You don’t need to climb Everest or be a celebrity to write an autobiography. Everyone has a story and you will never know what hidden insights are locked within yours until you write it.
Personally, I am somewhat familiar with reading autobiographies as I have done this exercise with every single one of my career clients; I have read hundreds!
Without fail, it offers a great starting place to unwind the gems of learning from their journey so far, whether positive or negative, that have shaped and made them the unique person they are today.
On that note, how well do you know yourself? We often feel like we know ourselves, yet writing an autobiography can reveal so much about you. It can be surprising what themes and stories can unexpectedly emerge or reoccur within your life.
Writing your autobiography is a small exercise, with a big impact, however, it can seem like a scary thing to do. Perhaps you feel your story will be boring, or not as great as others. Just to be clear though, no one else has to read it and we are only talking about the highlights of your adventure to date, so think 500 words, not a three book trilogy!
Join me in guiding you through how to write your autobiography to build clarity and tap yourself into to what is truly important to you.
Why Do An Autobiography?
There are many reasons to write an autobiography. In this article, we are looking at the benefit of an autobiography in finding clarity on your path to a better career choice, but it is also a great standalone, almost therapeutic exercise.
‘This is an eye-opening exercise. It seems daunting at first, but adds massive value when done.’Josh, a career coaching client
Here are the key benefits that my career transition client’s often say to me:
- Stop living life on auto-pilot – We so often get buried in the day to day busyness of life, the autobiography stops us putting life on auto-pilot by taking a little time out to reconnect with where we are, and where we want to be going.
- Expressing the Big Picture – An autobiography helps build awareness of the overarching themes of your life to date:
- Helping you to identify negative cycles that haunt your life.
- Helping to positively acknowledge achievements and strengths, tapping us into gratitude for what we have. This is great for self-esteem, confidence and overall health.
- Authenticity – It is a powerful tool to understand your life learnings. It highlights events you might not have realised were important and emphasises what you really believe in.
- Prompting action – As I remember from my Chartered Accounting days, confronting where I was often led to action. It might have taken me a good few years but I did eventually escape to something far better for me!
Write Your Story – The Autobiography Exercise
The journey towards a career you love has to start somewhere. It may as well start from the end of your last story. In other words, where you are right now.
The aim of this is to help shape your career transformation, but don’t stick to your career story, write your whole life story! You’ll be surprised by what your life can tell you about your career and vice versa.
So are you ready to get practical? To Write your story? Let’s do this!
Step 1 – Set up the ideal conditions
Write it in the right way and location to be able to get yourself into some form of flow. A couple of simple ways to tap into flow:
- The environment counts – Give yourself permission to go somewhere creative. For example, go to a local park or a beautiful café and order a nice drink. Just do it, give yourself permission, you know you want to!
- Do not overthink it – Don’t put any pressure on yourself, just see what happens. Sometimes just starting an exercise like this can create its own flow.
- No writing under duress – When you’re exhausted, super stressed out or have the chorus of screaming children, it WILL seriously impact your creativity! If you have no other option but to write under these conditions check out our article on getting into flow. Just to let you know, alcohol will not give you the flow you are looking for!
- Set a time limit – as a guideline, 15 minutes is probably too short and multiple full days is probably too long!
- I tend to recommend somewhere between 45 minutes and 90 minutes, but this really depends on you.
- Do not limit yourself to a time limit if expressing yourself via the autobiography is giving you powerful insights. However, we want to keep it high impact so it may help to imagine that you were writing it for an imaginary reader. A 500-word limit can also help, but if you have had a long and eventful life, more time may be necessary!
Step 2 – Write your story
Thinking of your life as a whole, write your autobiography highlighting the key experiences or challenges that you’ve faced that you believe have influenced who you are today.
Start at the beginning and take it step-by-step through the most important moments in your life. If it helps to just list out everything you think is important first and then use these prompts to write your autobiography, then do that.
If you are feeling particularly creative or you are a visual person, you can take a pictorial, graphic or even collage approach. For example, you might want to draw the path or flow of your life, highlighting pivotal points. This could involve collecting images that represent parts of your life and then creating a picture of your life to date, including photos, words and other images.
Make sure you include moments that evoke great emotion as well as seemingly insignificant events that pop up in your mind. Sometimes your subconscious is telling you something you didn’t know.
Step 3 – Learning from your autobiography
Great, you have done the exercise, now what? Well honestly, you’re unlikely to see the first copy of your autobiography on the shelves of Waterstones quite yet, but all of my clients get great value out of just doing it.
To get even more insights, here are some questions you can ask yourself to help understand the key the themes of your autobiography:
- What did you learn about yourself from completing it?
- What themes or stories reoccur in your life?
- What fears have been suppressing your dreams?
- What surprised you about your story so far?
- What are the hidden dreams within this autobiography?
- What is stopping the autobiography being the story that you want it to be?
- What is crying out to be expressed/done?
The Start of Your Next Story
Firstly, congratulations! You have written your life story to date!
The autobiography works really well as a standalone exercise and is a great first step in building a blueprint of what you need in your work and life to be fulfilled. So let’s end this exercise by drawing together your conclusion. To do this, ask yourself ‘If I were to take one key insight from this exercise what would it be?’
Does this insight prompt anything you can work on in your career or life? The ending might not be written yet, but if you were going to write the next chapter of this story how would it read?
Every story is made of many chapters, sometimes many books.
You have your autobiography for life, so you can always go back to it to see if anything new comes to light. It can be an ongoing story that you can add to, extend and elaborate on.
Your autobiography can be used as a gateway to crafting your values and building powerful decision-making tools to direct you into the next chapter of your life.
It’s up to you to write your future, start now by writing your past!