Transformation & The Hero's Journey

By: Paula Stewart
Published Date: 2 Oct 2020


Donna Wells, the most impactful transformation coach I have ever met, often says, "There is a choice. The choice is living in a disempowering or empowering context. The words you use each day creates that disempowering or empowering context. The context is decisive!"

It is not just the words; it is the story. I had always been aware of peoples' stories and how valuable they are. I was the child and teenager who loved to read and listen to elders in my family, the survivors of World War II, the holocaust, communism, and the Great Depression. Marilyn Davidson, a friend, transformational coach, and mentor introduced me to Joseph Campbell’s hero's journey years ago as a model, and it immediately resonated with me. Those stories and this model have given me a powerful perspective to empower my family, friends, and communities, especially during a pandemic.

Having people or teams replace their disempowering context with an empowering context is my commitment. I have often been an ally in others’ journeys. When my elderly father lost my mother and his home, he came to live with us and sat staring into a wall. I walked with him on his journey to create a new story, one in which he shared his wisdom, a beautiful singing voice, and well-being with his grandchildren and others. Although he was in his late eighties, he positively impacted the lives of many people around him, just by his presence. I see his impact today when my oldest son talks about getting a tattoo to honor his grandfather. He decided to use one of my father's favorite sayings: "You are looking good from here, kid."

I am lucky and honored to have a husband who welcomes my coaching. There have been times where I gently interrupted the story he was telling and asked him to retell his story, knowing it would give him power and freedom. Living with him, I have been able to see the powerful impact this had made in all areas of his life and our life together.

There have been times I have said to my sons after listening to them deeply, "You have one life. It is up to you to tell the story of your life. It is up to you to tell the world how it will turn out and live into that future. What story are you telling yourself?"

I have worked with teams in retrospectives, where they understandably expressed a loss of power and freedom. After listening fully to what they were experiencing, I challenged them to retell their story. There always was at least one person, a leader, who started to powerfully recreate their team's story in an empowering context.

As a human being, I have had to take a step back and drop the story that was no longer serving me. I have thrown myself into a new journey and from that I have had the opportunity to powerfully contribute to others’ careers, loss of jobs, communities invested in a new normal, and expanded roles of working parents.

I have also seen people in my life who fell in love with their story. It became a part of their identity. It became whom people related to keeping them even more stuck in a disempowering context. Although they had a lot of justification, this disempowering context, their story of being a victim in their life impacted their relationships, and eventually their emotional and physical health.

Right now, Americans could live into a story of a country in decline, where they are victims. By no means am I saying that people do not have to deal with more than many of us have our entire lives. I also recognize the violence, division, and staggering inequities in our country. Many of us have lost jobs, loved ones, and are suddenly responsible for much more than we have ever been responsible for while experiencing a profound loss of power. No one would be blamed for telling the story of being a victim. However, that means a loss of freedom and power.

Why not start to retell your story? Instead of the victim, make yourself the hero who creatively, courageously overcame obstacles in your path. Tell the story of how you took back your personal power and how that expanded your compassion, empathy, and wisdom. Tell the story of how you had breakthroughs that empowered the people around you.

You have one life. What story are you going to tell about it? How can you be an ally to those around you?

"Think of the precious energy and time you are wasting on keeping the past alive. The truth is that your life is a miracle and a gift from God. To squander even five minutes of it on your story is not honoring the gift given to you. So, write a new story based on who you are today: a spectacular being who is here on planet Earth starring in your production called Life!" - Dennis Merrit Jones

I would like to share with you some powerful practices to interrupt the disempowering story you and your team may be living with:

Practices to Create An Empowering Context:

  • Distinguish what you are committed to for the future and recognize you are more powerful than you realize
  • Map your team's or your individual hero journey; this will allow you to take a step back and give you a fresh perspective. From there create a unified and inspiring vision of your future.
  • Encourage your family or your team to create each day. Start with what you need to give up, that disempowering context. Then take a stand for the impact you want to make. The stand could be: “Empowering, peaceful, loving” or “grateful, generous, deeply connected”, whatever resonates with you.
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