Think about your favorite story. It could be a film, a novel, or even a biography of someone you admire. Now, imagine that story with all of the struggles, hard times, and failures removed. You’re probably left with something dull, bordering on nonsensical. The lesson? That those failures and struggles are essential to any story, including your own.

We set out to teach that lesson.

The way we want the world to see us

When we’re asked to talk about ourselves, most of the time we talk about our achievements and successes. When I interview someone and ask them “What are you most proud of?”, they almost always talk about “that time they won a big client,” or “doubled revenue in a year.” That’s understandable, but it misses something.

When I tell them about the moments I’m most proud of, they’re related to the struggles I’ve gone through. After hearing this, people suddenly remember that they’ve overcome things that really make them proud as well. They’re often not connected to a career, but these difficult moments still taught them valuable lessons and skills they later applied to their jobs. In other words, struggle can teach us things.

And yet, these aren’t the stories we tell about ourselves. From social media to our resumes, we present only the ups, the high points. This leaves out half the story, all the hard work behind those successes. Telling our own story in a way that really creates value and genuine pride requires tackling those struggles and understanding how they fit into our lives.

With that in mind, we set out to create something to demonstrate this idea and allow people to learn it for themselves. We created a free worksheet to help you reflect on your struggles and achievements.

How it works

You start by thinking about a significant period in your life. That could mean starting, as they say, from the beginning. Or, you could simply look at your professional life. This will get the juices flowing. Then, mark memorable moments on the worksheet with dots. You can use colorful pens, red for struggles, green for “high moments.” Be as creative as you like. The only rule is to keep the good ones higher above the main line and the ones that weren’t so great lower.

Now comes the part where you literally connect the dots of your story. Then get thinking: what’s the relationship between the high points and the low points? Do they follow one another in a pattern? Did one lead to another? Think about what you learned during the hard times and how you may have applied it to succeed later.

We had many friends and colleagues fill this out and were delighted to watch them look at what makes them proud in a totally new way. It’s a good idea to list those on your resume. You can check some great examples of Enhancv’s successful resumes and the way others described the moments they’re most proud of.

It starts with struggles, it ends with success

Whether you’re looking at yourself, a friend, or someone famous, this way of looking at life brings a lot of clarity. You can realize what went into those successes, how failures and struggles prepared people to succeed later on. Sure, reading about tremendously successful people can be inspiring, but to really learn critical lessons from their story and apply them to yourself, you need the full picture.

To see what we really mean and experience these lessons for yourself, check out the infographic showcasing the worksheet through career of Steve Jobs. Together they show just what a life story including struggles and successes looks like before walking you through the process of creating your own.