When Joseph Campbell said “follow your bliss”, he wasn’t suggesting that we all become selfish and hedonistic. He was suggesting that we find that thing we’re truly passionate about and attempt to give ourselves wholeheartedly to the pursuit of that passion. He was suggesting that in doing so, we’ll reach our highest potential and become the best version of ourselves so that we can be of service to others.
But here’s the thing. Following our bliss is hard work. It’s messy and mighty uncomfortable. It takes great courage. It takes us far outside our comfort zone and can even render us immobile with fear. It brings with it, many ups and downs and equal measures of pain and pleasure. It takes persistence, patience and years of practice. What’s more, following our bliss comes with no guarantees…that we’ll be cheered on by others; be loved and adored; win accolades and recognition; be wildly successful; make millions; change the world; or whatever other reassurance we believe we need to take the leap.
In truth, it’s much easier to be a dead-person walking (and working) than it is to follow our bliss. Following our bliss is truly scary because it requires us to become fully alive, to feel all the feelings on our emotional paint palette in the understanding that it’s from this place that we’ll paint our masterpiece.
But here’s the other thing. There’s a price to pay by not following our bliss. If we don’t, we can’t ever be fully alive. We never get to really experience what we’re truly capable of. We never achieve our greatness or make the impact we desire to have. We leave our masterpiece unpainted and we never become wicked role models for our kids, our family or the people we lead.
The cruel reality is, that it’s actually riskier to not follow our bliss than it is to pursue it. That doesn’t mean giving everything up and searching for it in some other country or company. It means starting right where we are, with all that we have right now, no matter where we live or work.
By cultivating our bliss, we find our anchor and our glue, the very thing we can turn to in the good times but more importantly in the really, really bad times. It’s like a home-coming.
I know that my bliss is writing, whether that’s journaling, blogging or writing my next book. Writing inspires me to be more daring. Writing helps me rise again when I fail and fall. Writing is my therapy. Without writing, I simply don’t know where I would be today.
Over the last two weeks, writing has been my salvation. I’ve written over 10,000 words in my journal. These 10,000 words have guided me through the double whammy of heart-break at the end of a relationship and feelings of failure at falling short on my goals for The Purpose Project Online Course.
My words were mostly inspired by Brené Brown’s book, Rising Strong. I listened to every word of that book. At various points when she hit a nerve, I’d hit pause and I’d write and write about how I felt, what I was learning, where I’d been stuck in story, how I’d not set boundaries or compromised my values. I mostly wrote about my heart-break, but the more I wrote, the more clearly I could see the inextricable link to the feelings of failure in my work. Somehow when we’re in the thick of things, we can’t see the impact of one area of our life upon another.
No doubt you’ve read Theodore Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena” quote, made famous by Brené.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
For the last two weeks, I’ve been facedown in the arena. Some days I’ve numbed my arena experience with chips, ice-cream and wine. On other days, I’ve sat with the wonderful women in my community and wept as they simply witnessed me. On other days, I’ve sat at my desk willing myself to work yet unable to even write one email. Some days I’ve managed to put on a brave face and record a Youtube clip and do just enough work to get me through.
Today, as I’m writing this, I’m not facedown in the arena. I’m tentatively back on my feet and rising strong. And if I do end up facedown again, at least I’ll know how to get up again. Writing is the way. I’m glad that I’ve dared to love and dared to put my work out into the world. I’m a better woman because of it. Just because things didn’t go to plan, doesn’t mean it’s over and it doesn’t mean I failed. It’s just a sign that there’s something greater around the corner. I’ve reaffirmed that writing is my thing. I’ve become more creative, more curious and even more courageous. I’ve even learnt more by doing nothing than I ever could have by just ‘getting on with it’.
I thought long and hard about whether to post such a personal story. Recently, I’ve been a little scared to share my authentic self as I’ve pivoted my work more deeply into the corporate world. Perhaps I felt I needed to put on the mask that so many seem to put on when they step into their workplace. Rising Strong was the catalyst for me to return to my truth and share my story and vulnerabilities. I don’t believe that deep and lasting change can happen without it.
I truly am passionate about supporting leaders who care about leading their team and workplace on the path to purpose. My facedown experience has led me to deeply re-consider how I might pivot the Leader’s Course to do that. If you’re a leader who is passionate about purpose, I’d love to hear your ideas on how to make that happen. If you feel called to connect with me, please do.
PS Stay-tuned for next week where I’ll launch the taste-test of The Purpose Project Leader’s Course and Guide. Check out the courses here in the meantime.