The Life Project provides transformational tools and practical skills to parents, educators and teens in the areas of life, work and relationships. Erica Sosna, director of The Life Project, describes three of the facilitated exploration techiniques they use

At the Life Project, we use a range of facilitated exploration techniques to give young people a strong understanding of themselves, their operating systems, their aspirations and the tools to make decision, set goals and plans that suit who they are and what they want to achieve. These methods are suitable for children aged 10 and over. They are also useful in work with adults.

Finding a mission
Everyone has his or her own purpose in life. The purpose of this exercise is to generate a sense of self-acceptance so as to explore what the best fit for each student’s unique qualities might be.

1. Ask people to draw three circles that overlap, like a Venn diagram. Explain that what we are looking for is the place where their skills, interest and motivation combine. This is the shaded point of overlap in the diagram.

2. In the first circle, they write everything they are good at. They may need a little prompting, looking at areas beyond the school environment to games, communication and hobbies.

3. In the second circle, they write what they are passionate about.

4. In the third, they write what they think the world needs – another way of saying, ‘what motivates you to take action?’

5. Ask the group to get into pairs and share the findings of their self-investigation. They then take it in turns to make combination of one skill, one passion and one need and ask each other: ‘What work would someone do if that was their mission in life?’

6. They have a go at this until they have a long list of possible role and vocations.

7. Then, ask them to identify which are their favourite and why. This helps to identify the appropriate work environment.

8. Lastly, they can begin to develop a mission statement, using the qualities that strike them as most intrinsic to who they are.

Dealing with stress
We hear a lot about the high levels of stress and anxiety experienced by today’s young people. It can be useful to explain that the things which cause us the most anxiety are fears for the future. By articulating these fears, and exploring what control we have over preventing the outcomes that scare us, we can become more resilient, empowered and capable.

  • Get into pairs and describe a situation that is worrying you.
  • What is your ‘worst case’ scenario.
  • How likely is it, on a scale of one to ten, that this scenario will occur?
  • Ask, what would be the best possible outcome that could occur?
  • Draw a circle within a circle. In the outside circle, go all the things that worry you but that you cannot control, eg the weather might be bad on the day of our match.
  • In the central circle go the things that you can influence. These are all the ideas you can think of that will make the best outcome more likely and the worst outcome less likely – I can wash and prepare my kit bag before the match, I can set my alarm and my spare alarm, me and Stan can create a practice schedule.

In this way, children learn that they have the ability to influence an outcome, both in terms of taking a preventative action and in taking constructive action to improve their chances of a positive outcome. This exercise reduces strong anxiety, helps children to develop planning skills while developing self-confidence and esteem.

Walking vote
This exercise provides an opportunity for you as a staff team, to explore how far your perceptions of the young people in your care may be influencing their experience. It’s a set of very simple exercises, designed to stimulate dialogue and enable the staff group to learn from each other.

In response to the following statements, staff move out of their chairs toward a particular corner of the room, to articulate a yes, no or maybe.

  • It is our job to solve children’s problems.
  • There is never any justification for misbehaviour.
  • Children are not capable of making informed decisions on issues that affect them.
  • I have to like every child I work with.
  • Mistakes are opportunities for growth.
  • This school/environment allows people to learn from their experiences in positive ways.

After each of these standing votes, you may find it useful to ask each group why they think what they think about the statement. In an atmosphere of mutual respect and shared understanding, you may find some very interesting ideas and discussions arising from this exercise.

You may develop the exercise further by asking yourselves: ‘If we thought that this statement was true, what would our practice look like?’ Every organisation is unique and works in different ways, so the translation of thoughts into practice will look slightly different.

The Life Project provides transformational tools and practical skills to parents, educators and teens in the areas of life, work and relationships.