A life story or memoir seems to be something commonly written during retirement years. The power in life stories, however, doesn’t have time restrictions. It may surprise you, but the best time to write your life story is now. Sure, you may update it later, but learning to know yourself through your own story has tremendous potential to increase your own happiness, sense of belonging, self-esteem, and sense of purpose. Here’s why this is true.
Define Your Dash
In her excellent article, “Define Your Dash,” author Angie Lucas refers to a poem by Linda Ellis about the dash between the birth date and death date on headstones. That little symbol represents an entire lifetime. That little symbol is worth a lot. So Lucas suggests that you define your dash by making a record of it.
Of course, we always think we have all the time in the world to record our life’s experiences, our life story. We don’t really stop to think that events and experiences from our life may not be remembered by others. Actually making a record of the things we know, feel, learn, and experience is the only way to ensure that our life is remembered and our life’s lessons are shared.
You can make yourself live forever through writing. Do not pass through life without leaving something behind for others to learn from your experience–even if no one but your children read it. You may discover a you you’ve never known.” ~Antwone Fisher
You probably don’t think your life is a very big deal. You’re wrong. It’s a very big deal to everyone who knows and loves you. Think about the way you look at your grandma, brother, mom, or someone you admire. Someone is looking at you that way. Someone is going to want to remember your life’s story and share it with someone they love.
Did you know it only takes about two generations before a life is essentially forgotten? If I don’t take the time to tell my children about my grandparents, their life stories and life lessons are lost. Some of my grandparents kept journals, so that helps me keep their legacy alive with more details than I would otherwise have, but I always have my memories. I just can’t keep them inside my own head all the time. Otherwise, they’ll be lost in time, too.
When we give the gift of family stories to our children, they have greater strength and courage because they know they belong to something greater.
Life is one great big learning experience divided up into many smaller ones. Sometimes knowing and understanding yourself is one of the biggest lessons of all. (You can read part of my journey here.)
In addition to the benefits a recorded life story gives our children and grandchildren, it does something for us right now, today.
Know yourself through writing your story. As you develop a greater understanding of yourself, you will have a greater sense of peace. Writing your own story can even be a stress-reducer! You might even begin to see your perceived weaknesses as strengths.
Personally, you’ll benefit from the practice of reflecting over your life, collecting your thoughts, and making sense of your experiences. The very act of writing things down is therapeutic; it can provide a sense of purpose and control. It may also reveal patterns in your life, increase your gratitude, foster a stronger sense of self, and even make you happier and more successful in your daily life. ~Angie Lucas
How Do I Start?
I’ve seen several great resources with simple suggestions on how to write your own life story. Here are a few I think will be helpful:
- #52Stories (write something each week for a year)
- Know Thyself in 25 Questions
- create your life story in a digital storybook online following this video tutorial
- Creating Family Stories
Each of these has memory-triggering questions for you to answer. What was your first job? What was your favorite (or least favorite) subject in school? And don’t worry about fitting everything in or creating one big all-inclusive personal history. You can always write additional volumes. I called the first volume of my life story “The First Forty Years.” I wrote it in a hardbound book (similar to the one in the video tutorial above) because I wanted to include some pictures (and I wanted to make sure I had a high-quality book, too). I have a good chunk of my life story recorded now, before my memories fade. And now I can start volume two.
Start writing your own life story now. It will be a gift to everyone who loves you, but it will also be an uplifting, strength-building way to know thyself.
- Family Search Blog. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/52stories-printables/
- Jen. (2017). Midday Mornings. Retrieved from https://www.middaymornings.com/how-an-infj-made-peace-with-herself/
- Lucas, Angie. (2017). Family Search Blog. Retrieved from https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/define-dash-start-writing-personal-history-52stories-project-2/
- Misty Sansom. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.mistysansom.com/know-who-you-are-with-these-25-questions/