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Becoming – What I am going to be! Aug 10, 2018

An on-line course I recently undertook [1] says that the important question is not really “Who am I?”, but rather “Who am I becoming?” While there might be merit in better knowing who we are (along the Shakespearean lines of “Know thyself” or “To thine ownself be true”), the latter is a healthier question to ask, because it allows us agency over who we want to become.

Beliefs that allow us to evolve

We are less inclined to let our beliefs limit who we can be, and more inclined to think, what can we do to become more like we would like to be. While this is also influenced by our beliefs, they are beliefs that allow us to evolve, rather than beliefs that might keep us stuck.

Let’s look at an example. On my most recent skin check-up, I enquired about the following, which was hanging on my doctor’s office wall.

Interestingly, it was a print-out of his daughter’s changing thoughts about what she might like to be when she grows up. At the time she was 9 years old. At the top of the list is a doctor, followed by an art teacher, spy, ice-skater, fashion designer/model and lastly a vet.

Fast forward to age 20 and his daughter, Nikita, is currently three years into a 5 year science and maths degree with Honours, with the intention of completing her medical degree and PhD simultaneously. This will take at least another 6 years. Nikita has also been doing rhythmic gymnastics (25-30 hours per week) since preschool and the team she is in have been Australian champions for the last 3 years, competing this year in the World Cup in Sophia, Bulgaria.

Potential within each child

One of the beautiful aspects of childhood is the potential within each child. The expectation that they will grow and develop. One way to foster this growth is to see who your child’s heroes are. Heroes are useful because they present someone to whom they can aspire.

The usefulness of heroes

It is important to have intent in life because “energy flows where your attention goes”. And heroes can help with this. Research within the psychology field suggests that heroes can heal us, transform us and connect us with others. Scott T Allison Ph.D. writes “Every hero story tells of a journey toward vast personal transformation.”

Joseph Campbell was a scholar of literature and myths. He claimed that nearly all myths and some other story types have similar ideas and that the heroes’ adventures are almost identical in their format. He identified 12 stages of the what he called “the hero’s journey”.

There are twelve steps to the hero’s journey. According to the Oracle Education Foundation Library, those steps transition the hero from their normal life to their call to adventure requiring them to solve a problem or overcome a challenge. The hero attempts to refuse this call because they are afraid, but a mentor steps in to give advice and ready them for the journey. Embarking on their adventure, the hero learns the rules of their new world, while enduring tests of strength of will and meeting friends and facing foes. Setbacks occur, causing the hero to adopt new ideas. The hero faces a life or death crisis, and surviving death, accomplishes their goal. On returning back to his ordinary life, the hero faces a final test where everything is at stake and they must use everything they have learned. The hero brings their knowledge back to the ordinary world, where they apply it to help all who remain there.

Beowulf and Odysseus are two classics that portray this journey. More recent though are epic tales such as that of Batman and other Disney stories, which all follow the same path of the hero’s journey. Reflecting back on my childhood, Batman was definitely my hero. I still recall the excitement of each episode, when the Wam, Bam, Pow with fists and lightning bolts would flash across the TV screen. (I’ve mentioned before in previous blogs, I was definitely a tomboy!)

Who is your child’s hero & why?

Who is your child’s hero and why have they chosen them? Besides elevating them (i.e. they feel a mix of awe, reverence and admiration), they nourish their hopes and foster important values of strength and resilience. According to Jonathan Haidt, elevation “motivates people to behave more virtuously themselves.” As Campbell says, it is only when we heroically risk change and growth in our own lives that we reach our full potential.

People need heroes because they are inspiring. They encourage us to transform ourselves for the better and they call us to become heroes and help others. But heroes don’t have to be fictional. In Nikita’s case, is it just a coincidence that her father was a doctor? Can parents sometimes be that source of inspiration or the hero who motivates their child to become the best they can be? I think the answer to that is certainly a yes, but not always. Clearly  personality, talents and preferences of your child are important. So why not make use of those childhood years to really take note of your child’s heroes and understand how they can be shaping and transforming their lives in ways you may never have realised.

[1]  This course is by Sam Ovens,


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