Bliss Map

Time is our most limited resource, in life. So how do we spend it?

Family, chores, learning, eating, sleeping…we portion our time as best we can.
And no matter your life path, there’s the big one: ‘Work

So how do we design our lives? How do we craft a life that optimizes our joy and sense of purpose? How do we choose WORK that works for our needs?

Before reflecting on the graphic below in relation to your work, consider that it is full of nuance, with each quadrant having flexibility and crossover.

In Love With It Good At It Paid For It The World Needs It Passion Profession Vocation Mission Satisfaction Comfort Contentment Fulfillment Bliss Fulfillment Satisfaction Comfort Contentment

The above visual is your shortcut to understanding work that best fits your life.
Think of it like a cheat sheet or an equation that provides a perspective from which you can more confidently choose your next job, prioritize your life, and make sense of motivation.

Click around on the image. There is a page for each major quadrant, elaborating and clarifying its role in your life. You’ll find the same info for the other sections of the map.

Explanation

Generally, you do your work because, in some combination,

And, in combination:

  1. In Love With It + Good At It = Passion
  2. Good At It + Paid For It = Profession
  3. Paid For It + The World Needs It = Vocation
  4. The World Needs It + In Love With It = Mission
  5. In Love With It + Paid For It = Avocation
  6. Good At It + The World Needs It = Duty
Where combining more, you get something further:
  1. Good At It + Paid For It + World Needs It = Comfort
  2. Paid For It + Good At It + In Love With It = Satisfaction
  3. Good At It + In Love With It + World Needs It = Fulfillment
  4. In Love With It + World Needs It + Paid For It = Contentment
You can see a full key of each combination on the Bliss Map, with examples for each portion, here:

‘Dials’, not ‘Switches’

As with most things in life, psychology, and philosophy, things fall on a spectrum.
When looking at a job and asking how it falls on this Bliss Map, it’s likely something along the lines of “I’m about 20% good at it, 80% in love with it, ‘the world needs it’ varies a great deal, and it’s paying me 50% of what I need, but I have another job paying the other 50%”.
These percentages may represent how you think of your work as a whole, on average. And it’s even fluctuating from moment to moment.

To aid you in this visualization, click around on the interactive Bliss Map below. There is an ebbing and flowing of each quadrant and how it contributes to the whole.
There may be consider change within one day or one week. If you were to draw an average for you work, where would it be? Go ahead and click each quadrant to build the picture.

top left right bottom

Parts and Pieces

Another important consideration is that this ‘map’ can help you assess any portion of your life, like a job, and can ALSO help you assess how different portions contribute.

For example, your current job may be one that pays, and does little else. Then, the question is “What outside of my job is a form of work that I’m good at, love, and the world needs?”

Ideally, we can find work that frequently fills each quadrant of the map, causing that middle “Bliss” to blink.
And, that can be difficult. So it’s helpful to be aware of this map as a recipe for Bliss, NOT only at work.

If you have a job that pays, the world needs it, and you’re good at it, it’s likely to help you tremendously to have a hobby or side hustle that you LOVE.

Portions of Bliss can be met within the same occupation. 40% might not be Bliss, but 60% may be.
Along with weighing the quadrants of the map, there is balancing practicality with idealism.

You’re unlikely to find any job/work/work that fills every quadrant 100%, all the time.

And that’s ok. People tend to have numerous occupations over their lifetime.
With the ever-changing nature of life and work, this map will give you much greater insight into what is at play. Especially when it comes to choosing a job (or choosing to quit one), we need to understand what we’re getting, and what we still need.

What is ‘Work’?

“What do you do?”

It can be fun to answer that question with another one: “What does that mean?”

Throughout this page, we use the word ‘work’ a lot. This does not strictly mean a ‘job’. A job is a form of work, but work is not strictly a job.
Roughly put, work is something that you sink time and effort into. You commit yourself to a somewhat long-term to a project, cause, position, effort, vocation, skill, etc; when you do that, it’s work.

Sometimes work doesn’t pay.
Anyone who says your ‘work’ is strictly what you do for money is likely to have a job that they’re paid for, but is lacking in the other 3 quadrants.

With that said, your ‘work life’ is the combination of things you do that take this time, effort, and focus. For many people, especially those with a focused career, their ‘work life’ may be composed of one occupation.

