Idea: Happiness Timeline
This is an idea I had, that to truly know a person, you must first fully understand their history.... and most rapid and thorough way to do that would be with a timeline like the one below. I call it the "Happiness Timeline" because the trend-line at the top shows the most important vector in anyone's life, even more important than health.... a person's happiness. Happiness is highly subjective, but people are encouraged to be honest about their general happiness level over time, and to do a good job you naturally will want to map out your love history, work history, and physical locations / living situtation, because these are the biggest factors which can affect happiness. Labels can be used to point out life events.
About My Timeline (above)
Since I'm particularly graphic, I even have added photos of my family (as they appear now, not when I was young) and ex-girlfriends. To my happy discovery, the sight of these people makes me smile, because I learnt so much from each, and am still good friends with three of them. Sorry to anyone who didn't make the list. :-P Turns out on a timeline of 34 years of ago, anything less than 3 months is hard to see - even if it was wonderfully meaningful.
I wanted to add another set of photos for friends who have been close and shaped my life, but I think that would deserve a separate graph. This one is already crowded. :) It's interesting to think that you can have moments in your life when your love life is going great, but your family or work life isn't so great. There could be another version of this graph where you distill the happiness from each aspect of life, but that's too much work and detail. Plus you might get one ex-girlfriend comparing herself to the others?! Dangerous. :-P
I've created a template in Google Slides where you can draw your own happiness timeline.
The template has it's own instructions, but even more fun... see what happens with your friend when you ask them the happiness timeline question... ask them to draw out a line (just using their finger) of their happiness over time, and see what happens. :)
The Evolution of this Idea
At twenty four years of age, a girl approached me in a bar and asked me to tell her my life story in two minutes. That girl would become my first girlfriend (yes I started that late as I was once incredibly shy and closed), and I would never forget what an amazing challenge it is to try and distill a life into two minutes. Typically you hear a person's story in parts, anecdotal stories, and even if you are a good listener, and have a best friend for years, you don't have a complete picture of their life. A person's history usually explains why they are the way they are. But you are only given sporadic pieces of a puzzle. I personal love to delve into a persons past, I'm cheeky, and I like to get deep. Most people have some kind of depression or life altering event - and if they haven't there is a good chance they are pretty dull. Adversity can build character and strength.
One day in 2017, on a first date, I decided not to ask the girl's story, but to be more adventurous and ask the girl to trace out, on the table, using their finger, her happiness over time. It was incredible to see her honesty, that was was depressed for the first 18 years of her life. We got incredible deep, incredibly quickly talking about why. I won't devolve the details, but as you might guess it was family related. That girl didn't become a girlfriend - our life situation didn't align - but she is an incredible human being! I realize immediately how powerful this technique was in connecting people deeply the first moment her eyes lit up, talking honestly about her biggest highs and lows.
Months later I later tried this "happiness timeline question" on others. This time I played it with a friend and potential new friends. And this time I held my hands in the air to represent the date they were born, to their current date. I told them to think carefully about each major event and draw very slowly, because as they drew their timeline I'll would ask "why". Some people don't want to give details, but others adore the chance to talk in detail about their pathway in life. Most people love talking about themselves, and this is interactive. The game might last hours! And it tells you so much to do it in person.
After showing it to an incredible girl I met, and my best friend Adam (Adam the Gorilla), I decide it was time to draw my timeline in full. I could have just as easily used a whiteboard, but it was also fun to use a computer for this.
If you like this idea, please give feedback on how I could improve my graph... better yet, make your own and email it to me. The real challenge is to guess what a friend's timeline looks like. Don't feel disappointed if you get it very wrong... some people never disclose what happened during their childhood, or in past relationships. To them it's more important that you understand their favorite flower and bands, which isn't something you can really put on the timeline. I dated a girl over six months and she neglected to mention she was married (once, not when dating!). Then it happened a second time. I guess I never thought to ask: "we're you married once". In the future I will ! Not everyone likes telling their history, but those that do typically realize that as wonderful as it is living in the present, and forgiving anything bad in the past.... the story of the past in beautiful in explaining why we are the way we are.