Make 2018 a Purpose-Driven Year, Part 2: Uncover Your What

In Part 1 of this 3-part series, I shared the crucial first step in making your 2018 a purpose-driven year: Consider your WHY.

What’s next? After you’ve defined your WHY, the next steps are to determine the WHAT and the HOW. Related to the WHAT and HOW process is determining your bliss – those things that bring happiness and meaning to your life. J.P. Hansen, career expert, job coach and bestselling author of "The Bliss List: Discover What Truly Makes You Happy – Then Land Your Dream Job!," defines bliss as “happiness and meaning.” He asks this crucial question: “If you don’t know what you want to do, how can you have a blissful dream job?”

"The Bliss List" was written to help motivate, inspire and train people just like us to follow our dreams. In his book, Hansen describes how the process of creating a Bliss List brings one closer to knowing and achieving bliss: “If you view your own bliss as a series of steps, you will constantly be in a dream job state, regardless of your occupation. You will always be living in ultimate bliss.” He also drives home the point that if we are going to spend a lifetime average of 86,000 hours working, then we should be able to experience bliss in our life and work.

Please note: "The Bliss List" is written from the perspective of helping job seekers, so you will see the word job interspersed throughout his book and in the quotes I include from his book. Having said that, I hope you’ll see that these concepts are as equally applicable to us as small business owners and entrepreneurs. Therefore, in some instances, if you replace the word “job” with the word “profession,” then these exercises should be easier to understand and apply to your situation.

This article will focus on the What. Part 3, the final article in this series, will focus on the How. In the sections that follow, I share a combination of Hansen’s methods, along with some tweaks I've made along the way to provide what I hope to be a straightforward and intuitive process that is easily started and completed.

Let’s begin with uncovering the WHAT first, which is the actual Bliss List development. Here are the four steps:

  1. Write down the things for which you are the most grateful. According to Hansen, this soul-searching exercise is designed to get you focused on all the positive things that have occurred (or are occurring) in your life up to this point. I call this “The Gratitude List” because it helps lift the spirits, and also serves to break through any mental barriers or walls that may be in place. If you take this exercise seriously, what you should find is that many of the items brought to light are not necessarily work related. Write them down anywayeverything is relevant, as you will start to see as we progress.
     
  2. Write down what makes you feel the happiest. Hansen actually calls this list “Your Top Fifteen,” but you need not limit yourself to just 15 items. This step is actually similar to the first step, but where I believe it differs is that it’s actually focused more on expressing “what makes your heart sing” – even if you have yet to experience these things in your life. Don’t leave anything out – write them down anyway, even if you think something seems silly. These items will all play into the next steps as we progress, and just like in step one, don’t limit yourself to only items that you consider work related. Again, as we progress, you shall begin to understand and appreciate that everything is relevant.
     
  3. Write down the things that you dislike. Think about it: how many times have you pursued and taken on activities, projects or clients that you were ill-suited for? Nine times out of 10, it is most likely because you felt you needed the work, you could deal with X, Y or Z because the positives outweighed the negatives, or you were not cognizant of those items being something that actually mattered. I can relate, as I’ve been there, too … and I’ve come to the conclusion that life is too short to waste time and energy doing things I dislike. Therefore, I feel that this step is just as important as determining what makes you feel the happiest; if we know that certain activities may be deal-breakers, then it’s important that we consciously reveal these activities to ourselves so that we are aware enough to adequately address them head-on when they come up. Having this insight will lead and guide us in deciding which projects we should take on and which projects we should avoid, as well as considering the occasional less-than-ideal short-term project with our eyes wide open.
     
  4. Narrow down your top 15 to the top seven.” As Hansen shares in his book, “Your brain functions like a computer: too many open applications slows down its effectiveness. Many scientists believe that the human brain functions best by handling only seven things at once.” I agree – it’s easiest to focus on a limited number of important options that are easily manageable. So, this step is taking the information from “Your Top 15” and narrowing them down to your “All Important Top Seven” Bliss list. When complete, he suggests you “post this list in plain sight (more on this later) and then tuck a copy in your wallet or purse, too. This list is you.” As you synthesize this information, you are actually amplifying and imprinting these ways of thinking onto your brain, which should serve to positively motivate you to continue with the forward momentum you are building to making each of these options a reality!

My final article in this series will focus on the How, where I will continue using Hansen’s book as a guide, and I’ve added a section on implementation borrowed from my colleague Brian Ray, founder of the Crossroads Career Ministry.