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Follow Your Blisters

Joseph Campbell, the famous and popular professor of myth, famously and popularly stated, “Follow your bliss.” This was interpreted by a lot of people to mean, “Only do it if it is effortless and feels good — if it is difficult, it must not be your bliss.”

It is reported that he at one point grumbled, “I should have said ‘Follow your blisters,’” meaning that he never intended for anyone to think that hard work wouldn’t be necessary on the sometimes steep and rocky path to bliss.

There is some misconception, too, about how much effort it should take to get and stay organized. I’ve put some very clear and clean systems in place for a few clients who’ve complained a few months later that the systems are difficult to maintain. Yes, if you don’t take time to open the mail, file papers and put away your clothes, your systems will break down in a fairly short amount of time. Add the daily onslaught of incoming stuff and a little impulse shopping and the backlog becomes deeper.

Organizing, like meditation or physical exercise, only works if you do it. Also, once you get the great body, you can’t rest on your laurels; you’ve got to keep going to the gym. But if you do it consistently, it can’t not work. Do daily pushups and your arms will get stronger. It’s inevitable. Open your mail daily, keep up with your filing and other maintenance chores and your space will stay organized.

What happens when you get really, really busy? Your decisions about what to do next and what more you can take on must be much more conscious. Like Jane Fonda says about the occasions she chooses to eat dessert: The next day she chooses to work out a little longer and harder. If you have a full plate and choose to take on a new project, you must delegate some tasks to others or work longer and harder yourself. You’ve got to be realistic — there are only 24 hours in a day no matter who you are, and sleep deprivation usually makes the whole thing fall apart.

Organizing should be simple, but that doesn’t mean easy. It definitely takes discipline to do those pesky maintenance chores. Give yourself a little mantra, like, “This is hard, but I’m doing it.” Use it for the little things in life that you dislike and that don’t feel particularly good (the blisters) and gradually you will get where you want to be (bliss).

I hate doing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen at night. “This is hard, but I’m doing it,” I say to myself as I wipe down the counters. I’m so grateful in the morning when I get up to make coffee that the kitchen is spick-and-span. Cleaning the kitchen is not a major accomplishment, but a clean kitchen in the morning sets the tone for a day during which a major accomplishment is more likely to occur. Start the day with dishes in the sink or filing undone and you’re already behind. If you can hire someone to do this for you, more power to you!

The goal is to get yourself into ready position as soon as possible to be prepared for the next great opportunity coming your way. Constantly getting back into ready position might give you a few blisters, but being prepared and open to opportunity leads directly to bliss.