Drawing a lifelineWhen I’m working with a new coaching client I’m very aware that the person sitting before me has been shaped by their past. I’m not a therapist and have no desire to try and put the past right but an awareness of their past can help my understanding of their present. So, to gain a deeper insight into the forces that have shaped the person in front of me and the patterns they may have developed, we often do the lifemap exercise.

I ask clients to draw a horizontal time line representing the years or decades of their life. On top of this they draw a wavy line representing the ups and downs they have experienced over the years. Then we go into more detail. In reflecting on the past events of their life we ask questions like:

  • What happened?
  • What made that experience good?
  • And what made that feel so low?
  • How did you move on?
  • What changed to allow that progress?

Simple as they, are the answers to these questions give me a real insight into the types of things that get people stuck and the most helpful levers to get them unstuck!

Often you notice things like high points being associated with external recognition or achievement. For some people it’s about making more money, for others it’s about discovery or growth or frequently about rising to a challenge.

Low points are very mixed in their origins. Sometimes the precipitating event is very personal, a loss or bereavement. Many times it’s about loss of autonomy or control, being undervalued and frustrated. The exact combination of circumstances is different for each client and reflects the values they assign to the different situations.

The Lifemap exercise is one that sometimes has few words as I watch a client reflect and ponder and then experience a moment of insight…

When we are doing career growth work we are looking for experiences that make a job rewarding or exciting, what situations are motivating or demotivating, when they knew it was time to move on. Our lives are rich sources of experience and in reflecting without regret or rumination, we can learn much from our own past.

When I ask questions like “What changed to allow you to recover from that?” or “What lessons have you learned that might help you right now?” it’s often possible to see the lights go in in their head and their heart as they realise they do have wisdom and insight to contribute to their own solutions, they’ve been here before and moved beyond the blockage.

Of course, in projecting out the lifemap into their future we are working on the contents of their lifeplan – the ingredients they want to include in their lives, their relationships and their careers.

If you’d like to work through this exercise on your own I have some notes here for you: Create Your Life Map.

Often it helps to allow some time for reflection and to have someone else ask you the questions, to accompany you on your journey. If I can help, do send me an email.

Once you’ve created your life map, if you have comments or thoughts to share, do let me know!