Follow your bliss, if you can find it.

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If you do 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. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be. — Joseph Campbell

This quote sums up the way I have been thinking about my life for a while now. Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way was the first one to introduce me to the idea almost 15 years ago but back then it didn’t make much sense. I mean, how could it? I was 22 and getting paid too little to smile angelically at uptight tight-wads and impatient, patronizing SOBs. Yeah, I looooved that job!

My dream of being a writer was huddled in the corner of my tiny apartment, barely breathing amongst the cobwebs.

But Julia being Julia still somehow made an impression. I began to write. And write. I took a writing class. I formed a tiny writing group with two friends (I was usually the only one who showed though), and I wrote some more. My favorite time of day was when I would leave for work early enough to stop at the coffee shop to write for half an hour before my “real” day began. I wasn’t sure for what or whom I was writing, I just knew I had to. My dream began to dust itself off and step into the light.

So I’m one of the lucky ones. When it became clear to me that I must follow my heart (oh, only 10 years later) I knew what my heart wanted. Why? Because I had been screaming it at myself in my journal for a long time – it just took certain life events and my heart to be ready to see it.

The above Joseph Campbell quote was posted on Facebook recently by a fellow “writing to healer.” I “got” it because I am living it, but I know some others don’t quite understand as well as I do, through no fault of their own. Responses to the quote included, “I so want to believe Joseph Campbell…” and “…and then there’s the matter of having a clue what your ‘bliss’ is…” And when I read the quote to Hubby he said basically the same thing.  Another friend: “But what is my dream?”

OK. So here’s the problem. It’s all well and good that Deepak, Wayne Dyer and Oprah are all telling us to follow our dreams but, in general, we were never taught how to recognize what that may be. Most of us were educated in a way that discounted original, creative thinking and we were told that our dream is 2.5 kids and a golden retriever.

My mother always comments that she is so happy that I discovered my path so young (ha!) and it is true that it is more likely for people to reinvent themselves at a later age. They suddenly wake up and sell all their possessions and sail around the world on a yacht (although that sounds like my personal hell.) Many of the women in the Women Business Owners Network to which I belong are older, having raised their children and followed a career, and who are now ready to follow a dream – their dream. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if more people could find and follow their dream the first time around? To be so in tune with their inner wants, talents, gifts that they had the passion to do it “right” from the start. Wouldn’t this be a happier society in which to live?!

So, what’s the secret? You’re waiting for me to get on with it and tell you how to open the magic Dream Box so you can just pick yours out, don’t you? Well, I’m sorry to have brought you this far to tell you I don’t actually have the key to that box. BUT I can offer some good tools to help you pry it open. It might take some time but be patient and believe it will open.

1. PEN AND PAPER

Or any other writing implement and some time – alone and quiet.

2. TRUST

Trust yourself to write the truth: your real thoughts, your emotions, ideas. Don’t censor them. You already know the answer.

3. TWENTY YEARS

Ask yourself what you have been doing well and without effort for twenty years as a hobby, natural ability or learned skill. If you have been doing something for 20 years you must be a) really good at it b) have a proclivity towards it c) be pretty passionate about it. (Take my journaling – I just did that out of a need and never thought in a million years it would one day become a career.)

4. FLOW

What you do as a child – or do now – that makes time stand still? What do you enjoy doing so much that you lose time?

5. EXPERIENCE

List your life experiences that make you unique (that would be everything!) and have bought you to where you are today.

6. PROMINENT MEMORIES

Think of the times that stand out as poignant moments – maybe the satisfaction of helping a struggling customer balance her checkbook (that was one of mine) or when you helped a friend plan a vacation. These are all clues to your authentic self.

These are some tools to get you started. When you look at what you wrote as a whole picture you may begin to see a theme or get an idea. The real magic begins when you get out of your own way, just let the pen go and your natural creativity (yes, we all have some!) and ideas start flowing.

As Julia Cameron said, “Writing gives us a place to say what we need to say, but also to hear what we need to hear.” And then… hang on!

I have learned, as a rule of thumb, never to ask whether you can do something. Say, instead, that you are doing it. Then fasten your seat belt. The most remarkable things follow.” — Julia Cameron

**Read my article about Castleton Crackers, an example of following your bliss.

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Please visit my Examiner.com page for articles on Journaling for Kids, Organization, and almost everything in between.

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