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Empowering Clients: Utilizing the Hero's Journey Framework in Coaching

Updated: Apr 25

Coaching with the Hero’s Journey: Act 1

Side Character Syndrome

I felt like a side character in my own story. It was like watching my life from the outside. Things were happening to me instead of me feeling like I had choices. I had very little control over my own narrative, and I was simply there to support those around me. I was a sidekick and not even a well-rounded one.

Did any of this resonate with you?

Good news, I don’t feel that way anymore.

Over time I read books like Superhero Therapy by Dr. Janina Scarlett, and The Hero Within: Six Archetypes We Live By by Carol S. Pearson, Ph.D. Consuming resources led me to the idea that I could be the main character in my story and that it was time to cross the threshold into the life I wanted. I knew the journey would be difficult, there would be challenges, and I would be taking action instead of being reactive.

Hooray for me, but how does this apply to you?

This blog entry is about the role of the Hero’s Journey within coaching and how hiring a coach can help you shift into that main character mindset. I will be using my own journey as an example, and I hope you will be able to see parallels with your own journey. This is also only about Act One of the Hero’s Journey. Acts Two and Three are coming soon.

Quick recap for those unfamiliar with Hero’s Journey

Let’s start by defining “hero.” According to, a hero is “a person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character.”

According to Joseph Campbell, heroes follow their own bliss, carving their own path, which is also deeply courageous. Therefore, I consider anyone seeking positive change to be a hero.

The Hero’s Journey is a formula that many Western narratives follow. The hero can clearly step from one stage to the next (17 stages in all). The Hero’s Journey was first identified by Joseph Campbell in 1949 with his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. The hero goes from the known into the unknown and back home. The hero grows significantly and encounters many other characters along the way.

When we apply the Hero’s Journey to our own challenges, a study found that people were more likely to be resilient, have a stronger sense of meaning, and could reappraise personal problems more positively. This is excellent. Essentially, by adopting a heroic mindset, we become more heroic in our ambitions.

This is different from pretending to be a hero in a game, though that is a great place to start if this sounds difficult. To become more heroic, courageous, and resilient, we must actually see ourselves on a Hero’s Journey or even multiple Hero’s Journeys. For example, I’m on a professional journey, a health journey, and a familial journey all at the same time, and they take shifts depending on where I am at the moment.

Let’s lay it out with examples

Stage 1—The Call to Adventure. I’m out here living my life, and all of a sudden, I learn something life-changing, like the time I lost my job. This isn’t the adventure I would’ve chosen, and that’s where the Hero’s Journey formula begins. Heroes rarely choose their adventure and often do not feel prepared to embark on said adventure. Which leads nicely into…

Stage 2—Refusal of the Call. I was in denial over losing my job; maybe I could make a bargain. Then I was overly optimistic; Maybe a perfect job is right around the corner and all I have to do is wait. Then I was inconsolable; I’d wasted my entire life up to this point, working for a job that didn’t care about me. Frankly, I didn’t want to go on this journey at all. Which is when I decided I needed help or…

Stage 3—Supernatural Aid (a.k.a. Coaching). If you think this is a stretch, hold on. When I say a coach is a supernatural aid to a hero, I mean that the coach is a highly trained and intuitive professional whose only job is to help the client in the most practical way possible. When I was losing my job, I needed help crafting a new plan. What I love about the Hero’s Journey is that the hero receives help early on, even before they technically begin their adventure. No hero is expected to go at it alone. And it isn’t until the hero has gained sufficient aid and tools that they go on to…

Stage 4—Crossing the Threshold. A coach helped me move from Stage 2 to Stage 4, where I could confidently put myself online. This was very scary because I was offering to help people when I didn’t feel like I could even help myself. However, with the Hero’s Journey mindset, I knew that this was simply the next stage in the adventure that I was running. And I kept putting myself out there day after day until…

Stage 5—Belly of the Whale. This was that final separation from my old, safe, comfortable life. This was the day I moved out of my apartment and drove north to a new state by myself, where I knew three people, including my partner. This was absolutely terrifying, and I did it anyway because that’s what heroes do. I saw myself as the hero of my own story, and I felt like I had agency after the initial job loss. I was resilient and found a new path that previously hadn’t been available to me.

I’ve been referencing a lot of psychology instead of coaching.

I haven’t found many examples of heroic coaching, and I’m culturally competent in Geek Therapy because I haven’t found an equivalent in coaching. So yes, most of my examples come from psychology, but that doesn’t mean the Hero’s Journey doesn’t fit into the Core Competencies as written by the International Coaching Federation. Let’s look at some examples.

Embodies a Coaching Mindset – Definition: Develops and maintains a mindset that is open, curious, flexible and client-centered. When I use the Hero’s Journey as a coaching mindset, I see myself as the Supernatural Aid. I’m just an aid. I can’t take responsibility for my clients' choices, I see how their culture influences them, and I seek help when necessary because my job is to support the client.

Evokes Awareness - Definition: Facilitates client insight and learning by using tools and techniques such as powerful questioning, silence, metaphor or analogy. The Supernatural Aid is like that wise old wizard who challenges the hero to broaden their mindset regarding the problem. I ask the client thought-provoking questions rather than just feeding them answers that may or may not help.

Facilitates Client Growth – Definition: Partners with the client to transform learning and insight into action. Promotes client autonomy in the coaching process. The Supernatural Aid is there to support the hero’s growth. This isn’t about my growth this time around. It’s about the client and their worldview and behaviors. I’m their partner as they prepare for this journey, and help set them up for success.

Remember when I said I felt like a side character?

My main defense growing up was to be invisible. If people couldn’t see me, they couldn’t hurt me. I did my best to disappear in a room where I was often the only person of color. And I’ll be honest, this method had a pretty high success rate except for when it didn’t.

Being invisible meant I didn’t get help when I needed it.

Being invisible meant I only stood out when I made a mistake.

Being invisible meant boredom because my interests weren’t brought to light.

Being invisible meant I wasn’t myself.

Being invisible meant I wasn’t the main character in my own life.

While this sounds pretty bad, being invisible also prepared me for becoming a coach. Being a coach (a.k.a. the Supernatural Aid) means checking your ego and shining the spotlight on the client so that they can have their needs met. I learned how to listen, how to read people, and how to build my own success so that I could now help others.

The Hero’s Journey is a cycle. In some journeys, I’ve learned enough to be the Supernatural Aid. In other journeys, I just received some life-changing information that will require me to seek my own aid, which is completely valid. And no matter where you are on your journey, it’s okay to ask for a little extra guidance.

If you found this interesting, there are three ways you can support me:

  1. Share this post on your social media, it would mean a lot.

  2. Connect with me on social media, let’s get into a conversation.

  3. Book a 15-minute call with me to see if we would be a good coaching fit.

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