Joseph Campbell popularized the directive “Follow your bliss.” While this is great advice in theory, it’s a bit more complicated in practice.
Like other well-meaning mantras such as “Just be yourself” or “Don’t worry, be happy“, not knowing the particulars of how to do this makes the whole concept more confusing than constructive. Especially when the prevalent cultural messages are to be like everyone else and worry about everything from aging to overeating to incontinence or impotence and the side effects of taking the proposed solutions.
It can be very confusing indeed to follow the lead of the ad men and women who do their darnedest to convince us that all we need to be happy is whatever they are selling. I’m not knocking the media. There are products that make me very happy I’d never know about had they not done their job.
But a clearer, more consistent way of finding out how to relax, be myself, and discover what makes me happy is to follow my fascination.
I’m a big fan of Gretchen Ruben’s book and blog “The Happiness Project” and her latest book, “Happier At Home.” Gretchen went to law school and clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor before discovering her real love was writing. Her decision to follow her fascination and give up her career in law and pursue writing paid off. She has since become a New York Times bestselling author and a leading expert on all things happiness.
Twelve personal commandments and eight splendid truths make up her happiness manifesto and serve as very specific examples of how we might adapt these concepts to our own life. First on her personal commandments is to “Be Gretchen.”
While this smacks of “Just be yourself,” Gretchen is the first to admit how very challenging this can be. She makes this concept much easier to assimilate by advising that what makes someone else happy, may not make you happy and vice versa. She also warns that just because something “should” make you happy, doesn’t mean it will.
The surest indicator then is to follow your fascination, no matter how strange or quirky it may seem to other people.
For example, I cannot get enough of listening to audiotapes. My favorite source for these is Sounds True or Nightingale Conantor Learning Strategies. My car is like a mobile university. If I’m driving any distance, I’m listening to one of my favorite teachers attempt to enlighten me on their area of expertise.
The irony of this is that I cannot stand listening to any other kind of talk radio and is probably the main reason (besides The Coffee House and The Bridge) I love Sirius XM radio.
Bob, on the other hand, can listen to baseball, football, KMAQ, and all kinds of country stations before he’ll agree to listen to even one self-help cd. What’s good for the goose is clearly not good for the gander. It also makes for interesting road trips and the necessity of noise cancelling headphones.
This year I have been fascinated with blogging. Admittedly I was intrigued a few years ago when I started Midlife MacGyver, but not enough to pursue it with gusto.
Where weekends of yesteryear were devoted to landscaping and digging through financial paperwork from three years ago for an IRS audit, weekends this year find me hanging out with my B-school buddies learning everything I can about the blogosphere.
Implementation remains my biggest challenge since like a kitchen remodel, a business remodel takes more time than I think it should. The good news is I don’t have to manufacture my enthusiasm. I want to figure this out because I’ve wanted to figure it out most of my life.
I’ve always had the dream, just not the technology. Now that the technology is readily available, I just have to make the time. Doing so while holding down a full time job makes the desire that much stronger because I have to consistently choose to make the time.
This is why doing anything less than what you love will probably lead to less than spectacular results. Sooner or later, it gets difficult. But sooner or later (okay, most likely later) you will have a breakthrough moment when you know whatever you are doing, however much time it takes, and no matter how hard it is, it’s absolutely worth it because you are following your bliss.
Until blissing out is your default mode of operation, just try noticing what continually captures your attention. If you’re feeling a wee bit curious about something, check it out. Notice your energy level, enthusiasm, and overall mood when you allow yourself to follow your fascination.
And if you feel like sharing, tell me about it below. I’m fascinated by what you’re up to these days that’s making you happy.