On the eve of a new year, I want to share with you another excerpt from our book, The Well Life, that I hope will help you calibrate. When patients ask me about resolutions, I usually encourage them not to bite off more than they can chew. If, for instance, you break a sweat just by thinking about moving, you might be setting yourself up for disappointment by entering a marathon that’s happening next week. But when it comes to aiming for a new perspective, sometimes an overhaul works:
“Bring Your Own Bliss
Joseph Campbell’s famous nutshell philosophy, “Follow your bliss,” has become a popular quote in the personal-growth world, and it’s easy to understand why: Who doesn’t want bliss? Unfortunately, Campbell’s words are often taken to mean, “Don’t do anything you don’t like.” The way most people live this credo is essentially animalistic — the seeking of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. It’s a form of bypass that leads us to chase good feelings and avoid discomfort, mistakenly believing we’ll achieve genuine, long-term happiness this way.
The avoidance of discomfort is shortsighted at best, and it translates to lots of closed doors. Feeling uncomfortable isn’t necessarily an indication that you’re engaged in something that your soul doesn’t want; usually, it indicates only that you’re resisting your experience. Campbell actually felt that as long as someone is following their passion (and we’d add, their Life Purpose), they could know for certain that any difficulty or hard work they encountered along the way was absolutely meant to be part of their journey. He later remarked, “I wish I had said, ‘Follow your blisters!’”
We’re not opposed to impulsive behavior. We just haven’t seen the chasing of bliss or the fleeing of discomfort produce sustainable happiness. Seeing happiness as something that must be pursued reflects a belief that it comes from outside of you and that you’re fundamentally inadequate. If that’s the case, you’ll always be looking for the right external circumstances — the right job, possessions, partner, or approval — as if you’re a toy monkey who can only play your cymbals if the world winds you up. But the world can’t give you something that’s borne inside you.
We believe there’s brilliance in Campbell’s words; people just get hung up on two words — follow and bliss. The your part is pretty straightforward.
First, bliss is a bit of a holy grail. Most people have had just a few moments that approach something they’d call bliss. As such, it lends itself to never-ending pursuit. We could replace it with any of these synonymous terms to give it better context with the language of this book and this particular chapter, such as:
- Follow your sweetness.
- Follow your Virtue.
- Follow your Truth.
- Follow your Light.
How do we bring sweetness / Virtue / Truth / Light into our lives? We make space for them. In the same way that insight enters the mind, Light needs space to come in. How do you make space? One way is through the deliberate invitation for your Values, Gifts, and Purpose to guide you. This opens you, Light comes in, and it leads the way.
So, here we come to the second tricky word — follow. It’s natural that one would think of following something outside of themselves, but that’s not the case here. The Light you’re meant to follow emanates from inside you; it’s the light of your own Virtue, illuminating the path in front of you.
It’s time to stop treating life like a temperamental slot machine — you’re not at the mercy of an unconscious thing that delivers a series of random outcomes, determined only by luck. You have a tremendous influence on the shape of your life. You know what your Values are. You know what your Gifts are. You know what your Purpose is. And in the forthcoming chapters, you’ll strengthen your connection to your Highest Self, and you’ll learn how to shape your life. Instead of relating to the world as if it’s the slot machine and you’re the inebriated player, you’ll realize you’re the slot machine. It’s all you. The cherries are inside you, and you can bring them up over and over again. Or maybe it’s a liberty bell day today — that’s fun too. Plus, there’s an endless supply of quarters in you, and you can spill them out into the world — emanating your happiness — without any concern that you’ll ever run out. It’s a game we call BYOB — Bring Your Own Bliss. With practice, you can brighten up the darkest, most uncomfortable places.
Be the Light.”
Dr. Peter Borten
P.S. I realized after selecting this quote that there were a few terms – Core Values, Gifts, and Life Purpose – that weren’t defined here. If you’re intrigued, I’d love it if you’d check out our book, where we explain how to discover these qualities in yourself.