What is it about?

Meaning in life is tied to the stories people tell about their lives. We explore whether one timeless story—the Hero’s Journey—might make people’s lives feel more meaningful. This enduring story appears across history and cultures and provides a template for ancient myths like Beowulf as well as blockbuster franchises like Harry Potter. We conducted eight studies to show that seeing your life story as a Hero's Journey increases how meaningful life feels and helps people to be more resilient to life's challenges.

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Why is it important?

Humans are natural storytellers. People make sense of their lives using stories and how they tell their stories shapes the way they see and react to the world. Our findings show that the way people choose to tell their own story impacts how meaningful their lives feel. Telling a life story that aligns with a popular narrative like the Hero's Journey allows people to frame their experiences in a coherent and psychologically-resonant manner. Importantly, our findings do not suggest that people must naturally see their lives as a Hero's Journey to experience meaning in life. Instead, we developed a restorying intervention that assisted people with crafting their personal narratives as a Hero's Journey, which increased how meaningful their lives felt. These results provide initial evidence that enduring cultural narratives like the Hero’s Journey both reflect meaningful lives and can help to create them. Finally, our work shows that seeing life as a Hero's Journey impacts how people approach the challenges they face. Seeing life as a Hero's Journey encouraged more resilient coping to life’s problems and enabled participants to perceive themselves as more capable, psychologically and behaviorally, to tackle their problems. This points to the powerful influence that our life stories have, shaping both our perceptions of our past and our approach to the future.


As someone who believes deeply in the power of stories, I hope this research inspires future work on how the stories we hear in society can be used to better people's lives.

Benjamin Rogers
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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This page is a summary of: Seeing your life story as a Hero’s Journey increases meaning in life., Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, March 2023, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/pspa0000341.
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