How to Find Your Bliss: 3 Questions to Ask Yourself

bliss passion WDS2013

Who Do You Envy?

Ever since I was young, whenever I would read a really good book, I would have two very strong emotions. One was wonder. I was always impressed by the language, the created worlds, the mastery of plot and dialogue, and the somersaults the story would lead my mind through.

The other emotion, much less pleasant but often much stronger, was envy of the author. I would read Tolkien and get angry thinking about him sitting there on his typewriter, creating these amazing worlds. I would read Colleen McCullough and feel jealous of the explorations she got to engage in. I would read Asimov and envy his opportunity to explore the fringes of human science and speculation. I was intensely jealous of published authors, not for their fame or success, but simply for having written a book.

So when Grethen Rubin, author of The Happiness Projectasked us the question, "Who do you envy?", I immediately knew the significance of that question.

This realization had always convinced me that I couldn't be satisfied with myself unless I too wrote a book, but I had never really though of that as a way to figure out your bliss. Maybe it's not something you do for a living, but knowing who makes your feel envious will help you know what it is that you want to be doing.

What Gives you Energy?

Throughout our lives, we go through periods of low energy and high energy. During the lows, we feel pointless, lost, drifting, and lethargic. We find it difficult to motivate ourselves.

However, during our periods of high energy, we are full of passion, motivation, and, most importantly, energy. We feel the desire and the capability to do as much as we can. We discover reserves of focus and concentration that seem superhuman to our regular selves.

For many of us workaday folks, these periods of high energy have been shaved down to just a few moments or minutes a day, if that. It is a shame but we are stuck in a place where we need to give ourselves reasons to do everything.

But that's not where we want to be. One way to find your bliss, based on Darren Rowse of Problogger, is to move towards the things that give you more energy. Perhaps you noticed yourself perk up after work when you got into the kitchen and started improvising a culinary innovation. Maybe the lethargy of the day sloughed off when you picked your kid up. Maybe your concentration rallied--just a little bit--when you picked up a magazine article about fashion design.

Whatever it was, pay attention to it and move towards it. Find ways to make more time for it or give it more of your attention. This is your intuition speaking to you. The signals may be very subtle after years of neglect, but they are still there. You just need to develop an awareness of them so that you can cultivate that.

Maybe it's not your legacy to humanity or the cornerstone of your career, but it'll probably do a lot to make you happier, and that will make a difference.

What did you do for fun when you were 6? 10? 16?

This was another question from Grethen Rubin. Kids are very sensitive to the things that make them happy, and they tend to pursue those things without thinking too much about what they ought to be doing. If you've been disconnected from your joyfulness for a long time, it may be hard to think of the things that make you happy, so look to what you did for fun as a kid. My answers were:

Clearly I should be writing, building things, going places, and reading my face off. I also need to play more video games. You'll notice that I didn't list sports or exercise on that list. I really did not enjoy sports, except Karate, because that was cool.

Tying it All Together

As Gretchen Rubin pointed out, consistent with the entire point of Buddhism and the study of psychology, self-knowledge is the key to happiness. Knowing hw you respond to things is the best way to make positive changes in your life.

The links that take self-knowledge from idea to real world action are Awareness, Intention, and Integrity.

Develop an Awareness of your level of energy, your emotion of envy, or your childhood. Let this Awareness inform your Intention to make more time for those things. Integrity is where you live your life in accordance with your Intention and actually realize the changes that will bring your passion into focus.

Ask yourself these questions and see if you come up with any clarity about your passion. Please share in the comments.

Photo credit: Chris Guillebeau on Flickr