This post was written by a guest author.
A life map is a visual representation of a person’s life. It can have anything that has meaning to the owner such as key life events, emotions, people, goals and dreams. Life maps are used to gain self-knowledge, set personal objectives or just for fun.
There is no one right way to design a life map. Each is as unique as the person to whom it belongs. But if you have never made a life map before, it is best to start without a clear plan in mind. Being too rigid about designing your life map will defeat its purpose, which is to help you know yourself better.
Using Life Maps to Set Goals in Your Life
Creating Your Life Map
To start, grab a pen and a box of sticky notes. Take a deep breath and relax. Now turn your mind toward your life. Wait for thoughts to come to you. As they come, write each single word or phrase on a sticky note. Stick the note on a tabletop, a canvas or other large empty space. Keep writing as the ideas come. You might think of things such as college, money, marriage, your dream car, problems with family, the death of a pet, fears and worries, a vacation you’ve been wanting to take, hobbies – anything, really. Don’t censor any of it. Just keep writing until you get no more ideas.
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Now look at these notes. Do you see a pattern? Are they mostly regrets, fears and bad experiences? Or are they goals, dreams and fantasies? Do they revolve around other people or just yourself? Do they all originate from a single, overriding emotion, belief or desire?
Arrange the sticky notes in a meaningful pattern. You might try grouping them into areas of life that make sense to you such as career, family, health and recreation. Or try making a timeline of events past, present and future.
Another way to arrange objects in your life map is in the form of a tree. Your name goes at the root or trunk of the tree, while items make the branches and fruit. It’s up to you. Give free rein to your imagination and creativity.
Working with Your Life Map
When finished with your basic life map, examine it. Do you like what it shows about you and your life? Is there anything you would like to take out of it or add to it? Why? What is most important to you in the life map? What makes you happiest? Who helps you realize the nicest things in your map? Do you see yourself realizing the dreams and aspirations shown in it?
If you are honest with yourself, the odds are you’ll see things in your life map that you aren’t pleased with. You may also notice things that you never thought were so important or influential in your life, yet figure prominently in the map.
Now make a new life map. Use a large blank sheet of paper, a large cardboard, the back of an old calendar or poster, or whatever you can find that’s big enough. This time, place only those elements that you want to be in it. Organize this new map the way you would like your life to be, not the way you see it is now (as shown in the first map). You will want it to be more structured and coherent than the other, free-flowing map. Still, be creative.
You might want to place your top priorities or favorite things at the top or center. Link related items together by drawing a line between them with a pencil (so you can erase it if you change your mind). Add details as the ideas come and connect them to existing elements in the map. For example, if one of your goals is to buy a house, you might add “pay off debt” and “make more money.”
Experiment with different layouts. Here are some ideas:
Pyramid: Your ultimate goal is at the apex; the steps toward that goal start at the base and work upward.
Timeline: You picture yourself attaining your goals through the years, one after another.
Five-pointed star: Your highest goal is at the middle point of the star, the foundations are the two lower points, and secondary goals are the two higher points.
Circle: Your life is cut into different segments, each its own goal.
Tree: The roots, trunk, branches and fruits symbolize the birth, growth and realization of your dreams.
This new map ought to show you not just what’s truly meaningful in your life and what you want to achieve; it can also help you discover ways to realize them. For example, if it’s your dream to become a published author, you may realize that some experiences you had can be turned into a book.
Keep organizing your new life map until you feel it accurately reflects your objectives. If you have the time and inclination, cut out pictures from magazines and newspapers and use those instead of sticky notes.
When you are happy with it, glue everything together on the blank sheet, cardboard or poster. Hang it somewhere or keep in a scrapbook. Look at it often to remind yourself of what you really want to do in this life. After a while, as goals and perspectives change, you will want to create a new version of the map accordingly. It’s important to keep it current and true to its owner. It is your life map, and yours only. Make it speak to you as a constant guide and inspiration.
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