Living a purposeful life. It sounds great but we don’t always do it.

 

Joseph Campbell was a mythologist who wrote about the hero with a thousand faces. He also presented a philosophy summed up as ‘Follow your Bliss’. Bliss here is seen as transcendence, consciousness, a certain one with the universe thing. I’ve taken it throughout my life to also mean something closely in tune with the Japanese concept of Ikigai – your reason for being.

 

Ikigai

Diagram by Adam Grant

 

Ikigai is the intersection of Passion, Mission, Vocation, and Profession.  In this context the bliss you seek is not necessarily equated with happiness, although it might well bring you joy through finding a sense of purpose.

 

What is your bliss? How do you find it?

 

We are having experiences all the time which may on occasion render some sense of this, a little intuition of where your bliss is. Grab it. No one can tell you what it is going to be. You have to learn to recognize your own depth

– Joseph Campbell

 

Take some time to really think about what makes you happy, what you love to do. Maybe 2018 can be the year that you decide to follow your bliss. This doesn’t mean give up your day job (we need those because of bills right?) but it does mean find the thing that makes your soul glow, that gives you a sense of purpose and well-being. If it isn’t your work, what else can you do? I find that writing gives me a sense of direction, of wellness. For others it is cooking, building, dancing.

 

I’ve been thinking about some of my friends and how they do (or don’t) follow their bliss. For many of us, finding what we love and what gives us purpose has been a long process. It’s something we rediscover and take a step towards when we are older.

 

I have taught so many students who take subjects and plan out career paths that they don’t like in order to please their parents or to fit with what society thinks has value. This always makes me unhappy. Not everybody’s soul is set on fire by the study of English literature, so if yours is then I think you should do it. We have plenty of doctors and lawyers and engineers so if those don’t fill you with purpose and excitement, then look for the subjects and jobs that do.

 

I admit I was surprised when I worked out that teaching is my ikigai. But then I thought about it a bit and realised how rewarding it is for me. (NB: If someone paid me to write, it helped the world, and I get better at it, then maybe writing could be my ikigai too! I’d love it to be) I certainly wouldn’t call teaching my bliss necessarily, but it satisfies me in ways that other jobs and occupations wouldn’t. And I think it is a good example of how ‘follow your bliss’ doesn’t mean that you will be happy and blissful at all times. Teaching is hard work. Exhausting, frustrating, and often under appreciated. No-one enjoys writing reports. But as long as the balance is weighted firmly towards the enjoyment and satisfaction end of the spectrum, then you’re doing ok.

 

This is the same for life. You don’t have to be in a state of constant happy – in fact I don’t think it’s possible. But ideally the joy and satisfaction you get out of life should outweigh the stress and dissatisfaction. Finding and following your bliss can help with that.

 

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Joseph Campbell

 

 

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