The 12 Archetype System: A Model for Discovering Your Archetypes

I’ve found that it is easier to grasp a complex theory if it is translated into an orderly model, along with clear steps for its application, than if we simply are faced with abstract concepts and left on our own. With this in mind, to help readers discover their inner archetypes, I developed a model in The Hero Within that described six archetypes. Later, in Awakening the Heroes Within, I expanded this to a 12-archetype model, which is designed to help you:

  • become conscious of human motivations and ways of viewing the world that are invisible to most people, yet still drive their behaviors. In becoming conscious of them, you no longer will be run by them, but instead can experience them as allies;
  • recognize archetypal allies as potentials within you or your organization that you can build on as strengths; and
  • decode what is going on in the people, organizations, and larger world around you, which will help you to improve your relationships and achieve your professional goals.

One System: Four Applied Models

The 12 Archetype System was created initially as a human and leadership development model and later adapted for use in organizational development, branding, and reputation management. The archetypes chosen for inclusion in the original version of the system used for personal development are those that support fulfillment and success in today’s world. For example, living the Ruler story helps you claim your authority, be responsible, and manage your affairs, while living a Lover story develops your capacity for intimacy, romance, and love of life.

The twelve circles are arranged by archetypes. You can click on each archetype to read about how it shows up in individual people and in stories. You will notice that some archetypes have a slightly different name in each applied model. These linguistic changes were made to indicate the level of archetypal expression most likely to be experienced within that application area, and also for acceptability by practitioners within it. For example: the Orphan is an archetype that is present in all of us in those times when we feel like a motherless child, and our ability to recognize our vulnerability comes from that archetype, and with it the capacity to empathize with others and to have realistic expectations. The deeper Orphan archetype feels childlike, but what we see in others when this archetype is integrated into their lives is the Regular Guy/Gal or the Everyperson archetype. The recognition that we all suffer and all have flaws allows for an awareness of shared humanity with others, helping us to understand that we are neither better nor worse than other people. The term “Orphan” is used in the personal development model because it reveals the archetype’s inner experience, while the terms “Regular Guy/Gal” in the branding model, and “Everyperson” in the organizational development model, reflect what adults often show the world when that archetype is integrated into their persona.

Living each of these archetypal narratives develops particular capacities, which together support the heroic life. For example, you may first feel the Sage archetype in you as being curious to understand the world and how things work. This motivates you to seek answers—asking questions of your parents and teachers, reading books or instruction manuals, or searching the Web—that eventually will teach you that experts differ on the correct response. Then you will begin to grapple with how to evaluate divergent theories, which can teach you to think logically, to check theories against available facts, and to come up with your own conclusions. At some point, you will learn to create your own hypotheses and then test them—whether in a science experiment or by figuring out what is behind a friend’s new behaviors. And so on. Over time, if this archetype remains strong in you, you may become not just knowledgeable, but also wise.

Click on the model that most interests you, or scan them all to get an overview. Or, you can go directly to The Heroic Life, The Heroic Leader, or Archetypal Branding, where you will be given another chance to check out any of these in website sections that provide additional context about the contribution of archetypes in each area.



Access the archetypal system model for personal development that is based on Awakening the Heroes Within, an invaluable tool for narrative intelligence, self-awareness, and growth.

Learn More



Access the archetypal system model used in organizational development, the IBM® Kenexa® Cultural Insight Survey (IBM-KCIS), and to decode the culture of any social system.

Learn More



Explore the archetypal system model used in personal, organizational, product, service, or message branding for authentically promoting who you are and what you offer.

Learn More



Learn about the archetypal system model used in the Pearson-Marr Archetype Indicator® instrument to discover the archetypes active in individuals at any given time.

Learn More