What We Can Learn From An Epic Story’s Moment Of Truth

Each of us in on our own hero’s journey

It’s always a big sigh of relief to me when I reach the part of each story that writers call the moment of truth.

This is where the protagonist, the main character, realizes the truth about themselves. This is where they understand who they are. 

It’s when Hiccup realizes he’s a dragon trainer, not a dragon killer. 

It’s when Moana realizes the ocean chose her, and her failures cannot change that. 

It’s when Benjamin Ripley realizes that it’s better to be brave and dead than alive and a coward.

These are where each of the three protagonists have their moment of truth.

My heart always breathed a huge sigh of relief when I reached this point in each story I love. While many other people seemed to like the climactic battles, I felt like I was merely riding out the wave of an inevitably gorgeous piece of music after this moment.

I felt the battle had already been won.

I didn’t know how true this was.

Here’s why my heart always felt so relieved, even though I didn’t understand it at the time. 

It was because I knew that every action afterward would be the right one. It might not have a sugar-coated outcome. It might result in loss of limb (literally for Hiccup) or life (almost happened for all three). But the outcome would be that they would be fighting for the Right Thing.

And as a child, I had a deep sense that in some way, everything would be all right if they were doing the right thing. Not always happy, not always want they wanted, but a safer place than otherwise nonetheless, and one that would lead to the right thing. 

They knew who they were and that’s what mattered. 

They were going to stop doing stupid things and going to start doing courageous things. 

The line between stupid and courageous might be thin but it’s there. 

This is why the book Atomic Habits, which is very centered around identity, meant so much to me. This is why I found renewed courage to baby step towards my goals. In a way, once you understand who you are, you can’t fail. 

But how do you get there?

How do you come to the truth?

There are many ways life lies to you. 

Society lies to you. 

Religion lies to you.

Guardians can lie to you.

Bad experiences can lie to you.

But your inner heart is still capable of hearing a still small voice that will help you find the way one step at a time. 

Here are ways that I have found that clear the clutter in my brain and help me find my own moments of truth. 

  1. Knowing you can’t please everybody. In a way, journaling has been about setting boundaries and pushing back against voices that wanted to use me to accomplish their goals. And it was only when I got to the point that I realized this was impossible that I gave up. Good thing, too. Because now I could focus on what was possible—my own purpose. 
  2. Meditating. People misunderstand meditating. Meditating is just finding quiet in your mind. It’s not true that it’s impossible or creepy to think about nothing. What is true is that there are many kinds of thinking. Observing your thoughts zooming by is a restful feeling and lets you know you are outside your own thoughts. It lets you know that you are not your thoughts. And it is also the same kind of brain energy you possess while running or otherwise engaging in strenuous physical exercise. In those moments, you transcend your thoughts as well. You stop thinking about anything but breathing in and out and the next movement. This is good. And it’s something you can learn to do when you’re not moving intensely as well. 
  3. Affirmations help you learn your true identity. You have to tell yourself who you are whether you believe it or not. 
  4. Gratitude helps you focus on things that are not negative, and when you’re focusing on things you love or enjoy or that are good about your life, it tends to shut down the same inner critic that tells you dumb things about yourself. In this way, a gratitude habit can make you more positive and resilient.
  5. Making a plan each day. The point is not really that you follow the plan perfectly, but that you start each day with a plan. A hundred different little reorientations help you focus in the direction you should go. The goal can become clear over time if it’s not today. Intentional living leads to even more intentional living, and over time, you become empowered to make the best choices. Making good little choices leads to making good big choices.
moment of truth heroes journey

These 5 ways help bring about moments of epiphany that can help me orient myself to more purposeful living. It may not sound very dramatic or romantic, but in truth, Moana, Hiccup, and Benjamin all did little things before they did big things. Little things create the kind of wiring in your brain that help you recognize the big epiphanies when they come along.

Moana was being the best chief she could be.

Benjamin was …good at Math.

Hiccup really, really tried hard (but failed) to be a good dragon-slayer.

Moana realized the ocean chose her not just to lead her island, but to save it.

Benjamin used his Math skills to understand enemy plots, until the moment where he realized that he may not have been chosen to be a spy, but he could still do a spy’s work.

Hiccup’s all-in way of doing everything meant that he became the very best dragon rider the Vikings will ever know.

And then he saved the dragons and his people.

I may not reach all of my goals in life, but like Benjamin, at least I can determine to die trying.

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