“Follow your bliss” is a philosophy offered by the late mythologist, Joseph Campbell. Campbell's been gone a quarter of a century though, and the world has changed a lot since he's been with us; yet his words continue to ring true today. Unfortunately, Campbell's words are often misquoted, or flat-out misunderstood.
Origin of the Sentiment
Campbell explains how he came to this philosophy in a series of interviews he took part in with Bill Moyers. Many years earlier, he had been reading the Hindu Upanishads in Sanskrit. Campbell considered Sanskrit the "great spiritual language of the world".
In his readings, he came across the concept of a sort of thresh hold, beyond which transcendence would be found. He described this as the "jumping off place." This place was called, in Sanskrit, Sat-Chit-Ananda.
When you do what you find blissful, you’re brought to that state of consciousness- that state of being- that is the center of your own universe, where you are fully alive and experiencing life in the moment.
In translation, 'Sat' means 'being'; 'Chit' means 'consciousness'; and 'Ananda' means rapture, or bliss. With this, the brink of point of transendence translates to the very ingredients that bring you to that point: being-consciousness-rapture.
Says Campbell to Moyers, "I don't know whether my consciousness is proper consciousness or not; I don't know whether what I know of my being is my proper being or not; but I do know where my rapture is. So let me hang on to rapture, and that will bring me both my consciousness and my being."
Accusations of Hedonism
At first, Campbell's simple yet profound advice was well received, but later he was accused of advocating hedonism. This accusation continues until this day. Steve Jobs, in a 2005 commencement speech, quoted the term and went on to describe how inspiring it was-- only to be met with criticism himself.
Critics argue that when you're brilliant or rich or have some kind of 'special' talent, it's easy to follow your bliss; there is less risks because you'll probably come out on top. Average people, however, can't just chuck it all to go for pipe dreams, they'll tell you. But that's not what Campbell ever had in mind.
What it Really Means
Campbell never said to “chuck it all and only follow your bliss”. In fact, Campbell clarifies himself in the interview with Moyers. He does not tell everyone to disregard their responsibilities or take insane risks; he simply says to spend some time, every day, doing what you love. Take 30 minutes each day to listen to music, if that’s your bliss.
Following your bliss does not mean to forget everything you don’t love about your life; it means you shouldn’t forget about what you do love about life. You should find out what you love, and incorporate that into your day.
As you can see, Campbell’s advice is not exactly a sinister plot to spark anarchy.
How Following Your Bliss is the Path to Happiness
Campbell was of the mindset that the journey is the destination; he saw proverbial journey not as a means to an end, but as the end itself. The point of life is the journey, and what you get out of it, not where you end up.
Likewise, following your bliss is not a path to something external, to something outside yourself. It is an inward path, a path of self-discovery. It’s not about the actual activity you choose to do—whatever your bliss may be—but the place it takes you within yourself.
Your bliss brings you to a state of consciousness; a state of being. When you do what you find blissful, you’re brought to that state of consciousness- that state of being- that is the center of your own universe, where you are fully alive and experiencing life in the moment.
This is true happiness, where inner peace flows and you feel integrated, where all is right with the world. Can you really think of a better place to be, even if only for a little while each day?