But nowadays, less and less people are working a single career. It isn’t uncommon for a person to have several jobs at once. And for more people than ever, a job may be short-lived. We have side-hustles, projects, and start-ups.

This affords a great opportunity: diversification.
You may have heard it said that it’s unrealistic to expect a spouse to meet all of your relationship needs. Likewise, you may have all the right reasons to continue working at a job, even if it doesn’t meet all the needs on your Bliss Map.

Looking at this map, you may feel like a veil has been lifted. Perhaps with a new sense of clarity, you see why you need to quit your current job.
And, more likely, you’re informed by this visual guide about what your work is lacking, inspiring you to supplement it with other forms of work.

Either way, remember the words of Kahlil Gibran from his chapter On Work in The Prophet: “Work is love made visible”.
And, as one of the 4 cornerstones of meaning, Love can take many forms.

The Prophet is one of the most-read pieces of poetry of all time, selling in the tens of millions in over 50 languages. You can read Kahlil Gibran’s full writing On Work HERE.

What’s “Missing?”

Bliss = Good At It + In Love With It + The World Needs It + Paid For It

Journey and End

There is a misconception that can be made with the Bliss Map:

  • So, I can’t be happy unless some combination of these elements is met?

Well, it’s not quite like that. Happiness is a pretty wide concept. And it differs from joy. A key is the element of choice we have. And, much like life, work is a journey. It isn’t simply about the destination.

Think of work like having a meal. Let’s say the dish you’re eating would benefit from a touch more salt, and maybe some sour…a bit of dill or vinegar would do. Depending on your perspective, your meal may not satisfy you. However, a different choice/perspective may be filled with gratitude for the sustenance of the meal.

The goal with the map is to bring heightened awareness to the meal you’re experiencing. Yes, you may gain clarity on what would be needed to make it the most blissful meal imaginable. And, this doesn’t imply that anything short of that perfect meal is unacceptable.

Awareness of the Bliss map can help us escape the droll of the rat race, as highlighted in this video (only it’s more like choosing to climb many mountains in several ranges, and being able to do so somewhat simultaneously/interchangeably when not mutually exclusive).

Like wisdom, generally, the Bliss Map is additive, enhancing our awareness and ability, and empowering our choices. It needn’t detract from a good meal.

Truly productive people find the right balance between the results and the process.

This excerpt from Chicken Soup for the Soul’s ‘The Station’ captures the point well:

“Tucked away in our subconscious is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long trip that spans the continent. We are traveling by train. Out the windows, we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hillsides, of city skylines and village halls.

But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day at a certain hour, we will pull into the station. Bands will be playing and flags waving. Once we get there, so many wonderful dreams will come true and the pieces of our lives will fit together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damning the minutes for loitering—waiting, waiting, waiting for the station.

“When we reach the station, that will be it!” we cry. “When I’m 18.” “When I buy a new 450SL Mercedes Benz!” “When I put the last kid through college.” “When I have paid off the mortgage!” “When I get a promotion.” “When I reach the age of retirement, I shall live happily ever after!”

Sooner or later, we must realize there is no station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly out-distances us. […]

Regret and Fear are the twin thieves who rob us of today.”

Looking at the Bliss Map can bring a dangerous misconception: that anything but pure Bliss is a failure.
In actuality, for any form of work to be Blissful all the time is next to impossible. Again, that is the idealistic end of a spectrum, and our hope is to find work that sits near this ideal often.
Imagine, as all 4 quadrants are periodically satisfied, the ‘Bliss’ in the middle blinking. Maybe that happens every day, here and there, or maybe every week, or a few times a month. Any of those could represent a wonderful job, career, or hobby.

Adjusting to Taste

A bit of salt here, some sugar there.

Have Fulfillment?

(Good At It + The World Needs It + In Love With It)

You may benefit from more comfort.
If you’re engaged in work that meets all of your needs, but isn’t paying you, eventually you’ll come against the cold, hard, reality of paying the bills. No matter your lifestyle, there will be expenses. Perhaps a utopian future awaits us, and we will all be able to explore our passions without a need for money, but alas, that time is not yet here.

It’s worth noting that if you HAVE money, negating the need for work, this quadrant holds little weight. But otherwise:

Consider getting a job that meets your most basic needs (food, shelter, etc) while allowing enough time for you to continue the work that is bringing you fulfillment.
Consider more tips HERE.

