The Ten Most Important Life Stories: and Tips on How to Tell Them

At The Leaves Legacy Project, people often ask us for advice on the life stories that are most important to tell or write about. We have conducted numerous surveys on this topic over the last twelve years. We also have a feature in the Leaves app where people can request stories from their family members. Based on the data from our surveys and this ‘story request’ feature, we can share the most important life stories that people like to tell, and that their family and friends love to hear.

1. The Birth of Your Children

Every mother has a birth story. Every child loves to hear the story of how they entered the world. Most dads also like to add colorful commentary on this life-changing experience, especially if they were in the room during the birth. Here are some suggestions for writing about the birth of your child:

  • Begin by describing the anticipation and excitement leading up to the birth of your child.
  • Talk about the emotions you were feeling and how you prepared for the arrival.
  • If possible, include how you felt when you first saw and held your baby.
  • Describe the moment you first heard your baby’s cry, and the joy you experienced when you realized your baby was healthy and perfect.
  • Was it a long labor? If there were complications, describe how the attending doctor and nurses managed the situation.
  • If you have any stories of special moments during the labor and delivery, share those as well.
    Talk about the overwhelming love you felt for your newborn as you held him or her for the first time.
  • Describe how you and your family celebrated the new arrival.
  • Talk about how you introduced your baby to siblings and family members, and how you decorated your home to welcome the new addition.
  • Write about your child’s first days and weeks at home, and the special milestones you shared together.
  • Reflect on the love and joy your child has brought you since their birth and how your life changed.

Follow on stories: Tell the funny and perhaps scary or unsettling stories of raising your kids. What were your kids first words? What were some of the darndest things they said or did?

2. Meeting Your Sweetheart

One of the most shared stories in life that all people like to tell and hear from others is how they met their sweetheart. It is even better when you remember the details differently than your sweetheart. Whether it is your spouse, domestic partner, or significant other, you can bet your family and friends all want to hear this story. Here are some suggestions for writing about how you met your sweetheart:

  • Start with where and when you met your sweetheart.
  • Describe your initial impressions. Was it love at first sight?
  • Talk about who initiated the conversation and how the interaction went at first.
  • Were you immediately attracted to each other?
  • What did you both have in common that brought you closer together?
  • Talk about how your relationship developed over time. Who asked who out? Where did you go on your first date? What did you do?
  • At what point in the relationship did you realize that your sweetheart was the one for you?
  • Describe the specific moment or event that brought you closer together.
  • Did you date long? Did you have an engagement?

Follow on stories: Tell the story of falling in love. Did it happen quickly, or did it take a while? Was your sweetheart your first true love? If you married, talk about the proposal. Tell the story of your wedding day. Looking back on your journey together, describe what stands out to you as the most meaningful part of your relationship.

3. Starting On Your Life’s Path

For most people, graduating high school marks the beginning of adulthood. You became an emancipated person, free to make your own choices and start on your path in life. Tell the story of choosing this path. Did you go to college? Join the military? Get a job? Travel (bum around)? Start a family? People love to hear the story of how and why you chose the path you did. Here are some suggestions for writing about the path you took after high school:

The College Path

  • Where did you apply?
  • Where did you get accepted?
  • What was the feeling when you heard where you were accepted? How did you celebrate?
  • What effort and sacrifice were required for you to go to college and be accepted where you went?
  • How did you study for the SAT or ACT? What was your score?
  • What was your major? Why did you choose this major?
    Talk about your college experience? How were you changed?
  • Talk about the classes and professors who influenced you the most. Why?
  • Did you join any clubs or organizations in college?
  • Did you make life-long friends in college?

The Military Path

  • What branch of the military did you join? Why?
  • Where did you go to basic training? Talk about that experience.
  • Where were you deployed? Talk about that experience.
  • How long did you serve in the military?
  • What was the highest rank you achieved?
  • Did you receive any commendations?
  • How did your military experience change your life?
  • Did you make life-long friends in the military?
  • What was your proudest moment in military service?

