I love to write about callings and following your bliss because that’s, well, my bliss. Anything having to do with helping others follow their passions and dreams that helps them to realize their authentic potential is where I feel I can make the most impact. It’s not something that would ever be listed on a job inventory for career seekers. That’s why our bliss is unique and specific to us and is uncovered in a highly personal journey.
I have so far only focused on the upside of pursuing our bliss. But there is a downside to the search for and pursuit of your bliss. Roughly 30-40% of people are searching for their calling. Searching for your authentic purpose can cause significant anxiety at any age (Rainey, MAPP capstone, University of Pennsylvania, Scholarly Commons, 2014). The need and desire to identify that unique and authentic gift that we feel we’re here to share can be compelling, yet frustrating.
Sensing a calling can also have its downsides. Those who sense, but cannot live their calling can also experience profound frustration and sense of loss. Think: the lawyer who longs to play their cello all day but whose obligations (financial, personal, professional) do not permit a job change. Also, living a calling may cause a willingness to endure and tolerate long hours, high work demands and suboptimal work conditions.
Potentially, living your calling may have additional personal challenges and costs. I find my bliss is an irresistible draw: like a moth to a flame, like a chocoholic to a Godiva Ballotin. I can pursue my calling unremittingly all day, then ask for more. In the meantime, the world, my friends, my family, and other obligations may swirl around me while I’m oblivious to anything other than the pursuit of my bliss. In so doing, I fly willingly and eagerly into the fire. I can only imagine what it’s like to live with someone (like me) who’s addicted to their bliss and pursues it with unremitting focus.
Unfortunately, that oblivion is a distinguishing aspect of flow: losing track of time and self-consciousness while absorbed in an activity. Though there are advantages to being in flow, including using your strengths and typically performing with excellence, some attendance to the external world and obligations is in order to avoid getting burned.
I think it’s important to remember that the most important bliss isn’t our bliss at work. Our bliss is also with our loved ones, for without which the work has no meaning at all. We may not allocate the time in our day in a way that reflects that priority (we spend more time at work than at home, for example), but as they say, on our deathbed we never wish that we had spent more time at work.
We live our bliss in our personal lives too. I have always, in retrospect, approached even my personal relationships from the point of view of my calling – helping others to be the best possible versions of themselves. The best possible version of me lives a well-balanced life with time for intimacy-building, rest and recreation. In that manner, I can pursue my calling during business hours with energy and enthusiasm, yet nurture and foster my private life with the same gusto. That’s what it’s all about.