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Why So Many People Are Unhappy in Retirement

There is a script to life that most of us have internalized, whether consciously or not. It’s in many of the most beloved fictional stories, and—from the outside, at least—it looks like the lives of successful people tend to follow it as well. It is often called the hero’s journey, or the monomyth.

The 19th-century anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor was the first to identify the hero’s journey in literature. As he showed, many great adventure stories throughout history follow the basic formula. This is true from the Bible’s story of King David to Star Wars today. You can think of it as having three parts. The first is the call to adventure, where the hero-to-be is stimulated to act in some bold way, usually to meet a daunting task—say, fighting Goliath, or the Empire.

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