Life Design

2020 Life Design Summer Institute Series: Week Three

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This post is part of the 2020 Life Design Summer Institute Series, which offers a quick lesson recap and 3 teaching takeaways from co-creating a course on life design for students.

Week Three was the reason many of my students applied for the 2020 Life Design Summer Institute. This week marked the beginning of our students intentionally imagining their future lives. This post provides a quick overview of our approach to imagining future lives and my 3 teaching takeaways.

This Week’s Lesson: Imagining Future Lives

In addition to student’s starting to intentionally imagine their future lives, this week also marked where we started to really diverge and reimagine the content outlined in Bill Burnett and Dave Evans’ Designing Your Life framework.

In the book, the stage we would be at is ‘Odyssey Planning‘.

What is an Odyssey Plan?

Odyssey plans are sketches of possible future lives. Burnett and Evans ask life designers to frame 3 Odyssey Plan based on the following prompt:

  1. Life One – That Thing You Do
  2. Life Two – That Thing You Do If Life One Were Suddenly Gone
  3. Life Three – The Thing You’d Do or the Life You’d Live If Money or Image (Prestige) Were No Object

This past academic year, Odyssey Planning was met with mixed results. My colleague, Justin Lorts, has outlined the problems with Odyssey Plans for our students.

While Odyssey Planning didn’t always land, most of our students still wanted to chart out multiple lives. For my section, it was the learning outcome that my students were the most excited about. To meet our students where they were at, we needed to reimagine this activity.

Justin created this week’s lesson on imagining future lives. His exercises landed with our students. He outlines his complete lesson using a design thinking informed framework in his post, ‘Imagining Your Future Selves‘.

Here is an excerpt:

A central premise of Life Design is that each of us have multiple possible futures – that in some alternate dimension there is a version of me pursuing a life as an attorney in New York, a high school teacher in Oakland, and a coffee shop owner in the Hudson Valley. Rather than ignore these possible “future versions of us” in favor of the story we currently tell, Life Design encourages us to explore these future selves for inspiration and insights.

I created this series of exercises to help you figure out what these future selves might be, not so that you can develop a series of comprehensive 10-year plans to achieve them, but rather so that you can find people living your future life now. Or as Epstein would say, so that you can “be a flirt with your possible selves.” 

– From Justin Lorts’ ‘Imaging Your Future Selves‘ post on Education*Designed

3 Teaching Takeaways

Here are my three teaching takeaways from this week:

1. Playful warm-ups can transform class dynamics

For many reason(s), my students seemed not as energized during Week Two‘s lesson. I was excited and nervous about implementing a more dynamic and playful warm-up to kick off this week’s class.

The activity, ‘Yes, Let’s’ is from the Designing Your Life Stoke Deck. We modified it to fit our virtual classroom. Each student was asked to offer an action that everyone could do on Zoom and we all did it for a few seconds (e.g., give yourself a high five, walk to the door, show a mask, etc.).

This really landed with my students. I felt that it got everyone moving and talking, which really helped subsequent activities.

Sometimes I worry certain playful activities might put off participants, but implementing this activity helped me let go of that dysfunctional belief.

2. Interesting Ideas + Human Experiences = Readings that Resonate

This week our students read exceprts from the following:

The discussion was quite engaging as I felt that these readings balanced interesting ideas, human experiences, AND an accessible writing style. While not every lesson can have this mix, it was eye-opening to see how these readings landed.

3. Guided Brainstorming Can Facilitate Better Brainstorming

Depending on the question, brainstorming could feel unwieldy and overwhelming. One of this week’s activities asked students to list all the possible careers they imagined for themselves.

That’s a big topic.

Justin outlined really helpful prompting questions for this activity. I opted to facilitate a guided brainstorm with these questions.

How did that work?

I read one question and gave them anywhere from 15-30 seconds to write down everything that came to mind. I repeated this process until we went through all questions. At the end, I gave them 1 minute to think and write down anything else that popped up in their mind.

This technique seemed to be effective and I plan to use it in subsequent lesson.

Closing Thoughts

This was an invigorating week across the board. It was amazing to take our learnings from this past academic year and apply them to retooling Odyssey Plans. Our team is super grateful to Justin Lorts for all his hard work on creating this week’s Imagining Your Future Selves‘ lesson. We are all excited to see how our students shape their possible future selves over the course of the 2020 Life Design Summer Institute.

This post is part of the 2020 Life Design Summer Institute Series, which offers a quick lesson recap and 3 teaching takeaways from co-creating a course on life design for students.

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