Just do it: The power of ‘The Bliss List’

You’ve likely already read about J.P. Hansen’s The Bliss List on IBMadison.com. The editors have provided interesting background info about the upcoming IB Expo’s keynote speaker, but I’m going to take all the hyperbole and boil it down to one statement explaining why you might want to read the book or hear the author speak: Within a month of reading The Bliss List, I changed my life. The book didn’t change my life; I changed my life. But The Bliss List was the catalyst.

My copy of the book has an airline ticket bookmark. I completed the paper-and-pen exercises at the front of the book while in the skies between Chicago and Denver. I don’t particularly like the New Age self-improvement genre; how strange to think it would have such an impact when I didn’t even want to read it! But IB Publisher Jon Konarske assigned it in preparation for meeting the keynote speaker, and since IB is my client now … I made time to read it.

I do believe in the book’s basic tenet — the Law of Attraction, or the “if you build it, they will come” mindset. The key is the “if you build it” part as much as the “if you can imagine it” prelude; you have to get off your duff and power your dreams to make them happen. Following the book’s suggestion to focus on a core dream, I picked my wildest desire of trading our Madison home for a somewhere-in-the-country home. Moving beyond “dream state” to “a goal with a plan and deadline” takes a nudge. The Bliss List gave me an outright shove.

Here’s how the process unfolded: When defining the country home dream more concretely, I realized the dream is fueled whenever I visit my uncle and cousins in downstate Illinois. It’s a long drive for an overnight trip, and I’m always sad when it’s time to leave because we share community in a way I don’t with friends; family doesn’t need to schedule dinners weeks in advance. I miss that sense of belonging to other people. I miss hearing my uncle call me “Jody Girl” and my cousins call me “Cuz.” I miss watching our kids (now grandkids) and dogs play together while we remember our grandparents and share funny stories that only make sense to us. That’s what a country home means to me.

So the dream isn’t so much about raising chickens or milking cows — it’s more about “going home” to my roots, of reclaiming Sunday dinners with family. Meanwhile, the gravity holding me to Madison is equally compelling: 1) sharing weekends with Chicago- and Madison-based kids and grandkids, 2) managing a thriving Madison-based consultancy business, and 3) friends in the area who give my husband’s life sustenance in the way that my Illinois family does for me. Therefore, our ideal home would reconnect me with my core family while also supporting our life here. But how would that be possible?

It was time to talk to my husband. Kevin and I sat down with my lists and discussed the dream’s time and budget components. We agreed to maintain a Madison presence for five more years, while he agreed to transition over that time to the type of lifestyle I wanted when we retired.

Next step: fact-finding. To establish a realistic budget, we did online searches for aging-in-place, ranch-style houses that were near my family and had lots of windows, mature trees, and garden plots. A contractor cousin assured us he could help convert a less expensive home into a true dream house, so we established a purchase price and renovation budget far, far below what we would have to pony up in this market.

The first online search revealed our dream home — there it was, greatly reduced in price because of the seller’s situation, complete with three gardens, lots of windows, and mature trees capable of supporting tree swings … at a price we could actually afford now.



I got very excited at the thought of living/working in the rural setting for a week or so every month NOW, returning to the city to host grandchildren’s visits and associate meetings and to complete onsite work for regional clients. We would also have more time to acclimate to semi-retirement, mixing working and gardening and making new friends while keeping the old.

The next day, we did a walkthrough of that house and put in an offer, which was accepted the same day. The dream became reality within weeks instead of years. That’s the power of making a bliss list and going through the discipline of analyzing dreams as action plans.

The Bliss List changed my internal dream forecast from “cloudy with a chance of future sunshine” to “the perfect day to do at least one thing toward my dream.” That mindset was well worth the price of a $20 book.

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