A few posts back I called our species Homo Narrativus as we are inherently Storytellers. Most important as the center and ground that we build our worlds upon is our own Life Story. Embedded within the backdrop of the narrative intertwining of our cultural history and personal family heritage, the story we tell to ourselves and to others about our own epic (or cyclic, or meandering) journey through life is central to understanding the lessons and gifts of a lifetime of human experience.
As we each are unwinding our own Life Story, day by day, episode by episode, narrative thread by thread and character trait by relational dance, we build Life Chapters as we wend our way forth to pursue the meaningful goals and mission of our unique stories.
In my 2018 book Your Life Path (see side panel), I include a full self-discovery process for revealing the narrative structure of your own Life Story with its meaningful Life Chapter segments. [This full process is also available if you download-free-My Life Path Portfolio Toolkit, available by clicking on it also from the right panel.]
Would you like to have a look at your own Life Chapters as you have been writing/living your own Life Story? Here is the Life Path mapping process in a nutshell:
- Make a list of some of the SHAPING EVENTS of your life. These are those significant life experiences that have shaped you as the person you are today. Include the age or date of the significant event or experience and write a brief description of the event or experience. A Shaping Event could be a single event and/or a significant period of time; if the latter, indicate the relative starting and ending dates or your ages through the situation.
Examples: Age 4: I fell from a child seat and knocked out my four front teeth.
7-12: childhood in PA: woods, horses, friendship with K
12: first sense of being a misfit (KJ)
13: We moved from PA to NY state (before 8th grade)
2. Review your list of Shaping Events from (1) above. Now identify (circle or bold highlight) just those significant experiences that have been your most CRITICAL Life Events: those before and after which you might feel as if you were a different person. (E.G. Ages 7 and 13 from my life experiences sampled above.)
3. Next, place your SHAPING EVENTS along a timeline based on either ages or years, starting with your Birth as the zero point.
1954(Birth) ——-4——-7-8-9-10-11-12—13 …………………Next, review in your mind the periods BETWEEN the most CRITICAL life events on your life map chart. Provide a TITLE that describes for you the meaningful content of that set of years from your life. For example, for me, the years between ages 7 and 13 I might title Growing Pains.
4. Write about each of the Life Chapters you have identified between the Critical Events of your Life Story to date. (E.g.: Growing Pains pretty well describes that period in my life as a child in Pennsylvania, as I developed colitis, literally ‘growing pains’, and had to come to terms with my beginning to feel like an outsider, which I consciously tried to change as I moved into my next Life Chapter in high school in New York state.)
Your final Life Chapter/ Life Path Chart, up to your current date or age, might look something like the following example (my chapters to age 36), though of course with your very own meaningful Life Chapter titles:
Birth/Innocence Growing Pains Finding Myself Honing Skills/ Seeking Leap of Faith ……
0-6 7-12 13-19 20-27 28-36
The periods of significant Shaping Events between the Critical Life Events that have punctuated your Life Story can be thought of as your Life Chapters. This approach allows you to discover and reflect upon your own meaningful time frames, rather than assuming they are given by some external model (like decades or stages identified by standardized psychosocial development models).
After you have identified a set of Life Chapters that have comprised your Life Story to date, notice the PLOTLINE of your Life Story. Often a Life Path map reveals times of innocence, hardship, lessons, and growth. What has your Story been about, so far? Or have you had several different story threads depending on which events or relationships you focus on?
Do not worry about identifying “all” of your significant life events on this one timeline. This map that you have charted today is from your current point of view and identifies meaningful TYPES of events. I have interviewed a seventy-five year-old who charted eleven events, and a 21 year-old who charted 122! As this is YOUR Life Story, there are no rules or expectations about what you may discover about the meaningful progression of your own Life Chapters to date.
Where have you Been? Who are you Now? Where are you Heading? How might you forecast your future Life Chapters in keeping with your highest sense of purpose and goals? What is your Life Dream?
images are from pixabay.com
Have fun with this and take your time with it in your Better Endings Journal (or otherwise). You can share this with your loved ones and help them reconstruct their own Life Chapters, too. Feel free to send me any Comments about your experience with this process of Self-discovery.
I will leave this post up for longer than usual, to give more people the opportunity and time to play in this Sandbox!