The Job Path

  • Provide some details on your first “real” job. Were you excited to get the job and to start earning money?
  • Describe the company, the position you held, and how you obtained the job.
  • Talk about the experiences you had while working there. What did you learn? What were the major challenges you faced? How did you develop your skills?
  • Did you have a good boss or a not so good boss?
  • Describe the people you worked with and the relationships you formed. What did you learn from them? How did they help you grow as a professional?
  • Reflect on the job overall. How did it shape you as a person? What did you take away from the experience?
  • Talk about why you chose your profession.
  • How did your first few jobs influence your career trajectory?

The Family Path

  • Did you start a family right out of high school?
  • If your family is/was your profession, talk about your role and experiences as a full-time homemaker.
  • If your primary role out of high school was as a caregiver for a loved one, talk about your feelings and experiences from taking on this role.
  • Talk about how you balanced your needs for personal growth with the needs of your family.
  • What hobbies and interests did you pursue to supplement your role as a homemaker?
  • What did you like most about being a stay-at-home parent?
  • What did you find to be the most challenging aspect of being a stay-at-home parent?
  • How did you find time to take care of yourself while taking care of your family?
  • What types of activities did you do with your children during the day?
  • Did you volunteer in the classroom?
  • What tips would you give to stay-at-home parents just starting down this path?

The Travel or Bum-Around Path

  • What made you decide to travel or bum around instead of going to college or getting a job?
  • What did your friends and family say to you about taking this path? Were they supportive? Not supportive?
  • How did you finance your travels?
  • How long did you travel or bum-around before deciding on your next path?
  • What did you hope to gain from this experience?
  • How did you manage unexpected challenges or setbacks you encountered?
  • What safety precautions did you take to ensure your wellbeing on this initial path?
  • What skills did you pick up?
  • What kind of support network did you have, if any?
  • What advice would you give to someone considering this path out of high school?

4. Dealing with Serious Setbacks

Life happens and it is not fair. Personal stories about serious illness, accident, disaster, abuse, or addiction, are often difficult to talk about, but they can be enormously helpful to others when terrible things happen to them. How you dealt with adversity and how you faced your darkest hours in life, can provide hope and inspiration to others. These stories can also help others to not make the same mistakes if the setbacks were caused by your bad choices and not by fate, or by someone else’s bad choices. Here are some suggestions for writing about serious setbacks:

  • When writing about serious setbacks in life, it is important to approach the topic with honesty, vulnerability, and understanding. Consider the story you want to tell, and focus on the bigger picture, the lessons learned, and the growth that has come from the setback.
  • Speak to people who have gone through similar experiences, and make sure you have all the facts and details needed to properly inform your narrative. How was your story different or similar?
  • Embrace the pain. Writing about serious setbacks in life can be painful, but it is important to be honest about the emotions and feelings associated with the experience. Acknowledge the pain and sadness and be honest about the fear and vulnerability you felt.
  • Find the hope. While writing about serious setbacks in life, it is important to focus on the positive. Find the silver lining in the story and the hope that comes from a difficult experience.
  • Speak from the heart. When writing about serious setbacks in life, it is important to be honest and open. Speak from the heart and be true to yourself when telling your story.

5. Travels and Adventures

People love to hear about special trips, exotic locations, and unusual adventures. The paths less traveled often have a lure to offset the routine and mundane day-to-day grind of their own lives. These stories also inspire others to plan a special adventure of their own. He or she who dies with the best stories wins! Here are some suggestions for writing about your travels and adventures:

  • Start by brainstorming some of your favorite travel and adventure experiences. Think about all the places you have been, the people you’ve met, the things you’ve seen, and the experiences that made the journey memorable.
  • What was the most interesting place you ever visited?
  • What was the most challenging experience you had while traveling?
  • What was the most memorable moment of all of your travels and adventures?
  • Did you have a death-defying experience?
  • Make a list of the details you want to include. These could be things like the sights, the smells, the sounds, the people you encountered, and the lessons you learned along the way.
  • Organize the details into a narrative. Start with a brief introduction to set the scene and then move on to the body of your writing. Describe your journey in vivid detail, and do not forget to add in anecdotes and personal reflections.
  • What advice would you give to someone considering taking a similar trip?
  • What was the best meal you ate while traveling?
  • What did you learn about yourself while on the trip?
  • What was the most unexpected thing you saw while traveling?
  • How did you prepare for your travels?
  • What was the most rewarding part of your adventure?
  • How did you feel when you returned home?
  • End your story with a conclusion that ties the adventure together and leaves the audience with a lasting impression.

