Not Another Airy-Fairy Self-Help Book?!
“I’d rather have 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special” –Julia Roberts in Steel Magnolias
Creating everlasting happiness can be exhausting work. And we certainly never stop trying to do it.
I don’t know about you, but I find myself overwhelmed by the barrage of self-help information that comes pouring into my life on a regular basis. Don’t get me wrong; in the beginning of my journey, I was absolutely amazed at the resources and possibilities for helping me stretch and grow beyond my static life and long-term career. But somewhere along the way, I realized that I kept hearing the same advice from a variety of sources—much of it seeming somewhat shallow and theoretical. Where was the data and truly practical application to support the theories? And, how in the world was a person with a career, family, and responsibilities supposed to find the time?!
It’s not that I don’t find personal development incredibly helpful. In fact, I hold multiple certifications in coaching for personal development, as well as a certification in applied positive psychology (the scientific study of happiness). My clients have told me time and again of the positive impact coaching has made in their lives. Yet whenever a friend or colleague introduced me as a “life coach,” I was sickened by what it conjured up: images of a jack-of-all-trades, airy-fairy, rainbow skirt-wearing drifter with no experience in the professional world . . . who randomly spewed out positive affirmations and quotes from the movie, The Secret.
Seriously, I just didn’t see myself in this category. I mean, what about my twenty-plus years of corporate experience? What about my years of work as a consultant, trainer, and executive coach in the hospitality, entertainment, manufacturing, and healthcare industries? How could I—or my experience and expertise—possibly be taken seriously when I’d been introduced as a life coach?!
Welcome to the source of my inner turmoil. For many years, my ego and soul were in direct conflict with one another, and I couldn’t for the life of me pick sides. My ego didn’t think that the term would fly in the corporate world, yet my soul wouldn’t let me rest.
The truth is, I found The Secret incredibly inspiring, and many of my friends are incredibly gifted and successful personal development coaches (aka, life coaches) who I have learned from and respect immensely. So what was my issue, exactly?
At the end of the day, I realized that I saw the topics of personal development and successful professional growth as completely at odds with each other. For me, there simply wasn’t enough time or reason for the two worlds to coexist. After all, who has time to sit around dreaming about tomorrow when there’s so much to get done today?
But that was my ego talking, and my soul wouldn’t take no for an answer. I just knew there was something to the idea that we could want and plan for more or different things in the future . . . while simultaneously living, working, and thriving in the present.
How was I going to match those two ideas up?
And beyond that, I didn’t think this was unique to me. In fact, I assumed that other people in my position would have the same question.
So I began talking with some of my friends and colleagues about the idea and definition of Living in Bliss. These conversations led me to interviews with experts in their fields (many of them in the medical, science, engineering, and technology industries), which led me to further research the benefits of creating a life that included regular doses of happiness, joy, and purpose.
What I really wanted to find out was 1) What exactly is bliss? and 2) Is there a business case for it? Are happiness and moments of bliss just a dreamy “nice to have,” or are they a wise investment with an actual payoff?
So let’s start with the question what is bliss?
For our purposes, we’ll define bliss as the point where purpose, mindfulness, and pleasure meet (see image 1). In other words, “bliss” is achieved when your life has purpose, you’re actively engaged with the world around you, and you incorporate pleasure into your life’s experiences.
Of course, your next question may be “So how do I get that??” Great question, and we’ll cover that in just a bit.
First, though, let’s talk about the second question: Is there a business case for bliss?
Throughout the course of my interviews with the experts, I was overwhelmed by the unanimously positive response to that question. Experts cited the benefits of caring for your emotional needs through regular implementation of activities that inspire thoughts and feelings of joy, hope, passion, purpose, or general well being. Those benefits ranged from better physical and mental health to anti-aging, lower stress, greater professional success, stronger families, increased physical fitness, and longer overall sustainability in both personal and professional scenarios.
In fact, every expert I talked to rated the importance of implementing “bliss” between a score of 9 and 10 (based on a 1-to-10 scale, with 10 being the highest rating).
Ok! Now we’re talking! With all of this proof and expert opinion, my ego was finally getting on board with the idea of finding bliss and self-improvement. And I was getting excited.
The research also confirmed that I wasn’t alone in my conflict between the ideas of “getting to work” and “stopping to play.” The more I brought the topic up in conversation, speaking engagements, and coaching, the more I heard from other busy people who couldn’t seem to stop working so hard for everyone else and start leading lives that were more purposeful, productive, energized, and satisfying.
Isn’t it ironic that by the time you get to the point where your career has taken off, the kids are in school, and you have the house and car you wanted (or close to it), you still feel a yearning for something else . . . something missing . . . something more…?
Could it be that the elusive piece you haven’t found yet is you??
Don’t laugh, though I know it might sound ridiculous. After all, you’re right here, reading this book. You’re making the effort, and you’re present. How could you be the thing missing from your otherwise picturesque life?
