The 7 Phases of Your Heroic Journey to Margin and Simplicity

Simple Life RebootWhat is the course of your life?  How we understand the unfolding of our lives not only impacts our ability to weather life’s storms, it also shapes the journey itself.

As Dave and I get to know people creating margin and focusing on priorities rather than stuff, we cannot help but draw parallels between the quest for simplicity and the heroic journey narrative described by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949).

Though from all walks of life, fellow travelers on the road to simplicity relate similar experiences.  As you consider the following phases, please reflect on whether you have had similar experiences.

1.   Starting Point

Each traveler starts at a point of compliance with cultural expectations.  The traveler, often perceived by others as “successful”, neither questions the norm nor the desirability of other options.

2.   Call to Adventure

The traveler receives information that questions the status quo and invites the traveler into the unknown.  In the simplicity realm, this might take the form of exposure to a simplicity podcast or article.

3.   Refusal of the Call

The traveler initially declines the call. Though he may perceive that something is amiss, the traveler believes he must maintain his current circumstances out of duty or fear.  In the simplicity context, such initial reluctance reflects the traveler’s prudence and consideration of  potential impact on others.

4.    A Helper Appears

After careful reflection, the traveler recognizes that a quest into the unknown is needed. A helper then appears providing needed tools and encouragement for the journey.  The Obi-Wan Kenobis of simplicity are numerous and include Henry David Theroux, Joshua BeckerLeo Babauta, Courtney Carver, Daniel and Vanessa Hayes, and Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus.

5.   Trials and Temptation

The traveler ventures into the unknown.  The traveler is tested and repeatedly tempted to abandon the quest and return to the familiar.  For those on the simplicity journey, such testing may take the form of  reluctance to let go of excess possessions and lesser priority activities, and the discomfort of sharing counter-cultural simplicity objectives with others.

6.   Confronting the Adversary

As the journey continues,  the traveler must ultimately confront and overcome the powerful force that previously limited or crippled him.  The Darth Vaders of the quest for simplicity include the traveler’s desire to signal success or significance, lack of intentionality and impulse control.

7.   Return to the People

The ultimate value of the journey is the extent to which it benefits others.  The transformed traveler returns to liberate his people from deception and bondage.  Though not as grandiose as the Campbell articulation,  the quest for simplicity achieves its greatest objective when the traveler’s experience benefits and encourages others.


Please share your heroic journey in the comments below.


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10 thoughts on “The 7 Phases of Your Heroic Journey to Margin and Simplicity

  1. This is really interesting: I found myself going through each step and matching up my journey and seeing where I’m heading to next. I recall the times I have “refused the call,” in fact, I will run into this at different times and have to remind myself why I’m doing what I’m doing. I’ll have to check out the book! Thank you 🙂

  2. I agree with Melissa — I carefully read each step and wondered where I am in the journey — this is a fascinating way to look at how I might be missing out on life if I don’t travel and work simplicity into the plan. I love this Sheryl and Dave! You are truly going to change lives with your message

    • Thank you so much! We often wonder where we are in the journey as well. We’ll take a few steps forward, then fall back a bit… and so on. We are encouraged by watching others’ progress. Sherry, your superb work at demonstrates your heart to share what you have learned in support of strong and happy blended families!

  3. As one constantly looking forward to her next trip, appreciate your analogy of the path to simplicity as a great journey.

    Simplicity is key to enjoying our travel experiences. For example, excess baggage ~ both literally and figuratively ~ can be a terrific roadblock: Too much stuff to carry keeps you from moving from place to place, too much stuff to maintain keeps you from continual learning about the world beyond your four walls, and too much stuff to pay for keeps you from going at all.

    • Thank you Dan and Vanessa Hayes! Your heroic journey in Simple Life Together inspires us all.