Have Satisfaction?

(Good At It + Paid For It + In Love With It)

You may benefit from more contentment.
You’re working a job you love, it pays decently, and you’re good at it. But what if it doesn’t serve a greater good. In our post-industrial world, it is all-too-common to work a job that has one feeling like a cog in a machine. We can be left asking ourselves “But why? What’s the point of all this?”
If you’re only going to work to pay the bills, even if you’re good at it and you love it, you may eventually face a sense of futility or pointlessness. Chances are that your world view begs you to serve a purpose larger than yourself.

Consider volunteering, or reserving time outside of work to contribute to a cause that you care about. To help you, we’ve collected tons of resources for service opportunities HERE, in our writing about the Service cornerstone of meaning.
Consider more tips HERE.

Have Contentment?

(World Needs It + Paid For It + In Love With It)

You may benefit from more satisfaction.
No matter what it is, if it’s work, there’s going to be ‘day in, day out’ element to it. That is, it will take persistent effort and require long-term commitment.
And we’re all built differently.

“The good life consists in deriving happiness by using your signature strengths every day in the main realms of living.” – Martin Seligman, author of Authentic Happiness

If it’s in your wheel house, it’s home. Finding something you’re good at means you can find Flow, an optimal psychological state that, when achieved regularly, improves our well-being.

Consider pursuing a hobby or a side hustle that feels like a practice. Find a skill to hone and master, if you can’t find one at your job. Whether it’s juggling, woodworking, or coding, practicing mastery will give you a greater sense of engagement and purpose.
Consider more tips HERE.

Have Comfort?

(Good At It + Paid For It + World Needs It)

You may benefit from more fulfillment.
You’ve found work that the world needs, you’re good at, and it even pays. But for whatever reason, you don’t love it.
We’re complex creatures, with a range of needs and feelings. It’s often difficult to make sense of it all. We may look at our life and see that everything is ‘perfect’, yet be left with an inexplicable sense of incompleteness. Usually, this is when we lack meaning in our lives.

It may be that your work lacks community, or is even too social for your introverted self. Maybe you love everything about your job, but can’t stand working at a computer. Or maybe you hate working with your hands, and just wish you could work at a desk.
When push comes to shove, your work needs to have some degree of pleasure, or the drudgery is likely to wear away at you.

Consider ways to change up your work to bring you more enjoyment. Working at home and can’t stand the isolation? Find a co-working space or work at cafes. Can’t stand doing data entry all day long? Find a way to sing on the job, or listen to music so you’re enjoying your time.
Consider more tips HERE.

We have a page where you can simply see each portion of the Bliss Map individual, with a few examples of each. Find it here:

Sometimes, we’re missing more from our Bliss Map than we ever bargained for.
Work usually has its drudgery. Even the best jobs are likely to have some points of annoyance.

But in this post-industrial world, things can get much worse than simply ‘less-than-ideal’.
You probably know at least one person who works a job that they absolutely hate. Maybe you’ve been there.
Despite no shortage of media telling us that we’re a soon-to-awaken chosen one or a hero about to save the world, it’s easy to fall into traps of habit. We can find ourselves like Joe (vs. the Volcano), living in a dystopian world of machine-like work.

Why? What’s the root of this quagmire?
It’s Fear.

The primary Hindrance we’ve listed to a well-lived life, Fear is an extensive topic with much to learn.
Check out that section here:

Work Life | Instead Of | Life Work

Happiness as a Hindrance

You may have thought about it already: “What if I’m feeling content to fill a couple of these bubbles, and not all four?”
Security is ever-pervasive human need, driving most of us more than we’d like to admit. It has a drastic effect on lifestyle; money and possessions provide comfort. Purposeful work does not, necessarily. Many of us sacrifice one for the other, and are ‘happy’ doing so…’just fine’.

This pseudo happiness is a form that can actually keep us in our comfort zones, keeping us further from living a meaningful life full of happiness AND joy.

We have a page devoted to exploring this topic. Please check it out if it feels like this may provide you insight.

The Dark Side of the Great Job

from Blake Boles’s article “In Praise of the Low-Income, High-Freedom, High-Purpose Career“, a concise and compelling layout of the dilemma of modern careers.

