The 50 Best Life Story Questions.

I know it’s presumptuous for me to claim these are the “best”.  But what the heck, they’re not shabby. ;-)

In a previous article I suggested you might want to write “50 best life story questions”.  I explained these could be a token of appreciation for a potential client that you lost. If you haven’t yet written your “50 best”,  take a look at my list and feel free to use any of them. Be my guest!

  1. If you could do one thing over in your life, what would it be?
  2. What makes  you happy?
  3. Looking back on your life, what do you regret?
  4. What do you believe to be true?
  5. What is the secret to a happy life?
  6. What do you believe happens to us after we die?
  7. Who’s had the greatest influence on your life and why?
  8. What are the qualities that you admire in your friends?
  9. What is the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do?
  10. How would you describe yourself?
  11. If you could meet anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
  12. What’s important in your life?
  13. If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?
  14. What’s a secret ambition of yours?
  15. Who in your life would you like to thank and for what?
  16. What principles have guided your life?
  17. Where do you find serenity?
  18. What makes you sad?
  19. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your life?
  20. How would you like to be remembered?
  21. If you had only one day to live, how would you live it?
  22. How would you describe your spiritual beliefs?
  23. Who is the most important person in your life today and why?
  24. What was the worst job you ever had and why was it so bad?
  25. What’s your idea of a good time?
  26. What’s wrong with the world?
  27. What’s one big question you’d like answered?
  28. What is it that you absolutely couldn’t live without?
  29. How would you describe yourself as a child?
  30. What’s the greatest gift you could give to someone you love?
  31. What does love mean to you?
  32. What was the best job you ever had and why was it the best?
  33. If you had to evacuate your home immediately and could take only one thing, what would it be and why?
  34. What do you still want to accomplish?
  35. What’s right with the world?
  36. What’s one thing you’d like to change about yourself?
  37. How would you describe your perfect day?
  38. What event in your life would you like to live over and why?
  39. What are you avoiding?
  40. What are your best qualities?
  41. What’s the most romantic thing you’ve done for someone?
  42. Who are your heroes and why?
  43. What are your failings?
  44. What’s the kindest thing you’ve done for someone?
  45. What is more important to you,  challenge or comfort and why?
  46. How is your home like you?
  47. If your life were a motion picture, what would the title be?
  48. Who in your life would you like to forgive and  for what?
  49. What are the advantages of getting older?
  50. What would you place in a time capsule that would tell a relative 1oo years from now who you were?

Do you have some questions that you think should be on the list? Please add them in the comment box below. I always appreciate hearing from you.

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44 responses to “The 50 Best Life Story Questions.

  1. I am considering writing personal histories as part of my freelance work. Thanks for sharing this terrific list of questions!

    • @Nancy. Glad I could be of help. Good luck with your personal history work. If you haven’t already, consider joining the Association of Personal Historians. It’s a terrific group with lots of support.

  2. Bill,
    These are wonderful thought-provoking questions. I’m thinking of sitting my husband down and interviewing him with these. He’s not one to open up easily, but your questions on this list are pleasant and non-threatening. After I practice with him (!), I will definitely use them in other interviews.
    Thank you!

  3. @Judy. I’m glad you like the questions. Good luck with your husband!

  4. @Judy. No problem. My middle name is Jesse…so not even close. But you can call me anything as long as you like my work. ;-)

  5. Thanks for sharing these, Dan. I have been thinking about what would be good questions ever since I read your suggestion to share them. I like these. They are not chronological or boring in any way.

  6. Dan, as a promoter of personal journaling, I love these journaling prompts (er, life questions). I’m adding a link to this post in Friday’s BlogTalk News at WritingThroughLife.com. Thanks for the great ideas.

  7. Thank you Dan, great article!
    Best, Eduardo

  8. Thanks Dan for a great list, I will be sure to bookmark it for myself and share it with my readers as we move through the next 28 days in the Write Your Family History Challenge.

  9. Thanks, Dan — I’m seeing these late, and am adding a link to this blog entry to a section of my Telling Your Story page:
    Links to good interview questions
    – Pat

  10. Hi Dan. Great list. Len.

  11. My wife and I just asked each other these questions after finding this page through Google while enjoying some beers on a Saturday night in northern Michigan. We had a great time and learned a lot about each other that we did not know, even after 4 years of marriage. Thank you.

