Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

What Roads Brought You To Now?

Not all of life's paths are this lovely! The title of the Beatles song, The Long and Winding Road, speaks to most of us who have paused to think of the paths, roads, highways–and even alleys–of life, which have brought us to where we are right at this moment.

How might life have been different had we taken different paths on hundreds of different occasions–perhaps just a slightly different decision or different timing? The movie Sliding Doors played to that concept in an entertaining and thought provoking way.

Draw a Life Graph: Consider drawing a simple or complex visual portrayal of your life and the people and events that have brought you to where you are now. I notice that Oprah’s site talks about Life Mapping from the perspective of using magazine photos and illustrations to present our past and present as well as our desired future. You can check out that concept here.

That might be fun to do! However, that is not the concept I use in a few classes in which we discuss personal and professional development. (Time and materials are factors, as are the personalities and styles of the participants.)

I prefer the easier method of simply drawing a line–either free-flowing or using short lines connected with dots or symbols–that represent a route through life. If you have never drawn a Life Graph or Life Map, try it sometime. If you have done it before, try it again–perhaps with a few new options, suggested below, for how you want to picture your life and the choices you have made. Let me also say here that there is no required method for doing this–no “right way.” You may want to practice a bit and re-do it until you think it reflects your life most accurately.  It is just an self-reflecting activity, not a grim assignment!

The most basic Life Graph: On long side of a piece of paper put a starting year of your choice–birth, graduation, this job, marriage, out on your own, or any other beginning point–even retirement can be a beginning point for such a graph. Very faintly draw a straight line–a baseline–between then and now. That will represent your life if you lived it in a coma! It would be life without people, places, events and situations, that have made your life what it has been.

Some people use the baseline as an indicator of times when things were stable or uneventful. You may want to mark the baseline in increments of one, five or ten years, to make it easier to read your graph.

Moving your life from Point A to Point B:

  • Some people like to draw a continuous line that curves, arches, twists, or goes straight, as it moves through the graphic depiction of their lives–like one long and winding road. If you do that, you can put dates, words or symbols near your line to indicate significant events. 
  • Others prefer to draw short straight lines from significant point to significant point–much like connecting the dots, or a traditional graph look. If you do that your line may zig-zag above the baseline, then dip below it, according to your emotions about a situation. Your line may go off on a tangent, never to return exactly to it’s former level, or it may level off now and then, running parallel to the baseline.

Marking the line with the significant people and events of your life: Since you will be the only one to see it, you can write any descriptors you want, from an abbreviation to a word or sentence, or using symbols to indicate key points, events or people.

Getting to now: Eventually, the line will bring you to today’s date. You know your graph or map is done when you can look at it and feel that it fairly accurately reflects the paths of your life. (I once saw a Life Graph template that unfolded to nine feet and was meant to be kept on a wall permanently!)

 You may want to consider making your Life Graph from more than one perspective–because your life has more than aspect to it. For these it might work best to use the dot to dot method, with the line going above and below baseline to indicate positive or negative–but again, it is your life and you can draw it as you wish!

  • Indicate career changes–Only career events, changes, advancements, crises or satisfaction.
  • Indicate personal relationships–Only relationships and their impact on you at the time.
  • Indicate health and fitness–Only your weight, fitness level, commitment to your exercise program and other activities that relate to fitness.
  • Indicate financial stability–Only a graphic indicator of the ups and downs and stable phases of your financial life. 
  • A combination of issues. Both your health and fitness and your career, for example.

Compare those diverse perspectives to see if there are correlations or not. Use them as tools to determine when an aspect of the area being graphed became better or worse. Look for patterns. See where you are now and where the momentum is taking you.

Another way to use your Life Map: Your Life Map or Life Graph is a graphic portrayal of time. But at some point, somewhere in the future, it will be, quite literally, the end of the line. I do not want you to estimate that date! Instead, at the far right-hand side of the paper, put a star to indicate, “Still living!”

All of us want to be in the middle of living when we stop. You do not know how many days or years you have between now and that point, but you can be absolutely certain of this: You will be moving forward on the path of your life from now until then, just as you were moving forward from the beginning until now.

How do you want the path to look, if you were to draw your Life Map again in five years? Ten years? Twenty or more years? Today is the day to start it in the direction of your dreams, wishes, aspirations and goals!

July 3rd, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 8 comments


  1. My father liked to tell how he overslept one morning in his senior year at college, (University of Maryland ’27) which resulted in not being on time for a class. He went to the library instead but couldn’t find the book he needed and asked a student assistant for help. Eventually, she was my mother. My father used to say I would never have existed if he had obeyed his father’s admonishment to not drink beer on a school night because it would make him oversleep. This essay of yours brought a smile as I remembered his story.

    The twists and turns of life are fascinating, but I haven’t tried to draw it on paper. I’ll do that this weekend. Thank you once again for your thoughts.

    Comment by Don Roberson | July 3, 2008

  2. Hello Don! Thank YOU for your comments. I love your stories, always. Let me know how the Life Graph turns out. Best wishes! Tina

    Comment by Tina | July 3, 2008

  3. Hi Tina, this was a good idea. Ten years ago I was passed over for an assignment and was mad about it for a long time, but I’m over that. I’ve wondered how things would have been different if I had gotten that assignment. Some of it would be better I think and some of it would be not as good, but I know things would be different. Sometimes I wish I could live it both ways and compare. This is late night beer talking. 🙂
    I’m catching up on your posts and didn’t realize you were writing so often. Good job, but I don’t see how you do it.

    Comment by KM8654 | July 7, 2008

  4. To KM8654: Thank you for your comment, even if it was inspired by late night beer! I pondered your thought about living it both ways and comparing. What a great idea! Actually, you could do that with the timeline too. You wouldn’t know the unknown twists and turns, but you could guesstimate some things, based on what has happened since then in that assignment or with the person who was picked.

    I think I’m going to try that for something of mine!T.

    Comment by Tina | July 7, 2008

  5. My dad lived with a smile right up until he finally gave it up. I hope I can do the same thing. As a Christian I believe there is more than this earthly life, but it is important to enjoy this one I think. I try to see every day as a gift and to make good decisions about it. What frustrates me are how many decisions I feel I don’t have much control over! I’m happiest when I don’t worry so much about my control! I also liked the post about Responsibility and Accountability. Thanks!

    Comment by TheTwoDaniels | July 7, 2008

  6. To the Two Daniels: Thank you for commenting. How wonderful about your dad! I had a brilliant thought, based on your comment that as a Christian you believe there is more than this earthly life. On your tombstone you could put the thing I suggested for the timeline:

    Still Living!

    Wouldn’t that be a neat thing to have? (Well, it seems very creative to ME!) T.

    Comment by Tina | July 7, 2008

  7. Tina, how wonderful your thought is!

    “Still Living, With My Heavenly Father!”

    I’ve shared this with many people already.

    Barb and Paul

    Comment by TheTwoDaniels | July 7, 2008

  8. Thanks! I was impressed with myself! 🙂 T.

    Comment by Tina | July 7, 2008

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