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How Can I Follow My Bliss If I Don’t Know What It Is?

Issue 15

A practical approach

After a year or two of recovery, when one’s self-belief in their own recovery takes root, the question often comes: “What do I want to do now that I have a chance to do it?” It is an organic question, and part of the recovery process. If you are already happy doing what you are doing, then keep on doing that. But if you are not happy, or if what once brought you joy no longer does, or if you simply don’t know what to do, then keep reading.

Joseph Campbell, the twentieth-century’s foremost professor of comparative mythology, was often asked by his students, “What should I do?” And his famous answer was simply: “Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.” What we need to do to earn a living occupies a great deal of our time. The great recovery promise of serenity escapes us when we have a job we hate. But the opposite is equally true when we love what we do; it gives us purpose, meets our needs, and is one of the cornerstones of our contentment.

So, what to do? How do I follow my bliss if I don’t know what it is? It is not as hard as you may think. Many of us have checkered job histories, and in this instance, the more jobs we have had, the better. If we have large gaps in our employment history, or even a limited job history, we can still take what we call a “Job Inventory.” And as with all things in recovery, our own experience is our guide.

Simply start by writing down every job (or volunteer activity) you have ever had into two columns, “Jobs I Liked” and “Jobs I Didn’t Like.”

Next, list or order the jobs in each column in priority or descending order, “The Jobs I Loved or Liked the Most” and the “Jobs I Hated and Disliked the Most.” You should end up with being numbered in priority from 1-10, with 1 the highest, 10 the lowest in each column.

Next, identify the elements of each job you loved or liked the most that made you like it: earning good money; independence; being part of a team; having high expectations; working with people; working by yourself, etc.

Do the same for the other list to discover what you did not like: monotonous work; terrible co-workers (and spell out why they were terrible); poor wages or salary, micromanagement; unhealthy or unsatisfying work environment etc.

By the time you have done this for the top 5 or 6 in both columns, you should begin to see a pattern emerge. And there you have it.

Follow those things that bring you joy, jobs or careers that have the elements of the activities that you have identified as those you love or like the most. Discard the rest. This may not give you a specific answer or a specific job, but it will lead you in the right direction for a career. And, as in all things in recovery, this journey is best done with a guide who has walked the same path. And at some point, though, there may be a need to step forward in faith, to find another job or go back to school.

At this point, we turn it over and step forward in faith.

It has been my observation that when people do that, the universe responds.

Bruce Campbell
Bruce Campbell
Bruce Campbell, LCSW, is executive director of the Bangor Area Recovery Network and has been in recovery since 1984.

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