Pursue Your Bliss with Integrity

bliss campbell integrity

Obviously, this isn't easy. In the stories, heroes were exceptional individuals who possessed a mix of courage, wit, and strength. Beyond that, they dedicated their entire selves to the quest at hand (or failed to make progress until they made that commitment: Luke Skywalker wasn't fully committed to becoming a Jedi during Empire Strikes Back, abandoning his training to try to help his friends, with the result that he was nearly captured by Vader).

In short, a hero needs integrity of character, purpose, and skill to achieve his or her bliss.

Usually, integrity is defined as something like honesty or good character, but the word also carries connotations of consistency, cohesion, and solidity. A system is integrated when all it's parts work seamlessly with one another and its larger environment. A structure has integrity when it is reliably built all the way through.

A person has integrity when their way of life is consistent with their character and their goals. When you have it, you are resilient to change and frustration. When you lack it, it takes very little to shatter your resolve or derail your unfocused effort.

The Right Path

Generally, acting with integrity gives us a sense of clarity and focus, so it is it's own reward. Even when we end up doing things that go against what we've been taught is right, as long as we're in harmony with ourselves, things go much better.

If you are fundamentally a determined, initiative-taking character, you will rebel at being denied the ability to live that kind of life, even if the limitations are self-imposed. If you are gay, living without acknowledging your true self can feel burdensome. If you are a nature-lover, restricting yourself to cities is going to feel like living with shackles on.

But when you live your life in accordance with your true nature, things just feel...right, even if making it work is difficult (I originally wanted to use the word "better" but that's not always true. Sometimes, being in accordance with your bliss is extremely uncomfortable and even painful, but it can still be the right thing to do for yourself).

The Process of Discovery

Campbell maintained that we already know our bliss. In some cases, we may have gotten so good at suppressing its call that we have lost track of it, but the hard part isn't discovering it. Rather, the difficult thing is to allow ourselves to go after it, to trust our inner compass.

So often, we are called to things that at first glance seem impractical or ridiculous. An artist in a family of professionals might pay absolutely zero attention to how happy they are making art and instead go for a law degree, because that's what they have been taught it the best--the only acceptable--choice (a doctor in a family of artists might encounter similar difficulties).

How do we convince ourselves that our bliss is worth pursuing if we've been told our whole lives that it is trivial?

But, how can we live at war with ourselves, never aligning our lives with the things that make us happy? Think of all the discovery, the passions, the adventures you would miss out on just following the path others have prescribed for you.

Live Courageously to Become Courageous

Humans are great at justifying themselves. We hate cognitive dissonance, but we can get really creative in our attempts to alleviate it, ranging from telling ourselves lies to distracting ourselves with consumption, sex, or cheap entertainment.

And, even more terrifying, humans are amazing at adapting. If you live long enough denying your higher calling, your character atrophies to be comfortable with that small life, just as a muscle atrophies from lack of use.

So, yes, you can be comfortable never following your bliss.

But you were made for something more. You were made for a life of mythic proportions, a life that requires true integrity and courage.

(Well, that's my philosophy anyway :-). I want to encourage you to pursue happiness wherever you find it. I'm a believer that happiness is the result of a particular mindset rather than a particular lifestyle, and that practicing compassion, expressing your inherent goodness, and living life courageously is the best way to get there.)

Fight on, Brave Warriors!
- (**

Photo credit: srboisvert on Flickr