Life Highlights Exercise

What is it? Hands down the best career assessment you could do!

There are formal career assessments available that will assess your skills, personality, interests and values…and they’re great. The drawback with formal assessments, however, is that there are limitations;  formal assessments look at you through only one lens using terminology, ideas and constructs that are not necessarily yours.  

A powerful exercise often used in career counselling is one that lets you deeply explore who you are, by looking at  moments in time that have been meaningful to you in your past. The idea is simple and the results are often profound.

The Life Highlights Exercise uncovers key guiding factors in your life, as well as skills, personality, interests and values. The goal of career exploration is to find a career that fits you, not make yourself fit the options you know about. Have you ever looked at a job ad and thought..."I could do that"?  You probably don't want a career you 'could' do, you want one that suits you so well, you may even continue to do it if you were to win big in the lottery.

Step 1: Make Your Life Highlights List

Brainstorm the very best 20-25 moments of your life so far, at work, in your leisure, in your relationships…think about:

  • What has been meaningful?
  • Most satisfying?
  • When have you felt fulfilled?
  • Felt at peace?
  • Completely lost track of time?
  • Had a goose bump moment?
  • Realized something profound?
  • Felt proud of something you’ve done?
  • Felt pride in an accomplishment even when it wasn’t viewed as a ‘big deal’ by anyone else?
  • Felt self-actualization?
  • Felt whole?
  • Felt in the moment?
  • Felt contentment?
  • Felt completely connected with the work at hand?

Give yourself time to compile your list, don’t rush through it - you are worth the time this will take.  Also, don’t feel you have to do all of this in one sitting, take a break if you need to, and come back to the exercise.

Can you think of one? 

Now stop, freeze the moment and describe it in detail. The more specific you are with the moment in time - the better, it allows for greater clarity and elaboration. Describe it from how you experienced it and also how you would explain it if you were an observer. The data of this exercise comes from the detail here.

Step 2: Look over your list and choose your top 7

Look at your original list, as you wrote them or talked them over with a partner, what experiences evoked the most positive memories or feelings? Highlight your top 7, you will be examining these in more detail.

Step 3: Describe your top 7 in great detail

If your preference is to write…write out your stories on your keyboard or in a journal.  If you’d rather talk things out, find a partner to do this exercise with.  You can take turns sharing your stories.  On the story telling side; share and give lots of detail, on the listening side; ask questions and take notes...then….switch.

To get more detail ask the following of yourself (or your partner)…

  • What was happening?  
  • What were you doing (in detail)?
  • What was the context or environment?
  • How were you experiencing this moment with your 5 senses?
  • How did you feel?
  • Why do you think this was important?
  • Why was this meaningful?
  • What was the result of this experience?
  • What do you think this experience says about what you need?
  • What would others say about why this is meaningful?  
  • What would an objective observer say about this experience?

This exercise takes time, but again you are worth it.

Click Here for a sample of this exercise.