When we embark on a trip, we're far more likely to make it to our destination easily if we know our starting point and plan a route to our destination. We plot our chosen path and, if necessary, directions for any side trips we want to take. That same line of thinking can be transferred to life paths as well -- it's easier to figure out how to get to where we want to be once we figure out where we are starting from. And it's easier to figure out our starting point once we figure out where we've been. That is the theory that Kate and David Marshall apply in their new publication, My Life Map: A Journal to Help Shape Your Future.
I will confess that I am a bit of a hard sell when it comes to creating life map. It's not that I don't appreciate looking back at what I've done and what I hope to do, it's just that I keep ending up in unexpected places. Luckily, the Marshalls know there are many people like me out there in the world and suggested many different strategies for approaching my personal life map and emphasized that just because I was writing something down does not mean I was etching it in stone.
"Seeing the whole life -- past, present, and future -- offers an importance perspective in shaping the future you want. By seeing patterns and turning points in your past, you can see what has and hasn't worked well so far. You may acknowledge, accept and honor what has come before, and then move on." Page 7
My Life Map reminded me more of a workbook than a journal. There are guided exercises to help you chart your path, and I was surprised to find there wasn't just one life map in the book but several. There were subject maps, a ten-year map and a whole-life map. I found the whole-life map completely intimidating and procrastinated on that one. Well, kind of. The Marshalls acknowledge that there is no one right way to approach their life maps. Some people need to start with the whole-life map, while others -- like me -- are more comfortable with the small subject maps.
Image credit: Compass on an old map via Shutterstock
I really enjoyed the prompts though they were not always easy to answer. Anyone contemplating creating their own life map should know that this likely isn't an exercise that you will sit down and do in a single afternoon or a weekend. I found some of the questions easy to answer but there were others that I mulled over for a long time. The whole life map process really forced me to look at what I wanted from my life and at some of my possible futures. At the end of the process I didn't feel like I had one firm life map, but a few different possibilities. My Life Map forced me to really examine those possible futures and helped me become more comfortable with what the future may bring.
Causes Kate Marshall Supports
Project Second Chance, an adult literacy program run by the Contra Costa County Library system in California.