Life Design

Life Design Coordinate Plane Activity

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A couple of my fellow Life Design Educators and I were inspired by a Life Design Studio Office Hours talk given by Marc Hunsaker. Marc covered some of the work he and his team did at Michigan State University to leverage life design to support their students.

One of the activities he presented was the ‘Career Compass‘ which aims to help students hone in on core components of the life they want to design. This is how he explains the premise of the activity:

To help guide this initial exploration process, we developed a “Life/Career Compass” tool that students can use to identify some of their primary a) skills and abilities, b) interests and passions, c) work and life values, and d) some of the societal needs they would most like to address (i.e., who / how they would like to help others through their life/work)…
… Throughout our Life/Career Compass activity, we guide students with reflective questions and encourage them to identify their top 3 choices within each of the 4 categories listed above, and to move those 3 words into the center of their compass. We help students understand that these 12 words represent ‘true north’ for these students (for this moment), which they can draw upon to design the kinds of lives they want to live.

After seeing this activity, I thought it would be a great fit for a workshop I was putting on, which aimed to explore non-traditional careers for math majors.

The key content I was delivering for the workshop centered around jobs obtained by people in my network who studied math. I printed out detailed descriptions of 10 roles (see here for the full list).

In order to help my students figure out which roles could be a possible fit, I adapted the Career Compass activity into the math-themed ‘Life Design Coordinate Plane’.

Life Design Coordinate Plane Activity

  • Large Post-Its or Pieces of Paper
  • Pens
  • Permanent Markers (optional)
  • Highlighters (optional)

STEP 1: Ask participants to take a large post-it and draw a coordinate plane. Label each quadrant starting with the top left and going clockwise as follows:

  1. Skills/Abilities
  2. Interests
  3. Work/Life Values
  4. Impact

STEP 2: For each quadrant, give students 2 minutes to write down all the associations they have with the theme of the quadrant. Guiding questions can be offered to help encourage brainstorming.

STEP 3: After filling out all the quadrants, give students 1 minute to highlight (or circle) up to three items in each quadrant that best represent them in the current moment (total = up to 12 items)

Math majors with their Life Design Coordinate Planes
Follow-up Activity

For my workshop with Math majors, these 12 items helped them filter through detailed job descriptions of non-traditional roles for their major.

Closing Thoughts

The Life Design Coordinate Plane Activity can be further modified (just like I modified it from the Career Compass). I feel it is best used as a springboard for another follow-up activity and lesson. The main feedback I received from students was they wanted time to reflect and discuss with a partner or group the results of the activity.

I like this activity because it allows for ideation and selection, without losing the brainstorming results. All the attributes a person has come up with about themselves are still there, even after they have made their selection. This activity can give them a tangible resource in framing further reflection and decision-making.

Have you done a similar activity to the Life Design Coordinate Plane? Let me know in the comments below.

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