Archetypes: A Model for Managing Meaning in Life’s Challenges

A challenge can be punishing, but it’s not meant to be a punishment. It’s not a gift either. Especially when you’re stuck in the middle of it. To say a challenge is a gift can be a form of toxic positivity. There may be gifts that you gain from conquering the challenge, but that’s a matter of hindsight. A challenge is an opportunity to learn the hard way.

When the ancient mystics experienced a challenge, they described it as a call from the soul. They knew that transformation was about to take place on every level of their being. Not every call is going to be enjoyable or interesting. No matter how large or small, easy or not, a challenge will summon your spirit to rise up and accept it.

A challenge will recruit your inner resources, your strengths, skills, gifts and talents.

It will throw a spotlight on your fears and weaknesses as areas for development.

A challenge will force you to collect the pieces of your spirit into one cohesive whole, to hold your centre and dig deep in response to the call. A challenge will push you to learn from what you don’t know so that you don’t get stuck playing it safe. It will ask you to sacrifice who you are now for what you could be.

Point your moral compass towards your true self.
Which way do you point your moral compass?
Photo by Alex Andrews on

With your moral compass as your guide, life’s challenges might test you, and push you to your limits, but overcoming them makes life meaningful and reveals more of your true self.

Archetypes were made to be drawn on when it comes to managing life’s challenges. As universal stories handed down throughout the ages, they describe the human experience and how to manage it. Archetypes are a direct line connecting you to collective wisdom and the management of meaning.

You can use archetypes to access what Carl G Jung called the collective unconscious. You could say it’s like a global mind bank, full of human wisdom that has accumulated over eons of time. When you’re familiar with archetypes, especially your personality archetypes, they provide you with knowledge specific to your current environment.

They enhance your cultural capital because archetypes are a collection of universal stories that inform thinking, feeling and behaving. To this collection, every human being has added their own ideas about what it means to be, for example, a warrior, queen, sage, parent or hero. You can draw on them for insight, inspiration and direction forward.

  1. What challenge are you facing at the moment?
  2. What qualities do you currently possess?
  3. What additional qualities do you need to get you through the challenge?
  4. Which archetypes represent the qualities you need?
  5. Which archetypes represent qualities you already possess?

Here’s a list of archetypes you can use to answer these questions.

Facing a challenge? Name your archetype, download its highest potential, and watch what happens.
When facing a challenge, name your archetype, download its highest potential, and watch what happens.

The archetypes you’ve chosen can now embody your qualities. While it means you don’t have to keep your qualities front of mind, in your working memory, the archetype grants you with a download of ideas and insights to manage your challenge.

Studies have shown that the working memory can only store four pieces of information at a time. It means that archetypes are an efficient way to manage a lot of information. That’s because archetypes capture the essence of an abstract concept such as an idea, a theme, a pattern, or in this case, your qualities, so your brain will quickly store them into your long term memory instead of overwhelming your working memory.

The extraordinary thing about archetypes is that they seem to reduce your cognitive load.

I’ve lost count of how often I’ve observed an almost instant mind shift towards greater personal agency as a result of speaking archetypes with clients and students when they’re faced with a challenge. You just need to know which archetype to name. And how to cast it.

You can retrieve the essence of your qualities whenever you need them. When you’re in the midst of a challenge, just say the word of the archetype, imagine you’re downloading it’s highest potential, and watch what happens.


Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, 2017, Cognitive load theory: Research that teachers really need to understand, <;.