When Joseph Campbell coined the term, “follow your bliss”, what was he talking about? What does it mean to follow your bliss? And why should you find and follow yours?
Let’s answer the last question first, “Why should you find and follow your bliss?” The answer, in a word, is happiness.
What you get when you follow your bliss is increased happiness in life. A deep satisfaction and fulfillment that cannot be achieved any other way.
When you follow your bliss you get to live a, well, blissful life.
I know those are some big promises so let me take a minute and explain the what, why, and how of following your bliss.
What is Bliss?
I think we best start by getting clear about what bliss is.
The connection between happiness and bliss is this: Bliss is the pathway to happiness. Happiness is a state of mind; following your bliss is how you get there.
Why Does Following Your Bliss Make You Happy?
Happiness is when your life fulfills your needs.
Following your bliss helps you to fulfill those needs. By fulfilling your needs you raise your happiness level.
Additional Reading: What is Happiness?
First, let’s look at what your essential needs for happiness are, and then see how following your bliss directly leads to happiness.
Your nine needs are: Wellbeing, Environment, Pleasure, Relationships, Outlook, Meaning, Involvement, Success, and Elasticity. To remember them, remember “WE PROMISE”.
Wellbeing – mind-body connection
Environment – climate, beauty, your ‘space’
Pleasure – joy, fun, sex, positive emotions
Relationships – parents, spouses, friends, etc.
Outlook – self-control, adventurousness, optimism
Meaning – reason, goals, purpose, awareness
Involvement – action, challenge, creativity, flow
Success – learning, accomplishment, value
Elasticity – resiliency to inevitable troubles
So now that you know what your needs are, let’s look at how, when you follow your bliss, you touch your WE PROMISE needs.
How Following Your Bliss Makes You Happier
Since happiness is a state of mind and bliss is how you get there, following your bliss is directly linked to your happiness.
“Following” is the action you will take, “your bliss” is what you will be following.
Following your bliss is an activity, not simply an idea.
Simply knowing what your bliss is satisfies your needs for Meaning. Your bliss gives you a sense of purpose, belonging, clear objectives, and deep self-awareness.
By following your bliss, you are meeting your Involvement needs. To be happy you must be doing something.
Knowing your bliss is not enough. Happiness comes from taking action, from actively following your bliss.
Through your active Involvement, you will find Success. Small successes and large ones.
As Joseph Campbell puts it, “doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors; and where there wouldn’t be a door for anyone else.”
As each of those doors opens, you’ll feel the Success of accomplishment, learning, and the added fulfillment of the rewards of Pleasure, that temporary but oh-so-wonderful feeling you get from a job well-done.
Each of those successes will fulfill your Outlook needs for self-confidence, curiosity, new experiences, fresh plans, and burning desire.
And every time you step outside your comfort zone and find those doors opening, you will improve your Elasticity, your ability to recover from the fears and failures.
As you follow your bliss, there is less and less reason to feel envious or jealous of others. Fewer reasons to be depressed and more reasons to look to the future, leaving the losses of the past behind you.
Your active involvement in following your bliss will lead you to new, more fulfilling Relationships. Your needs for giving to and receiving from others, friends, acquaintances, and social groups all satisfied by the common bond of your bliss. In other words, you going to meet people you like.
Your Wellbeing needs will benefit through lower stress levels and better night’s sleep.
Even your Environment needs can be fulfilled in part through exercising your freedom of action.
Your deepest dreams and desires are your bliss.
Your bliss. Your dreams. Your desires. Your needs.
When you actively follow your bliss you align your life so that it fulfills your needs.
And, remember, happiness is when your life fulfills your needs.
What Is Your Bliss?
To follow your bliss you have to know your bliss.
Some people know their bliss right away.
It’s a dream they’ve had since childhood, a passion cultivated in the mind. Whether burning desire or a subtle calling, it is there, deep within. The smartest of those lucky few, instead of reading this article, are already following their bliss.
For those of us not lucky enough to know our bliss, a process of discovery, introspection, and no small amount of courage is needed.
Courage, you ask?
Yes, courage. You see there is a danger in knowing your bliss, of knowing what will make you happy. The danger is in not following it.
What is Courage?
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” – Ambrose Redmoon
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.” – Mark Twain
“Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” – John Wayne
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” – Anais Nin
Do you have the courage to follow your bliss and will you follow it once you know it?
If you can answer “Yes”, then there is hope and some help for you.
The best way to live a happy and fulfilling life is by following your bliss.
Nothing else you can do will do so much to fulfill your needs. Remember, happiness is when your life fulfills your needs.
You will need courage, patience, and a plan.
Happiness is a journey and, like life, you don’t simply aspire to “be happy” any more that you aspire to simply “be alive”.
Life, like happiness, is in the living. It’s the journey, not the destination.
As the Buddha purportedly said, “It’s better to travel well than to arrive.”