6. Finding Faith and/or Your Life Purpose

Some people find faith and purpose early in life. Others find faith and purpose later in life. Some people change their faith and life purpose after a lifechanging experience. Sadly, some people drift directionless through life with no sense of faith or purpose. How about you? Do you have a self-enlightenment story?

Faith can be placed in a higher power, in a code of ethics, in a person, or in an idea. Many people also find life purpose in one or more causes. Why you believe something is as important to people as what you believe. These are stories people love to hear. Here are some suggestions for writing about your faith and/or your life’s purpose:

  • Start by reflecting on what faith means to you and why it is important. Consider how your faith guides your decisions and how it impacts your life.
  • Think about what you believe is your purpose in life and how it is shaped by your faith. Consider how your faith informs your view of your life purpose and how it helps you to stay focused and motivated.
  • Write about how your faith gives you strength and courage in difficult times. Reflect on how your faith helps you to stay on track and how it provides hope and direction in life.
  • Consider how your faith has helped you to overcome obstacles and how it has helped you to grow and develop. Reflect on how your faith has enabled you to become a better person and how it has enriched your life.
  • Describe how your faith has helped you to become a positive force in the world. Reflect on how your faith has inspired you to help others and how it has motivated you to make a positive difference in the world.
  • Themes to explore in your story might include:
  • What does your faith mean to you?
  • How does your faith inform your decisions and actions?
  • What do you believe is your life purpose?
  • How do you live out that purpose in your daily life?
  • What challenges have you faced in fulfilling your life purpose?
  • What motivates you to pursue your life purpose?
  • How do you stay focused on your life purpose when facing difficult times?
  • What advice would you give to someone who is struggling to find faith and/or their life purpose?

7. Meeting a Famous Person

It is no secret that people are fascinated by famous people. We live in a celebrity-driven culture. Whether actors, musicians, politicians, sports stars, journalists, authors, TV personalities, or other famous people, just mention one that you have met in person, and everyone wants to hear the story. Here are some suggestions for writing about your encounter with a famous person:

  • Start by describing where and when the meeting occurred, and how you felt when you realized you were going to meet the famous person.
  • Were you nervous? Star struck?
  • Talk about the emotions you experienced when you saw them, and any conversations you had with the person.
  • Describe their physical appearance, any interactions you had, and any memories that stand out in particular.
  • Explain why this person is famous and why meeting them was such a special experience.
  • Did you learn something about him or her that you did not know?
  • Reflect on what you learned from meeting the famous person, and how it made you feel.
  • Other themes to explore:
  • How the meeting impacted your perception of them and their work.
  • Was their personality or vibe similar or different than their celebrity persona?
  • Did they have any interesting stories to share?
  • Did they give you any advice?
  • What do you think made them so successful?
  • Did you take any photos or get any autographs?
  • What was the most memorable part of meeting them?
  • What did they think of you?
  • Did they say anything that surprised you?

8. Time Spent with Aging Parent or Grandparent

Some of the most special memories people have come from time spent with an aging parent or grandparent. Our roles in life can change from ‘cared for’ to care giver. It is what family does for one another. If you spent quality time with your mom, dad, or grandparents in their later years, memorializing this experience with a story can be very meaningful to your family. It can be especially heartwarming to your siblings and children who did not get to know them as well as you did.

