How To Map Your Lifeline


Friday, 5.22am

Sheffield, U.K.

The path to our destination is not always a straight one. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. Maybe it doesn’t matter which road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark. – Barbara Hall

In the next few posts, as we continue with this Getting Started book project, we’ll look at different ways to map your past and squeeze out some insights.

Let’s start with a lifeline.

Drawing a lifeline

You’re probably aware of palm reading – the idea that the lines on your palms have something to say about your life in general.

One of those lines is called a lifeline.

Let’s use that idea of a line that represents your life to take a first pass at what’s happened so far.

Get a pencil and some paper and let’s get started.

The point you make when you first touch your pencil to the paper is when you’re born.

What’s happened since then?

Were you born into a rich or a poor family, or did you have no family at all?

Did life get better – did you have a warm, safe home and all the things you could want – or was it a difficult childhood.

Let the pencil make a record, as you run the past through your mind, going up and down as things get better or worse.

Was school good or bad, did you enjoy it or did you feel like an outsider, someone who didn’t fit in.

Keep going, playing back memories, and changing direction at key events as your life improves or becomes worse.

And stop when you reach the present.

What does your lifeline look like?

Every one of us will have a unique lifeline, the experiences accumulated over our lifetime.

But there may be patterns, the kind of patterns you see around you when you take the time to learn about other people and their lives.

Some might have had a very steady improvement – from being born into the right family to having access to opportunities and taking advantage of them.

In many cases, you have ups and downs – good experiences followed by bad ones – but as you learn from the bad ones and build on the good your life becomes steadily better.

Then again, maybe it’s not good news. Early tragedy or misfortune pushed you down and has kept you down even when you tried to change things.

Or you’ve had early success and an equally spectacular fall and have spent much of the intervening time since then trying to recapture some of that lost glory.

Why is a lifeline useful?

A lifeline is a very simple way of compressing your experiences into a compact image that you can critically evaluate.

Right now, at this very instant, you’re at the end of the line.

Every instant before that, each mark making up the whole line, has led you to where you are now.

It is your history, your story – and where you are now and why you are who you are now is captured in those up and down marks on that sheet of paper.

You could annotate the line if you wanted with the main events that make it up but you don’t have to, especially if the memories aren’t great.

Just drawing this line and looking at it is a start – a way of facing your past instead of hiding from it or glossing over it.

This is what is there and this is what you have to build with.

And maybe it’s amazing and you can go on to great things or it’s not so good and you have some rebuilding to do – either way you’ll get a sense of what you’re up against.

And some of these points, the ones that turn, are defining experiences – the times that have made you who you are today.

Let’s look at what that’s created in the next post.


Karthik Suresh

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