A friend of mine graduated from college last year with a degree in business administration. His dream was to major in engineering and pursue a career in designing high-tech electronics. But his father, the owner of a bakery chain franchise, convinced him a business degree was a more realistic and sensible decision.
My friend now manages his father’s business. He makes good money and drives an expensive car. He made the “sensible” decision. The problem is he gets no satisfaction or any sense of fulfillment from his occupation. He confided to me that he hates the company and only does it for the money. Pleasing his father also plays a big role, I would guess. Joseph Campbell, the brilliant mythologist and author, would say that my friend failed to “follow his bliss.”
In the 1988 PBS documentary, The Power of Myth, as well as in the book of the same title, Campbell relates the following story:
One fine evening I was in my favorite restaurant, and at the next table there was a father, a mother, and a scrawny boy about twelve years old.
The father said to the boy, “Drink your tomato juice.”
And the boy said, “I don’t want to.”
Then the father, with a louder voice, said, “Drink your tomato juice.”
And the mother said, “Don’t make him do what he doesn’t want to do.”
The father looked at her and said, “He can’t go through life doing what he wants to do. If he does only what he wants to do, he’ll be dead. Look at me. I’ve never done a thing I wanted to in all my life.”
That’s the man who never followed his bliss. You may have a success in life, but then just think of it-what kind of life was it? What good was it? You’ve never done the thing you wanted to do in all your life. I always tell my students, go where your body and soul want to go. When you have the feeling, then stay with it, and don’t let anyone throw you off.
My friend is like most people, myself included. He chose the logical, safe path, while disregarding – or not realizing – the importance of following his bliss. Money and security wins over true, deep fulfillment.
British philosopher and Buddhism teacher Alan Watts liked to ask his students the question, “What would you like to do if money were no object.”
When we finally got down to something which the individual says he really wants to do, I will say to him, “you do that and forget about the money.” If you say that money is the most important thing, you’ll spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is, in order to go on doing things you don’t like doing – which is stupid!
Following your bliss, as Campbell defines and Watts alludes to, is not about chasing some extreme experience of ecstasy. It is simply defining what makes you happy and going with it. It’s about disregarding what others feel you are supposed to do and recognizing you have a truly unique path that should not be suppressed.
So, what is your unique path? What sparks you and excites your entire being? What prevents you from realizing it?