“I want to pass along my values.”
That’s the motivation that I often hear in my Writing Your Life Story classes for seniors from 60-something to 90-something. They tell me that they don’t want to just chronicle what they did in their lives, they want to explain why they made the choices they made and what they learned while doing it.
These students are not seeking to bolster their ego, or toot their own horn. Not at all. They are usually quite humble about their accomplishments and achievements, whatever they happen to be. And they’re usually especially honest at pointing out their own mistakes, failures, or shortcomings.
“I just believe that someone might learn something from hearing what I learned and tried to practice,” they say. “Strong values always guided me.”
This focus on passing on values in a personal history, memoir, or autobiography is a growing trend:
As parents, and sometimes as grandparents, we do our best to communicate our values to those we love through our daily contact. We hope it might have a positive influence on how they shape their own values and go about their lives. But there’s something more powerful about writing a book that devotes greater time and attention to what our values are, and how they have specifically shaped us. Our family and others who may read our memoir or autobiography have a greater opportunity to ponder what we’re pointing out and see how it may apply to them – or how it could apply.
Do you have clear and definite values that have shaped you? Do you yearn to put them in writing, in an engaging life story, so that those you care about may gain something from it? Make a list of those values now and beside each entry note “impact on my life.” See what your brainstorming may trigger in your process of writing your life story. And let me know if I can help!
– Kevin Quirk is a personal historian and memoir ghostwriter who has been teaching people of all ages and backgrounds how to write their life story for more than 15 years. He is the author of Your Life Is a Book And It’s Time to Write It!: www.yourlifeisabook.com