You know you’re old when expressions like “Follow your bliss” make you cringe. But I don’t think that’s the only reason I am put off by the notion. Even if it’s replaced by the slightly more sober phrase to pursue your passion, I find it disturbing. I’ve seen too many people waste too much time because they haven’t found that perfect cause that ignites their inner spark of excitement. I’ve watched as they do nothing instead.
With all the need in the world, it’s painful when energy or resources are wasted or never even engaged at all.
So I have a different motto, “Just do it.” (Oops, I think that’s already taken.) But you get the idea. There are so many good causes – the list is just about endless – just pick one and throw yourself into it. You might be surprised to discover that the passion comes later.
As we see in almost every context imaginable, the Torah’s idea that ‘when you give you care’ rings true. If you donate money or time to an organization, that institution and the recipients of its efforts become important to you. Their welfare becomes a priority. Your commitment to them will deepen and grow.
As a by-product, you will develop a deeper sense of self-worth. Sounds like a win-win to me. Much better than waiting for that perfect moment of bliss or for the light bulb to go on.
In commencement speeches through the country this bad bliss-related advice is regularly dispensed. Graduates are urged to pursue their passions as opposed to finding something worthwhile and then throwing themselves passionately into it.
Emotions can flame out but steady work and diligence bears fruit – both externally and internally. Long-term commitments are the mark of adulthood as opposed to a summer résumé-building volunteer experience.
Bliss is not a goal. Passion is not a goal. But if you involve yourself body and soul in helping others – because there is a need, because you care, because you want to give, I promise you that bliss and passion will follow. It is really the only way to achieve them. Does any university want me to address this year’s graduates?