As 2020 approaches, I’ve been stressed. I keep looking at my absurdly detailed planner, trying to find a time to pencil in the reflection of the past year and decade. I’ve filled dozens of journals in my life, taken thousands of photographs, developed millions of memories. Yet, I often forget what I ate the day before. How can I adequately reflect on the past ten years of my life if I can’t remember the food I consumed earlier today? 

For the planners, writers, and organization nerds out there, you might share my struggle. For the rest of you, you might have time to reflect but don’t know how to start. I invite all of you to take 30 minutes to an hour to reflect on your life using this life mapping exercise.

Life Mapping

Life mapping is this ingenious little exercise to help you reflect using doodles, words, and arrows. The map “charts significant moments in your life that bring you to where you are now.” By the end of the exercise, you will have a visual representation of your year (or decade) that serves as a cute but compelling reminder of how far you’ve come, the things you’ve done, or the ways you’ve felt.

If this sounds terrible to you, why don’t you read this article on AI terms instead?

But if this sounds fun, follow these instructions: 

How to Map Your Life

1. Pick Your Timeline 

Would you like to reflect on the past decade or the past year? Or both? My suggestion is to choose one and complete the exercise. If it’s all just too much fun to stop, do it all over again with the other timeline. (I did both.) 

2. Blank Paper or Template?

Decide if you want to use a blank piece of paper or a TEDxMileHigh Life Mapping template. 

Download the 2019 Life Map TemplateDownload the 2010s Life Map Template

If you’ve never made a life map before, why not start with the template? You can try a blank sheet of paper next time. Though, if you’re feeling ambitious and brave, skip the template!

3. Brainstorm

This part can feel overwhelming at first, but you don’t have to stick with anything you write down. Just let your mind go. Make a list of memories, things you’ve done, people you’ve met, places you’ve been, and ideas you’ve had that stick out to you. What have you done during your chosen timeline? What memories stick out? What experiences speak the loudest? What random anecdotes enter your mind without you wanting them to? 

How many should you write? As many as you want. But then cut it down to 15 or so of the most meaningful experiences. 

4. Put Events in Chronological Order 

This part is easy. Of course, if you aren’t into order in general, feel free to do your own thing.

5. Start Life Mapping

Using your first memory, represent the memory with a little doodle, accompanied with words if you like. Then follow the template arrow to the next area and do the same. Keep doing this until you have drawn out all of these little memories. Feel free to play some TEDxMileHigh talks in the background for inspiration.

Here are some examples of doodles I included in my life maps:

Pause and Admire Your Life Map

Look at your adorable map! And, all the events you experienced and things you accomplished. If it’s anything like mine, it’s messy, beautiful, ugly, silly, sad, and real all at the same time. It’s a map of my past. It doesn’t include everything, but it catalogs the things that have stuck out to me as important in this moment of reflection. 

Hopefully, this map serves as a reminder for all of the things that you have done leading up to this moment, making and shaping you into who you are right now. You’ve been through a whole year and a whole decade worth of experiences. That’s a big deal. You took the time to reflect on the good and bad memories. Perhaps it all feels nicely wrapped up now. You told your own story in your way. With this life mapping exercise complete, you can now focus your energy on being open to new experiences the next year and decade.

Put this map somewhere special and be proud of yourself! If you feel so inclined, share your life map with us on Instagram. We’d love to see what you did. Happy (almost) New Year, everyone!