The Hero’s Journey: The Six Stages Of Personal Growth.

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The Journey to Success is often described as climbing a ladder.

The confusion is understandable. It might look like a ladder early on in your journey, when UP is the only way you seem to go and UP is the only way you see other successful people go.

However, there comes a time in every Hero’s Journey, you’re either:

  • hitting a ceiling;
  • facing an unexpected obstacle; or
  • getting knocked off your path by external factors

In all of these situations, the ladder analogy stops being helpful. Sometimes you’re forced to drag yourself through the ‘Abyss of Despair’ in order to find new heights.

The Journey to Success is never a straight line and it hurts the first time you truly realise this. 

Instead, it looks more like this:

Stage 1: The Walled Garden of Comfort.

Normally, a Hero’s journey starts in the comfort zone. 

The comfort zone is a Walled Garden in which The Hero feels comfortable and safe. A Walled Garden that is to be protected at all costs. Most people in this stage, hold on to this Garden like their life depend on it, trying to protect it from change. But make no mistake, change is coming and The Garden of Comfort will eventually fade, whether you’re in it or not.

That’s why The Hero is forced to pack her bags, leave The Garden of Comfort and continue on her journey. 

Adventure is calling!

Stage 2: Into The Wild.

The Wild excites The Hero as much as it scares her. 

From time to time it crosses The Hero’s mind to return to the comfort of The Walled Garden, where it was safe and things were easy. 

Despite these doubts, The Hero decides to march on, driven by will and ambition. There is MORE out there!

The Wild is where The Hero learns something new every day. Her days are filled with curiosity and optimism, as she attempts to find the path towards her Garden of Eden. 

What a time to be alive!

Stage 3: The Path of Trials.

The Hero enters the Path of Trials. 

She didn’t expect things to be this hard, and sometimes it feels like she should have never even left The Walled Garden of Comfort. 

But it’s too late, there’s no way back. The Walled Garden of Comfort is no more. She has seen too much to still be happy within its confines.

On The Path of Trials, The Hero gets pushed to her physical and mental limits. She wonders when she’ll be able to finally see The Light at the end of the tunnel, and if there’s Light at the end of the tunnel at all. 

All she can do is put one foot in front of the other.

Stage 4: The Abyss of Despair.

Enter the Abyss of Despair. Our Hero is tired and feels defeated. 

She wonders how deep The Abyss can get. Every time she thinks she hits rock bottom, her path descends even deeper into The Darkness. 

Looking up in despair, all what The Hero wanted seems so far out of reach. 

A thought crosses her mind. 

“Others seem to come by their Garden of Eden so easy. Did they go through the same Abyss as I did?”

But she soon realizes the answer to that question doesn’t matter. This is the path of The Hero and it won’t change, whether others had to walk the same path or not.

Things will never be the same, life isn’t fair. And that’s something she’ll have to accept.

Our Hero keeps putting her left foot in front of her right one, the same way she puts her right foot in front of her left one. 

Slowly but surely the path gives The Hero small opportunities to lift herself out of The Darkness, opportunities to climb towards The Light. 

Will this really be the end of The Abyss, is she really past ‘rock bottom’? Or is it all just imagination?

Stage 5: The Realm of the Phoenix.

Slowly but surely, a Metamorphosis takes place. 

The Path of Trials made The Hero stronger, mentally and physically. The Light gives The Hero new hope and the strength to climb out of the Abyss of Despair. 

She is leaving The Darkness of The Abyss of Despair behind her.

The Hero rises and rises and rises, and matches incoming challenges with a new-found confidence. She feels invincible. 

Rebirth is taking place. The Hero rises fierce like a Phoenix and eventually spreads her powerful wings. Wings she didn’t even know she had!

The path toward the Garden of Eden is open. 

It’s just a matter of time now.

Stage 6: The Garden of Eden.

The Hero arrives at the Garden of Eden. At last!

The once overwhelming Darkness of the Abyss seems like a faint memory now. 

Filled with joy and pride The Hero embraces this new found bliss. The grass underneath her feet is soft, and the beauty of the flowers bring her to tears.

After enjoying all that The Garden of Eden has to offer, it’s time for The Hero to protect it from external threats. 

It’s time to build a wall around it, which completes the Cycle of Growth and takes The Hero back to Stage 1: The Walled Garden of Comfort. 

This Garden however, is unlike the Garden she left behind long ago. This time The Garden is larger, richer in life, more colourful and beautiful than the previous one. 

The Hero is one step closer to fulfill her full potential. And that is what life is about.


Growth is a cycle.

An upwards spiral if you keep going when times are tough.

Sometimes you’ll have to be willing to descend into The Darkness of The Abyss, in order to reach the higher grounds on the other side.

Sometimes the challenges you face on the Path of Trials feel like crossing a calm river no more than 5 meter wide, other times it might feel more like having to climb Mount Everest.

Sometimes the thing that knocks you off your path, gives you nothing but a nudge. Other times you’ll feel like you’ve been hit by a train.

Sometimes your Garden of Eden fades away before you even reach it. Sometimes it gets destroyed with you in it, obliterating the walls you built around it to protect it.

No matter the circumstances, only The Heroes who keep going, have a real shot at finding their Garden of Eden. Success is determined by what you’re made of from within, not what happens to you from outside.

Seek comfort in the fact that the deeper The Abyss of Despair takes you into The Darkness, the more likely you’ll appreciate The Garden of Eden when you climb out of it. 

And you will climb out of it. 

You’re The Hero of your story, after all.

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About the author

Wesley van der Hoop

Living in The Bahamas, I get excited about digital marketing, writing, traveling, surfing, learning new things, and above all - penguins.

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