A “great job” might actually be a terrible job in terms of:

  • freedom: having enough time to pursue your non-career interests, spend time with friends and family, go on adventures, work on side projects
  • physical health: not constantly sitting; enjoying ample time for exercise and the outdoors
  • mental health: not being constantly stressed and anxious; enjoying a sense of autonomy and an internal locus of control
  • purpose: feeling like you’re making a positive contribution to the world
  • wealth: accruing savings; avoiding debt (Yes, buying a home may still be a good form of debt. But for a 30-year loan of $300,000 at 5% interest, you’re also paying $280,000 in interest.)

Meaning

Follow the theme: Meaning and Purpose.

Behind every quadrant of the Bliss Map is a ‘why’. When we answer that why, we create meaning IN life.
Such is the central purpose of this site: to help our readers find/create meaning within their lives.

You’ll find a model here for meaning as founded by 4 cornerstones:

Relating it to meaning, a valuable definition of Bliss could be this:

Bliss: honed Discovery, Expression in Service, and with and for Love

And Why Meaning?

The recent decades of research in Positive Psychology have highlighted the importance of meaning in life to maximize well-being.
Learn more by clicking below:

Ikigai

Now, why is it so helpful to break things down in this way? It’s simple: in doing so, we can find work….find a way of working that gives us all of these things: satisfaction, fulfillment, contentment, and comfort. We don’t really have a good word for this sort of ideal Bliss.
In Japan, there is a word to describe the reason a person has to get out of bed in the morning. At the intersection of what they are good at and what they love doing is a Japanese person’s Ikigai, their ‘reason to live’. Japanese elders who have found their Ikigai never retire. They live a slower and more content, confident way of life. They tend to live longer.

Your Ikigai, your Bliss, can be found by asking yourself these questions:

  • What do I love doing?
  • What am I good at?
  • What am I paid well-enough for to be satisfied?
  • What do I feel the world needs?
Settling for one or some fraction of security, passion, service or talent alone needn’t be the case. We often say “life doesn’t work that way,” but there is nothing stopping us from each independently but unison. The Bliss Map is a perfect first step in choosing dissection and curiosity, and optimistically inviting bliss. Dissecting how you feel in this way will give you insight on your own unmet needs.
As we experience bliss, it is important to remember the fleeting nature of it. Like enlightenment in Buddhism, there is a misconception that one works to reach a static state and be there forever. We are more likely to experience our bliss as waves, especially across the months and years of our lives.
The Bliss Map provides another lens through which to approach our optimal selves by delineating aspects of our experience. Exploring the potential integration of these pieces can lead to us better living to our best potential.

More Tidbits

How many jobs are you likely to have throughout your life? Worried you still don’t have THE job? That concept may be a myth. The average person has 12-15 jobs in their lifetime.
View Article

The Greater Good Science Center in Berkeley highlights some keys to happiness at work. There is a lot of interplay with the concepts here on the site. In their article “The Four Keys to Happiness at Work,” they give their definition of happiness at work:

“Feeling an overall sense of enjoyment at work; being able to gracefully handle setbacks; connecting amicably with colleagues, coworkers, clients, and customers; and knowing that your work matters to yourself, your organization, and beyond.”

And share these 4 keys:

    1. Purpose – Our actions as a reflection of our core values
    2. Engagement – Are you involved with the where, when and how of your work?
    3. Resilience – Handle set-backs and stress with authenticity and grace
    4. Kindness – Giving and receiving kindness, or otherwise pro-social behavior.

Note that happiness is a muddled here from our model: Engagement might be “Love it.” Purpose perhaps involves “World Needs It”, and maybe not. Resilience is the enabler of challenge and hope. Kindness is about love, which isn’t part of the Bliss map, directly.

View Article

Review Your Learning

The Bliss Map

What is it?

  • A tool for understanding the components that contribute to a joyful life, especially concerning work.
  • A memorable visual aid that clarifies weighing of what we need, what we are getting, and what we can get out of work.

How does it work?

  • Look at the map and compare its inferences to your life and work.
  • Use the map to assess the quality of any potential future work, careers, etc.

What do I do now?

  • Supplement my work/life with what your map is lacking? Look at this section for help.
  • Find or create purposeful work that fills your Bliss Map!
All Bliss Map Pages:

The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” – Henry David Thoreau