When I was in high school, we had a project where we had to make a timeline of our life. Birth to death, and everything in between. I got married, had two children (Trevor and Audrey), became an Oscar-winning actress, a lifetime achievement award for my acting, got divorced, and eventually died around the age of 80. I had a wonderfully fulfilling life.
When I started reading My Life Map by Kate and David Marshall, I imagined it would be a lot like that timeline. Unrealistic dreams that didn’t make sense with who I was and what I really wanted out of life. I was slightly intimidated by the workbook format. Then, I read this:
If the idea of long-term planning terrifies you, and it might, take a deep breath. You are not being asked to make irrevocable decisions here, or to let go of spontaneity in your life. You will not be a failure if what you write in this book does not come true. This book is simply a dialogue with yourself. (pg. 7)
So, I took a deep breath. And began reading. And writing.
The workbook starts at the beginning. Without spending too much time dwelling on the past, I had to map out what has happened in the first 29 years of my life. I added that to my life map, and then started working forward in time. There are three kinds of maps in the book: Subject Map, Ten-Year Map, and Whole-Life Map. They are presented in that specific order so you start with the small picture and build to the bigger picture.
…first the trees, then the forest. (pg. 10)
In truth, this book came at a pretty perfect time in my life. Even my life map shows that the first third of my life will end next year. I’m a third of the way done (I figure: my paternal grandmother just turned 90, so I might at least have that long). I’ve graduated college, had a baby, got married, got divorced, tried out a couple of jobs. I’ve changed my mind a million times about what I want in life, and have accepted the fact that I might change it a million more times. This idea of a life map helped me figure out the essentials that I want in life, and how to set the goals to accomplish them. Nothing is set in stone. I filled out everything in pencil. So, I can reevaluate as I go. I can post the Ten-Year Map somewhere I’ll see it every day (along with the Vision Board I also went through with this book) and start living with purpose. When a decision comes along, when I’m at a fork in the road, I already have this tool to start from. I can make those decisions based on what I know is important to me.
As a side note, I really surprised myself by going through this workbook. I learned a lot about myself, and my goals for life, in a way that I hadn’t before. The structure really helped me separate the “goals” I have because I think I should, and what my true goals in life are. It was a lot easier to be completely honest with myself. Now I have a little bit of a clearer picture of what I want, and what I can do to get there.
My Life Map: A Journal to Help You Shape Your Future is available from Gotham Books, a nonfiction imprint of Penguin Group (USA). I recommend it for pretty much everybody. Whether a high school student trying to decide what to do after graduation, a twenty-something trying to choose a career, or a forty-something wondering if she’s on the right path, anybody can use it to help shape their future.
For more information:
Causes Kate Marshall Supports
Project Second Chance, an adult literacy program run by the Contra Costa County Library system in California.