Writing about spending time with an aging parent can be a deeply personal and emotional topic. Here are some suggestions for writing about time spent with an aging parent or grandparent:

  • Start with a specific memory or experience. Think about a particular moment you spent with your aging parent or grandparent that stands out in your mind. It could be a conversation you had, a meal you shared, a story he or she told, or an activity you did together. Use this experience as a starting point for your writing.
  • Use descriptive language. To bring your memory to life, use descriptive language to paint a picture of the scene. Use sensory details to help your reader imagine what it was like to be there with you and your parent. For example, describe the sights, sounds, smells, and textures of your surroundings.
  • Reflect on your feelings. Take the time to reflect on how you felt during the experience. Were you happy, sad, frustrated, or grateful? Be honest about your emotions and use them to add depth to your writing.
  • Show the relationship between you and your parent. Your story should showcase the bond between you and your aging parent or grandparent. Include details about your relationship and how it has evolved over time. Share anecdotes and memories that demonstrate the love and connection between you.
  • Offer insights and lessons. Share any wisdom you gained from this time together. Offer advice to others who may be going through a similar journey with an aging loved one.
  • Remember, writing about spending time with an aging parent or grandparent can be both challenging and rewarding. Be kind to yourself and take your time to write from the heart.
  • Some themes to explore:
  • How did you first realize that your loved one needed more support and care?
  • What challenges did you face when helping your aging loved one, and how did you overcome them?
  • What were some of the most rewarding experiences you had while caring for your parent or grandparent? Did they tell you any stories you had not heard?
  • How did your relationship with your parent or grandparent change over the course of their aging process?
  • What did you learn about yourself through the experience of caring for your aging loved one?
  • How did you balance caring for your parent or grandparent with other responsibilities, such as work or raising children?
  • What were some of the biggest surprises you encountered while caring for your parent or grandparent?
  • How did you cope with the emotional ups and downs of the caregiving experience?

9. Dealing with the Untimely Death of a Loved One

The unexpected loss of a loved one is perhaps the most painful experience in one’s life. There is no way to prepare for it. Their death leaves a huge hole which, at the time, seems impossible to fill. Writing about the unexpected loss of a loved one can be difficult, even after many years. It is important to take your time to express your thoughts and feelings in a way that is authentic to you. Here are some suggestions for writing about the untimely death of a loved one:

  • Write a letter to the person you lost. This can be a cathartic process, as you can share stories and memories, express your sadness and grief, and say goodbye.
  • Write a poem or short story about the person you lost, either from your own perspective or from the perspective of someone else who was close to them. This can be a way to remember the person and all the things that made them special.
  • Talk to your family and friends who knew the departed loved one and ask them to share their favorite memory.
  • Write down the stories the departed loved one used to tell, as a way of preserving their memory. What was their favorite saying?
  • Create a summary biography that summarizes the major events or milestones in their life. Talk about their character and personality, as well as how their loss impacted you and those around you.
  • Talk about the activities or rituals that help you remember your loved one. What memorabilia or household items bring back memories of them?
  • What advice do you have for others who are experiencing the untimely death of a loved one?

10. Proudest Accomplishment (aside from being a parent)

Most people will tell you their proudest accomplishment in life is their children. Rightfully so. It’s a given. That wonderful accomplishment you made happen makes for good follow-on stories to item number one above, the birth of your children and the stories related to raising them.

Aside from your children, what is your proudest accomplishment in life? It could be graduating college, a career high, a heroic deed, an anonymous gift, or a turning point you artfully negotiated. People love to hear ‘doing good’ stories. Tell yours. Here are some suggestions for writing about your proudest accomplishment:

  • Describe your proudest accomplishment in detail. What is the backstory that led up to it?
  • Describe the challenges you faced in achieving this accomplishment and how you overcame them.
  • Talk about what you learned about yourself during the process of achieving this accomplishment.
  • Talk about the help or inspiration you received from others in achieving the accomplishment. Who helped you and how did they contribute?
  • Write about how achieving this accomplishment impacted your life, both personally and professionally.
  • Other themes to explore:
  • Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently while pursuing this accomplishment?
  • Do you think this accomplishment has helped shape who you are as a person today?
  • What advice would you give to someone who aspires to achieve something similar?
  • Are there any other accomplishments you are proud of that you would like to share?
  • How do you plan to build on this accomplishment in the future?

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