The most interesting epiphany leaders reach in the process of self discovery is how much their behavior in life is reflective of where they came from. The very first thing I recommend in coaching is to create a life timeline, in addition to any assessments we might be working with. The life timeline becomes the canvass for your ongoing work. You will return to it time and time again for guidance at every juncture, every new discovery. Here’s how the process works:
- Create a life timeline. Take a tabloid-sized piece of paper and draw a line across the top. Put your birthdate on the left and “the future” at the far right. Sharpen your pencil.
- Start on the far left. Down that side of the page, list the characteristics that you or others would use to describe your best self when you are operating at 100%.
- Now on the left and write down the significant milestones of your life – birth, baptism, first grade, graduation, college, marriage, kids, jobs. Use some sort of visual marker for each milestone – a shape or a sign, something that will make them easy to spot.
- On the next line or level down write down the names of the people who influenced or encouraged you along the path.
- The next level down, write your academic and career milestones.
- Flag the memories or events that shaped your life or changed your direction. These are what we will refer to as “shaping activities.” If you have had a major change in your faith, write down the date when faith entered your life.
- In a different color or with a symbol or sticker, flag the events or memories that made a negative impression on you or caused significant change in your daily experience.
- Next level down, on the far left list the skills you were born with. What skills do you have that are hard wired? List across your timeline when you knew, “I’m a writer” or “I can draw” or “I’m a natural conversationalist.”
- Then along the timeline list the skills you learned at different junctures, in different jobs. Flag those with a shape or color.
- Using a different color, draw boundary lines around spans of time that mark an epoch for you, “During my ___ years.”
This becomes a blueprint for conversation with your coach. It provides a safe place to discuss the impacts of events on your life from an objective viewpoint.
Oswald Chambers wrote in My Utmost for His Highest,
“The great solution is the simple one – ‘Come unto me.’ The depth of our reality, intellectually, morally and spiritually, is tested by these words. In every degree in which we are not real, we will dispute rather than come.”