The lifeline – learning from the past for the future

Sustainability also affects one’s own life. This means using one’s personal strengths and resources responsibly. When searching for appropriate areas of action and goals, working with and on one’s own biography can provide important insights. Just as archaeologists and historians use excavations and old documents to shed light on the darkness of past times, biography work sheds light on one’s own competencies and much more. This article provides a brief overview of biography work. It also shows how to create a personal timeline or lifeline.

The biography is more than the curriculum vitae

To this day, the resume is an integral part of applying for a new job. It contains milestones of the past professional career and important educational stations. This covers essential aspects of the biography, but a complete biography is more than this professional lifeline.

The biography encompasses the whole life story and includes attitudes and values, as well as the meanings one attaches to certain events. The author Max Frisch put it this way: "Sooner or later, every person invents a story that he thinks is his life, or a whole series of stories".

Disentangling and reflecting on these stories is one goal of biography work. Looking back provides important insights for the present and future. The description of one’s own life is the starting point for formulating goals for the future. A coach who asks the right questions can support this process.

Goals of the biography work

Working with life narrative is widely used. In social work as well as in nursing, therapy or coaching, biography work has become an integral part of. The goals of biography work are manifold in this context. These include:

  • uncovering room for maneuver and problem-solving skills,
  • Develop personal goals and implementation strategies,
  • Examine roles and behavior patterns,
  • to question cultural and family influences,
  • to discuss life plans,
  • Changing the perspective,
  • To look again at turning points or
  • Learning to accept one’s own life story

There are numerous methods for working with and on one’s own biography. One can paint, craft, write down or otherwise depict one’s own life story. I personally like the approach of re-enacting life stories with toy figures. The images and installations that emerge from this process surprise me again and again.

To create one’s own life line or timeline

Lifeline Example

An example for a (simplified) life line or. for a personal timeline

A tool that helps to visualize the biography is the so-called (personal) timeline or lifeline. It captures the "highs" and "lows" of life and supports the examination of one’s own life story. The question that is asked is: "How did I become the person I am today??"

How to create the personal lifeline is explained by the following steps. All you need is a sheet of paper and some pens. As already mentioned, the creation can be done alone or with a coach.

Step 1: First, sketch a timeline with a horizontal X-axis for the passage of time and a vertical Y-axis for the evaluation of what was experienced (z. B. positive/negative). A template for creating the timeline or. the lifeline can also be downloaded here (template lifeline/time line, PDF, approx. 430 kB).

Step 2: Now the memory work begins. It is helpful to remember significant milestones or turning points. Putting them in chronological order and evaluating them. The evaluation is based on whether the respective points were experienced as "positive" or "negative. Joyful events are marked above the timeline (X-axis), stressful or less good events below it. The more "emotional" the event, the higher or deeper the marking. This is then given a name or heading, e.g. B. "Birth of children" (s. Photo).

Other examples of life events are z. B. Starting school, beginning and end of important friendships, the death of loved ones, moving, education, beginning and end of jobs, marriage or divorce, goals achieved, overcoming life crises or many others.

When remembering, it is important to remember: Good things take time. If memory falters, a look in the photo album can provide important clues. In any case, take enough time to create the lifeline.

Learning from the past

Step 3: Once all the major events, milestones and turning points of life have been captured and assessed, we move on to the interpretation of life li. All the points recorded are connected chronologically. This results in something like a fever curve with the ups and downs in life. It gets interesting at the respective high and low points, resp. at the turning points. Questions that can be asked about this are:

  • Activities: What did you do at that time? What was fun? What not?
  • Relationships: Who was close to you at the time? Who helped you? Who was harmed?
  • Experiences: What did you learn then? Which competencies have helped you to cope with a particular phase of your life??
  • Findings: How did you fare? Were you satisfied? What gave strength, what cost strength?

Step 4: The answers to the questions in step 3 are reflected now again and referred to the present. Which terms (z. B. Competencies or resources) stand out? Are there patterns that repeat themselves in the timeline?? Are these patterns rather helpful or do they rather harm?? How do patterns affect the present? Is there reason to change course? Which goals should be formulated?

Telling your own story

Maybe you have got the desire to also create a personal timeline or rather a life cycle of an SSD. To create a lifeline. To do this, descend like archaeologists and historians into the course of your own history. Take a new look at life. I wish you a lot of fun! Share your experiences in the comments. I would be happy.

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