The Simple Secret to Happiness: “Follow Your Bliss”

05/10/2017 11:51 am ET Updated May 23, 2017

“Follow your bliss” we are told by Joseph Campbell and other wise philosophers. What a wonderful idea, you think, as you head for the ice cream, your couch and settle in for a Netflix binge. Only that’s not what bliss is, regardless of how delightful it feels . . .

Bliss is excitement, bliss is when some passion within you is ignited so you pursue an endeavor, an idea, a project, with zeal, enthusiasm and joy.

Bliss is what Ryan Hickman followed when--at the age of three --he accompanied his Dad to a local recycling center. Ryan liked sorting the bottles. In fact, Ryan liked sorting the bottles so much that when he returned home, with his Mom’s help, he distributed plastic bags among his neighbors for them to fill with their cans and bottles that he then collected, cleaned and sorted for recycling. Now, just a few years later, Ryan, now seven, is the proud owner of a business “Ryan’s Recycling,” and has accumulated some $10,000 to date! He’s passionate about recycling, thrilled that it helps the environment as well as helping him earn money. His parents say that his passion rubs off on others, inspiring them to recycle as well. All this, because Ryan followed his bliss: sorting.

I grant you, sorting cans and bottles may not be your idea of anything, but for Ryan, it was bliss, and he followed it--right into success, money and yet more bliss.

Bliss, I have no doubt, is what Steve Jobs followed when he explored what was to him, the fascinating world of computers. Bliss is what lights a fire under us, and carries us through the inevitable challenges.

“But nothing lights a fire under me!” you wail. Besides, who has time for bliss when you’re saddled with a job, a mortgage/rent, family, and all the other obligations of life?

Here’s the thing: bliss isn’t so much an activity or endeavor as it is how you look at the whatever it is.

You have to go to work, for example. I know, so do I. But within that thing called “your work,” what about it stirs you? What about it gives you even the smallest bit of excitement? Working with customers? Clients? Figuring out how the what’s-it fits with the thing-a-ma-jig? Something about your work has the potential to feed your bliss. Maybe it’s where the skills of this job can take you in the future. Maybe it’s the dream that money you earn affords you. Somewhere in there are the beginnings of potential bliss.

Maybe your bliss doesn’t live inside your job. Maybe it’s in your hobby, or avocation, sport, your garden. Maybe it’s in encouraging your children, volunteering at your church, or learning how to speak a foreign language. Somewhere in your life you can discover and nurture bliss.

Bliss is an inside job. It’s a point of view, it’s a way of looking at your life. Why does it matter? Because when you discover and follow your bliss, you are more joyful, life is richer, you are more optimistic. There’s a spring in your step, a smile on your face, you’re just plain having more fun.

Along with that, of course, come better health and well-being, less depression and anxiety, greater ease and serenity, and greater likelihood of happy longevity.

So, what do you say? Want a smile on your face as big as Ryan’s?

Follow your bliss!

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