The first step in finding your personal purpose for work and life is to look back over the experiences of your life thus far. If we rush forward, without time for reflection on what we have learned so far, we miss important lessons.
“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.”~ Helen Keller
Set aside time to reflect on the lessons of your life. Using the Lifeline exercise, spend some quiet time reviewing your life thus far.
Start by thinking about the key turning point events in your life. Key events of your childhood, young adulthood, etc. Turning points can be positive events or challenging events, but they stand out as times that shaped you into who you are today. Write down a few of the most important turning points on your timeline. For me, frequent moves to new places were turning points in my life. New schools, new friends, new activities, new challenges.
The first big move in my life was from a small town in Indiana called Kokomo to a big city called San Jose, California. One day I lived in a rural area with a big grassy backyard, a garden, and a grass runway for my Dad’s small plane. Then, after a long miserable car ride with the six members of my family, we found ourselves in a tiny cracker box house with a small backyard and an easy view into our neighbor’s windows.
This turning point set me on a path of an adventurous life, moving for opportunities, enjoying the new experiences and friends, and learning new things. I’ve never lived anywhere longer than seven years. I don’t have a home town. But this aspect of my lifeline, shaped who I am today.
Next, think about the key people in your life. People who left you changed by their impact. Maybe they invested in you and helped you discover your talents. Maybe it was a person that left you behind, and forced you to step forward towards independence. Think about the people that made you who your are today. Write down a few of the most influential on your timeline.
My father’s mother was one of the most significant people in my life. She was a strong, independent, smart farm woman, willing to work very hard to provide for her family. Up at the crack of dawn milking cows. Back to the house to can pickles and apples for the winter. Dinner for the farmhands at noon. Out to the field to plow in the afternoon. Back for more cooking before the sun set.
Grandma Bertha used to ask me how I did this big job with all the travel. And I said, “it’s easy compared to the work you did on the farm.” Grandma gave me my work ethic and a whole bunch of good advice. She is a big part of who I am today.
Finally, look for what themes come across in your lifeline? What did you life teach you that has stood the test of time? What did you learn from the good experiences? What did you learn from the bad experiences? Jot down the themes you see in your life along side the events of your timeline.
One theme that stands out in my life is character-building. The events and people in my life built my character. Those moves from state to state and country to country made me outgoing, resilient, and willing to take risks. They also taught me how to deal with loneliness, disappointments, and uncertainty.
My grandmother taught me a strong work ethic. She taught me to be confident, brave, and strong. And when this woman I loved so much passed away, she taught me a great deal about the meaning of life.
“I look back on my life like a good days work, it was done and I am satisfied with it.”~ Grandma Moses
Set aside some time this week and reflect on your life. It’s the first step towards finding your personal purpose for work and life.