Last month, I talked about following your energy bread crumbs as a way to become aware of people, places, and activities that replenish your energy, give you joy and bring out your best. This month, I’d like to connect the dots between those energy bread crumbs and how they can lead to creating your personal narrative, or what I think of as my personal highlight reel.
There are many uses for this exercise. From a career standpoint, these are stories you want to tell recruiters, use for interviews or build your case for promotion. From a personal growth standpoint, these are stories that can build confidence when your inner critics are running amok. From a legacy standpoint, these are stories that show how you chose to live your life. (No pressure here!) It is the beginning of consciously choosing to create more highlights.
So, here’s your chance to become your own Steven Spielberg or Ava DuVerny and create your own personal highlight reel. But first, what qualifies as a highlight?
These are times when your energy was flowing freely; times you felt fully alive, fulfilled and truly yourself. They may be peak experiences when you felt a great sense of accomplishment, had a proud moment or overcame a tough challenge. They may include big “aha!” or “I’m on fire!” moments or times when you felt truly seen – by yourself or others. They will almost always contain lessons learned.
Take a look back on your life by decades or phases – childhood, teenage, young adult, etc. I’ve outlined this chronologically. You can work it any way you want – but work it all!
Note: Name your experience so its memorable. I have one called Kabuki Drop, another one called Purpose Pole and a third called Marigold. The only person who needs to make sense of this is you. The image you choose can help you quickly hook into the positive feeling associated with that highlight. Be as specific and descriptive as possible.
Ages 0-10: I know! You think there won’t be any highlights that young. Well, take a deep breath and relax into the way-back machine. If you’re having trouble, pull out the old family album to help jog your memory. Childhood is a time full of sensory experiences, so go with your first reactions and don’t judge what comes up for you.
Experience: (Name it)
What you did:
Where you were:
Who you were with:
How you felt:
What choice(s) you made:
What you learned about yourself:
What values were being honored:
Repeat this framework for each of your highlights.
Ages 11-20: You can shorten this period of time to include only middle grade & high school and then continue with the college years in the next age range.
Ages 21-30: This can include college and early career days. It may also be the start of your family or an exploration of relationships.
Ages 31-40: While this may be filled with career achievements, I encourage you to look for personal experiences, individual achievements, or special remembrances.
Ages 41-50, 51-60, 61 & beyond: Continue as appropriate for your age 🙂
Now you can connect the dots. Review the experiences that are most vivid. Highlight key words and phrases that have meaning and resonance for you.
- Are there patterns over the years? Are there gaps in the pattern, if so, why?
- Were there any “aha!” moments for you?
- Were there themes around people, places, values, activities?
- Are there elements missing from your life now and/or elements you want more of in the future?
Turning Highlights into Your Feature Film
I did this exercise when I first left the corporate world and it helped me identify areas I needed to dial up; collaboration, creativity, helping others, adventure, spirituality and fun. My idea of becoming a lonely writer tucked away in my house didn’t align with many of my highlights, so I needed to adapt my plan! Over the past six and a half years, I’ve learned to make decisions that give me a better than average chance of creating more highlights. As a result, I have more energy, a creative and fun-filled network, quantifiable impact, and more time to reflect. My goal is to have so many highlights it turns into a feature film!
I’ll leave you with a quote from Steve Jobs that sums up the value of this sort of exercise. If you haven’t read or seen the speech, it’s well worth a few minutes of your time!
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well-worn path; and that will make all the difference.”
– Steve Jobs, Stanford commencement speech, June 2005