“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.” ― Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell introduced the phrase “follow your bliss” to the public in 1988. He meant that you should have the courage to do what you really want to do rather than give into societal or other pressure to conform or play it safe. Since then, lots of people have used that and similar phrases like “follow your heart” or “live your passions” to encourage people to do what makes them happy rather than just what makes money.
The thing is, though, we need to make money, and sometimes, it’s not very clear exactly HOW we are going to make money by following our bliss.
So, it’s really the second part of the quote above that is very important. The part about the “doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”
The problem is that we don’t always recognize those doors because the doors don’t always look like we think they should.
Take me, for example. I knew I wanted to leave my corporate job, but I had no idea what I wanted to do. No, that’s not true. I knew what I wanted to do; I just didn’t think it was “practical”.
So, I went to a career coach. Went through a whole battery of assessments, which came out, as my assessments often do, as clear as mud.
She asked me what I wanted to do. I said I wanted to be a writer. She nodded and said, “Okay, but you’re never going to make money as a writer. Looking at all your assessments, I suggest that you become a coach to both make money and give yourself time to write.”
Interesting. Being a coach was not something that I ever considered.
I could have dismissed it as “not following my bliss”, but, in reality, it was a door opening.
Turns out that coaching is also following my bliss.
Also buried in my assessments and my past was the passion I have for learning and teaching. So, speaking and training are also following my bliss.
The beauty is that now I have a career where I can follow my bliss in multiple directions.
I get to write – books, chapters, social media posts, and, of course, these Thoughtful Thursday articles, which are among my favorite things to write. I love storytelling.
I get to coach – individuals and groups of women (and men) who also want to follow their bliss, have the courage to bring their gifts into the world, and contribute from a place of full potential. That brings me joy.
I get to speak/teach – in-person and virtually in a variety of contexts and formats. I love to share my knowledge and inspire others.
I love all these things. If I had to choose just one, well, I wouldn’t be following my bliss.
And there might be more or different ones in the future. Who knows what doors will open? That’s the beauty of following your bliss, doors open that you would never expect to open.
But sometimes doors close too. I believe that there are seasons in our lives, different times and situations where our bliss changes.
For instance, take mothers. For a season in their lives, nurturing their children full-time might be following their bliss. That’s awesome. But that season will naturally come to an end, and those women will have to find and follow a new bliss.
Or, you have a career you love, being a lawyer perhaps. But at some point in your life, that career no longer feels like you are following your bliss. You may need to pivot then.
Following your bliss isn’t necessarily static or single-tracked. It might be for some people, but I’m guessing it’s not for most of us.
Following your bliss is listening to where your heart and soul are calling you and taking a step (or two) in that direction. Don’t get hung up on how, that’s what stops most of us from taking that first step. But don’t ignore the practical either.
And most of all, take what everyone else tells you with a grain of salt. Don’t ignore it, because it might be a door. But don’t buy into it without really checking in with yourself. It’s a journey, a process.
A word of warning: Campbell never said that following your bliss is easy. Nor do I. It takes courage, deep self-knowledge, and a willingness to be vulnerable.
However, when you do take a step in the direction of your bliss, doors will open. Really, they will.
It’s a journey, a process. You need to know what direction to step and pay attention to the doors. They might look like windows. Don’t be fooled.
PS – If you’re ready to follow your bliss and want support doing it, schedule a call! I’d love to talk.