Building Self-Awareness and Deeper Connections with Life Maps
Updated: Dec 14, 2019
If you haven’t heard of a life map, that’s not surprising. You might have done something similar, or this might be completely new to you. I’ll explain more about what it is, but first I want to share why it is. A life map serves two functions. One, it’s an opportunity to genuinely reflect inward. A life map is a powerful way to explore your journey through the world at a higher, more meaningful level. It’s an opportunity to reflect and build self-awareness, take a step back and take stock. Two, it’s an opportunity to vulnerably share outward. It can be an incredible tool for practicing openness and building deep connections with others, especially with your team. It’s something I recommend trying at your next offsite or teambuilding event. And it’s something I recommend trying silently, gently on your own.
What a life map is
The concept is straightforward but instructions are deliberately ambiguous. Take a blank sheet of paper and map out your life journey up to this point. That’s it. It can be a picture or illustration, it can be a series of symbols or doodles. It can be a chart with your life events plotted against time, like mine was. I’d guide you to use visualizations and avoid too many words or bullet points here. Try activating a different part of your imagination, and stay with the journey to date. Don’t stray into goals or the future too much, this is meant to be a reflection.
If you’re doing this as part of a group, I’d recommend that each person take 10 minutes of quiet time to draw out their own life map and then take turns with others sharing their own story and why it’s meaningful to them. Dig deep on what made you who you are today and create some space to receive other people’s stories and journeys. You’ll need about 45 minutes in total for a group of 6. If doing it on your own, block out some time to do this well and sit with it. You might want to talk about the results with a friend or partner, or it might just be for you
We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep. –William James
My experience sharing my life map
I recently led a life map exercise for a group of 20 executives and started off by sharing my own map on stage. I felt very uncomfortable at times, opening up and sharing my low points. But I also felt humbled to be held so intently and compassionately by the people in the room. At a couple of the difficult moments on my journey, I felt my voice catch in my throat and I saw several sets of eyes misting up. It was really powerful for me personally, but it was also an opportunity to encourage people to step into their story. When they created and shared their own life maps at their tables, it felt like such a powerful experience. Connection is built in depth and honesty, and in receiving other people as they do the same. Give it a shot, and let me know how it goes.