The Art of Strengths Coaching

B is for Joseph Campbell On Following Your Bliss And Becoming Battle-Hardened

Joseph Campbell is best known for his writings about The Heroic Journey. After studying myths from many civilisations, he found that individuals went through similar stages towards achieving their Grail.

Exploring the trials and triumphs that people encounter, he described this journey in his book The Hero With A Thousand Faces. Here are links to a short article about this journey and also to the Joseph Campbell Foundation.

David Kudler is the publishing director of the Joseph Campbell Foundation. In the video above he describes another of the concepts associated with Joseph. This is the importance of following your bliss in relation to choosing a career.

This approach sounds alluring, but Joseph also explains how it relates to The Heroic Journey. People who do work they feel passionately about will need to become battle-hardened to reach their goal.

The Joseph Campbell Foundation website explains an important factor regarding taking this approach. It says:

Yet it is important to note that following one’s bliss, as Campbell saw it, isn’t merely a matter of doing whatever you like, and certainly not doing simply as you are told.

It is a matter of identifying that pursuit which you are truly passionate about and attempting to give yourself absolutely to it.  

In so doing, you will find your fullest potential and serve your community to the greatest possible extent.

Looking back at your life, can you think of a time when you followed your bliss in your work?

You may have chosen to throw yourself into writing an article, encouraging other people, building a house, nurturing a garden, solving a complex technical problem, leading a team or whatever.

What triggered the decision to follow this path? How did you plan ahead? How did you pursue the route? How did you become battle-hardened on the way? How did you do your best to achieve your chosen goal?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the past when you chose to follow your bliss in your work.

Describe the specific things you did to follow your bliss. 

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of taking these steps.

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Joseph Campbell said many people asked him about how they could find meaning in their lives. He thought they were actually looking for something else. He explained:

People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking.

I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.

How to pursue such a quest? One approach is for a person to start by doing things that give them positive energy. Sometimes they translate these activities into a clear purpose, follow certain principles and achieve peak performance.

Seth Godin, the famous blogger, has an interesting view of purpose. Echoing some of the themes in Joseph’s work, he offers the following idea.

In search of your calling 

I don’t think we have a calling. 

I do think it’s possible to have a caring.

A calling implies that there’s just one thing for you, just one thing you’re supposed to do. 

What we most need in our lives, though, is something worth doing, worth it because we care.

There are plenty of forces pushing us to not care. Bosses, systems, bureaucracies and the fear of mattering.

None of them are worth sacrificing something as important as caring.

People who do brilliant work sometimes take the following route. They follow their bliss, get the basics right and also become battle-hardened. They then, when appropriate, add the brilliance.

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Dennis Merritt Jones explains that following your bliss can produce challenges. Below is an extract from a piece he wrote for the Huffington Post.  You can find the complete article via the following link.

Is it easy to follow your bliss? Of course not; that is why Campbell calls it “the hero’s journey.”

You’ll have a chance to encounter every dragon (fear) that lives within the darkest caverns of your mind that wants to keep your life small and safe … and I can attest to that.

Your re-defining moment doesn’t happen just one time in your life; it happens every time you make a decision to follow your bliss, again, and again, and again.

There are new doors awaiting your arrival. The big question, as Joseph Campbell puts it, is “whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.”

Joseph explains how he came upon this approach when studying ancient scripts. You can discover more via the following link to Brain Pickings.

Now, I came to this idea of bliss because in Sanskrit, which is the great spiritual language of the world, there are three terms that represent the brink, the jumping-off place to the ocean of transcendence: sat-chit-ananda.  

The word “Sat” means being. “Chit” means consciousness. “Ananda” means bliss or rapture. I thought:  

“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.” 

I think it worked.

If you 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.  

Wherever you are – if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.

Looking to the future, can you think of a situation when you may want to follow your bliss in your work? You may want to take this path to do something you care about or pursue the activities in which you feel alive.

How can you follow this route in your own way? How can you get the basics right? How can you become battle-hardened and continue to do good work? How can you, when appropriate, add the brilliance?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the future when you may want to follow your bliss in your work.  

Describe the specific things you can do then to follow your bliss. 

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of taking these steps.

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