To Succeed, the Hero Must Achieve an Emotional Goal First

Every hero needs to pursue a physical goal and an emotional goal. The physical goal may be clear but the emotional goal is often harder for the hero to admit until the very end.

Throughout the story, the hero struggles to achieve the physical goal but fails every time despite getting closer and closer. That’s when the hero finally realizes the only way they can get their physical goal is to get their emotional goal first.

In “Back to the Future,” Marty’s emotional goal is to overcome his fear that he’ll never be good enough. In his specific case, he wants to play the guitar but doesn’t think he’s good enough and gets rejected from his high school dance audition.

Not surprisingly, Marty must achieve his emotional goal (realizing he’s good enough to play the guitar) before he can achieve any of his physical goals. By playing the guitar at his parent’s high school dance so they can kiss, Marty gets his parents together so he can be born. That frees him to get back to his time machine and get back to his own time.

In “Star Wars,” Luke must first trust the Force and achieve his emotional goal in trusting himself. Only after achieving this emotional goal can he finally achieve his physical goal of blowing up the Death Star to protect Princess Leia.

In “Die Hard,” John McClane is pulling glass shards out of his feet when he admits to Officer Powell over the radio that his own arrogance broke him up with his wife. Only when he achieves his emotional goal of changing and fixing his character flaw (arrogance) can he pursue his physical goal of getting back with his wife again.

In your own story, make sure your hero wants a physical goal that they can never get – unless they achieve an emotional goal first (overcoming their character flaw). Once they get their emotional goal, they’ll finally get their physical goal.

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