“Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid... doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.” This inspiring advice was advocated by Joseph Campbell, a comparative religion and mythology expert, in his 1998 book The Power of Myth.
While Campbell's ideology to derive happiness by doing something you love was visionary at the time, it also left many followers confused and frustrated. How do you even know what your bliss is, and would it mean you have to quit your day job and ignore other responsibilities in order to follow it?
Originating from the German word ‘blithe’ – which translates as ‘superficial display of kindness to others’ – bliss refers to a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction derived when you do good for others. Bliss is what makes your otherwise mundane or meaningless life meaningful and gratifying.
While several confuse bliss for something they like or are passionate about, the true essence of bliss ranges much further, in the form of the profound contentment or fulfillment derived from work done for others with integrity and honor.
The term “follow your bliss” was coined by Joseph Campbell in the early 1950s, with a vision that was significantly different from the common perception that success and happiness resulted from hard work. Campbell based his principles on the Hindu mythological belief of “Sat-Chit-Ananda” – being one’s ‘true nature’ – wherein Sat referred to truth, Chit means consciousness and Ananda is the innate happiness or bliss.
According to Campbell, knowing what brings us gratification and setting out to achieve it will enable us to fulfill our life’s purpose and attain our true state of consciousness. Indeed, there is substantial research to support the theory that happiness is the end result of how one chooses to spend their time, and whether they love doing what they do.
Following your bliss involves doing what brings you joy and doing it more often until it becomes an integral part of your life. This may enable you to find your ‘flow’ state, wherein you’re completely focused on the task at hand and derive happiness from it. Flow is an innately positive experience which creates long-lasting happiness, according to the researcher Mihaly Cziksentmihalyi.
A qualitative study revealed that Campbell’s paradigms regarding following one’s interests can be applied at organizations as a framework to improve work satisfaction and career growth prospects, along with encouraging a more positive social environment at workplace.
Unfortunately, the wide-ranging implications of Campbell’s principles regarding following one’s bliss can be interpreted in different ways, creating ambiguity and dissatisfactory results for several people. Here we try to dispel some common myths associated with Campbell’s principles:
It’s understandably easy to confuse your ‘bliss’ with things or actions that bring you temporary happiness or short-lived pleasure. There’s a lot more to bliss than indulging in your favorite pastime, whether it's playing video games or guilty pleasures like a bite of your favorite chocolate. Ideally, following your bliss should involve pursuing ideas and activities that consequently fulfill and nourish your soul. Your ‘bliss’ could be something that you deeply connect with, that enables you to make a positive difference in others’ lives.
While identifying and pursuing what your bliss entails, you may be compelled to think that following it must also be how you earn your living. Although this may be possible for some, not everyone can pursue fulfillment through their profession. Adversely, the obligation to seek bliss through your job may hamper your career growth. Gordon Marino, philosophy professor at St Olaf College asserts that one’s sense of satisfaction or their quest to lead a meaningful life need not reflect in their career choices or line of work.
“Following your bliss should involve pursuing ideas and activities that consequently fulfill and nourish your soul.”
Instead, look for things that bring you a sense of fulfillment, like volunteering, a part-time project that adds value to other people's lives, being kind and considerate to others – the core idea is to seek long-lasting joy through a positive impact.
Finding your bliss and pursuing it will require you to expand your awareness and tune into the direction your intuition is trying to steer you in. While others can guide you, there is no set path to following your bliss, and you may encounter hardships on this journey. Developing an abundance mindset helps – trusting that you understand what your bliss entails and you know how to achieve it can take you closer to manifesting your goals.
Pursuing your bliss is undoubtedly a challenge at times, as it may require you to step out of your comfort zone and explore the unknown. However, fulfilling your purpose does not mean shying away from your responsibilities or ignoring your commitments towards important things in your life. Following your bliss requires integrity on your behalf, as it involves seeking contentment while doing good for others consistently over time. Walking away from your day-to-day duties may threaten your credibility, which may affect your ability to follow your bliss.
So, knowing what finding and following your bliss doesn't have to involve, here are some suggestions to getting closer to that elusive state.
The first step in being able to follow your bliss is knowing what bliss means to you. Consciously take notice of what brings you joy in life to pinpoint where your interests lie. Your bliss could be unearthed in the smallest, seemingly most trivial way, as well as in the biggest aspects of your life. Following your heart is crucial, as it allows you to utilize your intuitive abilities. Indeed, the simple act of trusting your intuition may result in serenity.
Meditation can help a great deal in improving focus and concentration, taking you closer to tapping your internal source of bliss. As you expand your awareness, it’s important to listen to your inner voice and trust your instincts, so that you never lose an opportunity or idea that may potentially take you closer to following your bliss.
“Setting goals is the first step to turn the invisible to visible,” according to the renowned motivational speaker Tony Robbins. Furthermore, a study by Prof. Bettina S Wiese revealed that making progress through goal completion can also improve one’s sense of well-being, which means that following your bliss can also contribute towards greater personal happiness.
“Finding your bliss and pursuing it will require you to expand your awareness and tune into the direction your intuition is trying to steer you in.”
Start by goal setting one step at a time – listen to your inner voice and create an intention that supports the idea or direction that interests you. Trusting your instinct will also help you tackle potentially negative emotions like fear, stress, uncertainty, and anxiety, etc. Keeping a journal or vision board can be helpful in fine-tuning the right path of action that is in synergy with your interests and core strengths.
Sharing your goals, dreams and intentions with like-minded individuals will enable you to seek their honest feedback and input. Additionally, finding positive synergies between your areas of interest and your personal competencies can spark fulfilling collaborations and can help you to hone your skills. Forming support groups will also help you remain consistent with your efforts and put in the required work to follow your bliss.
Create goals to help follow your bliss shutterstock/mimagephotography
While consistent action and determination are crucial for one to be able to achieve their bliss, sometimes our goals and ambitions shift or change with time. Your sustained actions towards achieving bliss would enable you to gather new knowledge, perspectives, and experiences, which may require you to take a break periodically to review your goals accordingly.
Instead of feeling overwhelmed or blaming yourself for this shift in perspective, accept that this change is a part of life, and try gently altering your action plan to accommodate the changes in what your bliss currently involves.
Regardless of what your idea of bliss entails and what you wish to achieve, you also need to be able to have fun while you set out to follow your bliss, be it volunteering for a cause close to your heart or teaching someone a new language. Indeed, when you choose a goal that comprises of something close to your heart, the journey becomes enjoyable, which is the ultimate objective of following your bliss.
According to Joseph Campbell, following your bliss is simply the act of letting your life speak wherein you recognize its purpose and set out to accomplish it to the best of your ability. Expanding your awareness using tools like creativity, intuition, and intelligence can help you unlock your inner bliss, which can attain the happiness you seek. •
Main image: shutterstock/Forrest9
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Fitness and healthy food blogger, food photographer and stylist, travel-addict and future self journaler. Sonia loves to write and has resolved to dedicate her life to revealing how easy and important it is to be happier, stronger and fitter each day. Follow her daily pursuits at FitFoodieDiary or on Instagram.
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