    • @Nate. Thanks for taking the time to let me know how you and your wife used the “The 50 Best Life Story Questions.” It’s a great idea and I hope others will be inspired by your example. Did the beers help with the answers? ;-)

  12. I’m thrilled that I found your site. Love your list. Here are some of the prompts I use with clients and in the life writing courses I teach. I try to get folks to dig beyond the niceties—like your #s 24 and 39 above.

    Describe
    - a time when someone should have stood up for you, but didn’t.
    - an incident in your adult life when you were honest and faced negative consequences for it.
    - myths prevalent in your family
    - a secret you discovered

    Thank you for this post!

  13. Dan I live in Sydney, Australia and have just discovered your site through Annie Payne in Western Australia. I have been recording personal stories for over 30 years, starting with the old reel to reel tape recorders. I am now teaching others how to become oral historians through an organisation here in Sydney called: Oral History Association of Australia, NSW Branch. Your whole site is a gold mine of useful informaton – thank you.
    I would like to add to the 50 Best Life Story Questions: – What are the best qualities that each of your parents taught you?
    - What valuable/special family momentos have been handed down in your family and who has them now?
    -Do you have a special family recipe that has been handed down?
    -How would others describe you when you were 20, 40, 60?
    -What is your most valuable asset?
    -Q.7 – Did you ever tell this person that they had the greatest influence in your life. (My husband and I have started doing this and it is amazing the reaction of people to being told.)

  14. Hello ,Dan. Excellent questions for anyone to ponder and not in the least presumptuous, Q 14 Whats a secret ambition of yours? can I be brief and ask your advice, I so much want to write but struggle to master punctuation.

    • @david dodds. David don’t worry about punctuation. The most important thing is to get something down. You can go back afterward and edit the material. If you’re writing non-fiction, try your best to express yourself in you own voice. Write as you speak. You can always get an editor or a friend who has competent grammatical skills to do a copy edit of your work.

  15. its very intresting…nd its very useful to my proffession…..
    thank u…

    Gowtham_News caster_hyderabad_INDIA

  16. Pingback: The 50 Best Life Story Questions | Nancy Rhine, MS, LMFT

  17. Really great questions. Thank you for posting these!

  18. Great questions. I’m going to do a digital interview of my parents for our family tree history. One question I’m going to ask them is, if you were stranded on a dessert island with a television that only received one program, what would they hope it would be.

  19. Hi Dan. As a fellow APHer and Founder of the Living Legacy Project I would love to provide my online community with some of these story prompts. We collect and preserve legacy stories with a focus on oral narratives. These are quite thoughtful and I’ll be happy to credit you. Nice work. Our platform allows people to do it themselves or with the help of our trained Certified Legacy Advisors. You are an obvious leader in this space.

    Tom Cormier

  20. Pingback: Gift Idea #43 – History Kit | telling family tales

  21. Thank you Mr. Curtis, I hope you mind if I pull from your list. I recently became very interested in becoming a personal historian; I find that listening to one’s life story quite fascinating.

  22. Lisa Bullock-Mings

    Thank you for those. They are different from most that I have read. I am working on my first genealogy project and it was getting a little painful. I started reading about personal history and writing therapeutically. Well I have gone through several journals and most of the blogs and web-sites. Boy do feel cleansed. Thank you again for new questions to ponder. Lisa Bullock Mings

  23. Thanks for sharing these questions Dan ~ I’m preparing to launch a legacy writing business and found your site while researching best ways to record interviews by phone. I like your spirit of generosity and professional courtesy in sharing the tools you have found helpful.

  24. Many thanks. These get to the heart of the story inside.

  25. I am looking to quickly assemble questions for my father and mother to answer. Dad is ok but he is 83, and mom 81, he was born on a farm and retired an Air Force Col with and MD… then went on to work in the refugee camps of Thailand and then to run all the hospitals there for the UN…… needless to say it is a great story, I hope to save and share as much of it as possible with the world, So that my hero can become one of theirs…

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