Giving Up the Velvet Rut – A Hero’s Journey

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Have you ever felt like you were in a rut? I have. I’ve felt stuck at work, in school, in relationships, like I wasn’t making any forward progress. For some reason in those moments I stopped being able to utilize my creativity to start thinking up a new story for myself. Without the ability to envision new possibilities for my life, I wound up reliving the same expectations I had for myself over and over again.

I remember living in Victoria, a town so pleasant, they hid it from the rest of the world. It was a place so comfortable to be that just being ‐ in and of itself ‐ became the project of the day. Of course days go by and eventually you realize you’ve worked yourself a nice little imprint on the couch of your life – my own personal velvet rut! And it took a job as vibrant and engaging as the city I moved to, Vancouver, to get me learning how to tell a new story for myself.

When I started working as a Community Connector, I was told our goal was to meet with people who are experiencing social isolation, discover their gifts, and find ways to connect them to their community. Sounds simple enough, but a key ingredient in reducing isolation is increasing proximity to other people, and that’s something you can’t force someone to do. Being isolated, feeling in a rut, stuck, it’s easy to forget that you possess everything you need to get yourself out ‐ your sense of humour is a ladder, your interests and skills are a jetpack, your compassion is a bunch of sheets tied together like from an old movie, and your desire to be in community is your voice calling to those around you to draw near. It quickly became clear to the whole connector team that we needed to learn how to reflect back to the people we work with the vast array of gifts we found within them, as this was the foundation of a new story we would help them imagine for their lives. We spent some time with maestro storyteller, Denise Withers. She showed us how to construct a Hero’s Journey story, and how to use this tool to give people a new way of looking at their opportunities for connection (see below). This tool has helped connectors build confidence and motivation in the people we support, guided our reflection on the work we’ve done, and served as a starting point for personal transformation in many cases.

Are you in a rut at work or in your personal life? Are you having trouble seeing new possibilities for yourself? Try thinking about the present not as the middle act, or the conclusion, but as the beginning of a NEW story, one that takes its impetus from your amazing array of gifts and unfolds before you in surprising and unexpected ways.

Nick Janzen
Building Caring Communities

Story Canvas for the Hero’s Journey

The following questions are a good place to start asking your inner hero, or someone that you are helping to get off their couch! To request more info on this story canvas, click here.

  • Who is the Hero?
  • What is the Hero’s problem?
  • Is there any background info that is relevant?
  • Why does this matter?
  • What does happily ever after look like?
  • Who are the ‘good guys’ (allies/collaborators/circles of support)
  • What assets/resources/ strengths can help the hero out?
  • Who are the ‘bad guys’ (what has the potential to get in the way?)
  • What obstacles are in the way? Is anything missing??
  • What is the plan of attack? What ideas/steps can you take towards ‘happily ever after?’
  • How do the ideas turn into action? Are there quick and easy ways to test the ideas?
  • What happened next? Learnings?
  • How do you incorporate these learnings in next step?
  • Is there a happily ever after??