Have you ever committed to a heartfelt creative project and set yourself up for success, when just a few days later a sexier idea came across, beckoning you over with flirty eyes? Does it ever happen to you that, just when you finally feel ready to get started with your dream, someone asks way too detailed questions you can’t answer, leaving you feeling so naive and incapable that you abandon the whole thing? Have you noticed that the day you decide to skip carbs and red wine for a week, your friend calls to ask if Pizzeria Di Giovanni sounds like a plan? If the answer to any of this is yes – read on, dear hero.
You have probably noticed: you are on one incredible journey. And I say hero, because some people including me would argue that you’re on a hero’s journey – one that takes you from the known and shallow into the unknown and abyssal; and from each adventure you shall return with greater understanding and mastery of this thing we call life.
As for any journey, a roadmap can’t hurt – or at least a couple of hints about what’s likely to occur. I’m sharing a hint with you today – about what’s very likely to occur in one of the most crucial moments of your life; that is, the moment you start following your heart.
If you haven’t heard of it, The Hero’s Journey has been popularised as a myth pattern by J. Campbell in the 1950’s – and it gives insight not just into mythology and fictional stories, but also into the unfolding of our personal lives (what’s the difference, anyways?). The cool thing about using it as an approach to what gets thrown at us daily is that once we recognise a certain situation or challenge as part of the template, we can gain pretty instant clarity about how to face it.
Like the other day when I received an absolutely gorgeous job offer after months of waiting for one just like that, and, without hesitating for a second, said no thank you. Sounds confused, but in reality, I couldn’t have been more fully in possession of my faculties. At the moment it came in, that offer wasn’t just an offer I’d been waiting for. It was a Gatekeeper. Let me explain:
When Covid hit and I couldn’t accept any more jobs while being busy taking care of my kids, I inevitably gained distance from my advertisement work; and while my superficial me spent that time just waiting for things to get back to normal, another, usually less chatty part of me started coming up with mean questions such as:
“Do you enjoy advertising at all? And now that we’re talking, what’S your life purpose?”
Before my superficial me knew it, the other one had already set me up for a quest into the big wild unknown, with just chewing gum and a sense of calling as supplies.
To make it short: I got more clear than ever about the fact that making advertisement for things like toilet paper and vacuum cleaners (my freelance job as it could be resumed more often than not) is truly fun but, even if I wished it did, it doesn’t feed my soul. I made a clear decision to blaze a new trail for myself that feels on purpose – and took action.
Now, listen. The very day I had set up and launched one of a few projects that are completely aligned with my heart (have a look, I haven’t shown anyone yet) – in fact, the very hour of having published my first piece of content within this project – the best paid offer to write about toilet paper on planet Earth landed in my inbox. It said:
“Hi love. Waiting is FINALLY over. Here I am. Put the nonsense down. jump up. gallop with me into the sunset.”
It sounded very safe and comforting on a day I had left my comfort zone and felt very insecure. However, while my eyes were scanning the announcement of safety and comfort being back in town, something seemingly as qualified as unimpressed by the lucky occurrence looked up within me and instructed cold-bloodedly:
“Gatekeeper. Stay the f***ing course.”(Excuse the swearing, I’m really just reporting here.)
Let me tell you one more thing about the hero that you are. According to Campbell, her journey starts with the call to head off into the unknown (read: onto a quest for more fulfilment, purpose, wisdom, depth); after having accepted the call, she moves forward until very soon she inevitably encounters an opponent: a Threshold Guardian or Gatekeeper that she must pass in order to cross the doorway from her ordinary world into the unknown where treasure and transformation await her.
It’s a test, if you will. In facing and overcoming the Gatekeeper, the hero proves commitment, courage, and grit. Does she give up and make a U-turn because the guardian seems more equipped than her, or will she demonstrate integrity towards dream, mission and purpose and stay the f***ing course?
Who are your Gatekeepers?
We all have them – and I’ve come to believe that they reliably show up each and every time we’ve made one first, decisive step towards growth and change. Each time you’re about to up-level, each time you’re about to overcome a limitation, each time you’re about to leave the realm of the known to become a more refined, more skilled, more authentic version of yourself – trust me: you’ll encounter a Gatekeeper. Don’t judge them for doing their job. Instead, focus on yours.
Don’t get distracted by the sexier idea. Tell people who ask about details that you’ll figure these out on the way. Reject the pizza. Say no to the toilet paper job because even if a part of you had been waiting for one just like that, it would devour the time you had committed to invest into the project you love with all your heart.
You see the tricky thing: modern world Gatekeepers are rarely recognisable as ferocious monsters or malicious villains; they can be people meaning really well. It can be your mother for God’s sake – especially folks who’d love for you to stay the same forever. A Gatekeeper can be an idea, an opportunity that distracts you from following through; and I regret saying that the fieriest Guardian you’ll ever encounter is you, my dear reader. Our very human self-doubts and anxieties just before a huge step forward are way too often what ultimately keeps us from moving ahead.
No matter if internal or external – be aware of your Gatekeepers, and: honor them. Without them we’d have no chance to actually prove and strengthen the commitment towards our aspirations and, with that, grow self-esteem and confidence on the path. They help us own our path. Every single “no” you state in the face of a Gatekeeper that urges you to turn around and go back to the old and known is a ferocious “yes” to the future that’s calling you. Carry on, hero. I’m so proud of you.
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Image: Evie S. // Unsplash