger than his own life, and therefore larger than his terror of oblivion. His attention was on SERVICE, on CHANGING THE WORLD in a direction he felt in alignment with divine purpose.
In all likelihood, your challenge, your purpose, is far smaller, won’t require anything close to what King needed to take another step. But he felt what you feel. And by taking his attention off himself and ON the dream, he was able to change the world.
You can change your inner world, by acknowledging your negative emotions, not hiding from them. And finding a goal, a purpose so huge that overcoming the negative emotions is a heroic act.
- You need to remember the greatest moments of your life, moments when you were BEYOND YOUR BEST, when you were so proud of yourself you could hardly believe it was you. You were a HERO. We all have those moments. It is then, at those moments, that the people around you want to follow your example.
- You need to have a CLEAR OUTCOME. Something transformative. Change yourself. Change the world.
- You need to see that every moment is a NEW OPPORTUNITY. All you have to do is leave the past behind. Not make incremental changes on what you’ve done before, but leave your fears behind. Be willing to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to bring your vision into existence.
There is something inside you that huge, that important. Something worth dying for, and therefore worth living for. THAT is what makes a hero.
What is your story? Lifewriting asks you to go directly to that question, to stop pretending that anything less will give your life, your love, your work, your destiny, the power and passion they deserve.
What are you committed to? What is big enough to move you past your fear? Find that, and you have won the fight before you step in the ring.