We then examined these stories for the seven elements of the hero’s journey. We found that people who had more hero’s journey elements in their life stories reported more meaning in life, more flourishing and less depression. These “heroic” people (men and women were equally likely to see their life as a hero’s journey) reported a clearer sense of themselves than other participants did and more new adventures, strong goals, good friends, and so on.
We also found that hero’s journey narratives provided more benefits than other ones, including a basic “redemptive” narrative, where a person’s life story goes from defeat to triumph. Of course, redemption is often a part of the “transformation” part of the hero’s journey, but compared with people whose life story contained only the redemptive narrative, those with a full hero’s journey reported more meaning in life.
We then wondered whether altering one’s life story to be more “heroic” would increase feelings of meaning in life. We developed a “restorying” intervention in which we prompted people to retell their story as a hero’s journey. Participants first identified each of the seven elements in their life, and then we encouraged them to weave these pieces together into a coherent narrative.
In six studies with more than 1,700 participants, we confirmed that this restorying intervention worked: it helped people see their life as a hero’s journey, which in turn made that life feel more meaningful. Intervention recipients also reported higher well-being and became more resilient in the face of personal challenges; these participants saw obstacles more positively and dealt with them more creatively.Ben Rogers, To Lead a Meaningful Life, Become Your Own Hero