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Want to Have a Meaningful Life? Draw Your Tree of Life

Having meaning and purpose is one of the best ways to build resilience. To have a meaningful life, you need to to know who you are, and one way to get to know yourself is to create a story for your life. This exercise will help you do that.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Having meaning and purpose is one of the best ways to build resilience. To have a meaningful life, you need to to know who you are, and one way to get to know yourself is to create a story for your life.

I discovered the Tree of Life in Nathan B. Weller’s storytelling blog. It is a useful tool that can help you visualize your life and develop your story.

The tree represents your past, present, and future. By looking at each part of your story, you can discover how the past shaped who you are today and actively cultivate your tree to reflect the kind of person you want to be moving forward.

Start by drawing a tree with a trunk, roots, branches, leaves, and fruit. Draw a compost heap next to it. Then, fill in the various sections per the instructions below.

Roots. Describe your origin. What is your cultural and ethnic identity? What influenced and shaped you as a child? Where did you live?

Ground. Write about what you do every week. What is your routine? What are your key activities?

Trunk. List your skills and values. What makes you who you are today?

Branches. Identify your long and short-term hopes and dreams. What are your goals? What would you like to be in the future?

Leaves. List the names of everyone who has positively influenced and supported you. These may be friends, family, mentors, heroes, even pets. 

Fruit. Describe the legacies that have been passed on to you. Look at the names you wrote on your leaves. What impact did they have on you? What have they given to you over the years?

Flowers & Seeds. Describe the legacies you wish to leave to others. How would you like to be remembered by the people you’ve touched in the world? 

Compost Heap. Identify what you no longer want in your life. What don’t you want to define you? Include past trauma, abuse, social pressure, or cultural standards. You can also include negative images you’ve had of yourself.

Don’t rush this exercise. If you start with only one or two items per section, that’s fine. As you complete each part of the tree, memories and ideas will come to you. You don’t need to complete the tree in any specific order. Use a pencil so you can make changes.

After you complete your tree, study it. Discuss it with a trusted friend or family number. What story does your tree tell? Share your experiences drawing your tree of life in the blog comments.

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