I get it . . . and as I mentioned earlier, I’ve been there myself. I’m guessing your ego is weighing in right now, probably telling you that you don’t need to read any of this. After all, you’ve got it all! Your friends and family are envious!
That’s fair. But, what about that little voice inside you that longs to be heard? The piece of you that wants to dream again—to play, to rest, to have pure fun without apology? That piece of you that’s asking, “Is this all there is? Where’s the meaning in my life?”
Those are certainly great questions, and I intend to help you answer them for yourself in this book.
While it’s true that not everyone has a noticeable yearning for more, you do. Am I right? In fact, you may even have asked yourself these questions in the past and thought you had them all worked out.
That’s the funny thing about joy, meaning, and visions for your life: They need a “touch up” every so often, because they expand and grow as you grow. In other words, your dream or idea of meaning and happiness ten, five, or even two years ago might well have changed. And there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, as I understand it, every living thing is either in the process of growth or death. There’s no middle ground here (ie, a plant doesn’t just stay at one stage—it’s either in a stage of growth or death). Bearing that in mind, you as a living organism are always moving one way or the other. So which process do you choose to engage in?
There’s a reason you’re reading this book, and I think that gives you your answer. You’ve come to the conclusion that you do want more—and you’re willing to listen to the reasons why that’s okay. Further, you’re willing to take the steps to move in that direction. I want to support you as you embark on your journey of discovery. Whether you want to do a little tune up or implement broader changes in your life, I wish to provide you with the tools, examples, research, and support to get you to your goals as quickly and practically as possible.
A word of caution here, however: The actions listed in this book may not be easily attainable by all who try. However, they are guaranteed to fail if they are either A) not implemented or B) predetermined to be unachievable.
One of the most difficult practices to carry out may be the act of suspending your belief. If someone had told me back in 2005 that I would change almost every aspect of my life (including both the personal and professional cornerstones I had come to depend on), I would have said, “No way! How in the world am I going to do that??”
Yet it is entirely possible to use the practical tools in this guide to design an existence that includes more of what you’re searching for in your everyday life. If you believe that it can be done, and want to do it badly enough.
Your first and likely most important challenge is to focus on “what” you would like your In-Bliss life to look like, and not “how” you will make each and every change. As you begin to gain a clear picture of your design, you may be surprised to find that your outlook and actions change, and that you’ll start to put yourself in situations where you draw the people, opportunities, and strategies necessary to fulfill, support, and sustain your vision. As your attitude changes, so do your actions, and you’ll end up seeing opportunities where you never saw them before.
Without sitting down and hashing out exactly how it’s going to happen.
One more note: Keep in mind this is not a book about creating a “perfect life.” Heaven knows I’m a recovering perfectionist, and have learned that not only is it an exhausting and unachievable goal (in fact, the act of trying to be perfect is in itself imperfect); it’s also a lonely road to travel. Instead, I’ve learned that true connection is found in our vulnerabilities, not our perfection. Our ability to admit that we’re human and capable of being messy, silly, sad, hungry, anxious, and angry will help enable us to be content with who and where we are right now. In short, then, being willing to have an imperfect life—rather than keeping up with the Joneses—allows us to gain more satisfaction than a quest for absolute perfection; particularly because our idea of perfect is an ever-changing concept.
To quote Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love:
“The women whom I love and admire for their strength and grace did not get that way because shit worked out. They got that way because shit went wrong, and they handled it. They handled it in a thousand different ways on a thousand different days, but they handled it. Those women are my superheroes.”
A perfect life, where everything works out beautifully because we planned it, is a just a mirage—one you can almost see up in the distance, but never quite reach.
In reality, life is messy and imperfect much of the time. And as much as we might like it to, bliss doesn’t come riding in on a white horse to save you from experiencing all the frustration, hurt, loss, and busy-ness that comes with real life. The good news is that happiness isn’t one moment or scenario in time; you can experience it in a hundred different ways, on any given day, and still be simultaneously intertwined with the messy parts of life, in order to bring you the “balanced” life we’ve all heard so much about.
In other words, Living in Bliss is the difference between “making it through” another day and making every day contribute to a life worth living!
Yes, you can make room for happiness and meaning in your busy life, and yes you can stop feeling frivolous or guilty for wanting something more or sneaking in a little solitude, peace, and fun here and there. In fact, as you go through this book you’ll find bits of information and practical exercises that will clearly show you that you can not only stop seeing bliss as “airy-fairy” and unobtainable concept, and start looking at it as a solid investment in your long-term success, sustainability, and overall well-being.
So what are you waiting for? It’s time to start investing in you!
 The Secret is a 2006 film produced by Prime Time Productions consisting of a series of interviews designed to demonstrate the New Thought claim that everything one wants or needs can be satisfied by believing in an outcome, repeatedly thinking about it, and maintaining positive emotional states to “attract” the desired outcome.