Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
Does my future line up?
At the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
Understand the relationship between college, career, and life condition.
Verify the education path needed for the career they want, and the career prospects needed for the life they want.
Understand the abstract domain of “life condition” and create a clear picture of their “desired life.”
Background for Educator:
Postsecondary future selves reflect a series of goals or pursuits that should align with each other, or “thread together.”(1) An adolescent might pursue college, in an effort to obtain a desired career, that supports a desired life condition. When goals are not in alignment, students may not work toward the education they need for the career they want or need for their desired lifestyle.
Family members and educators are critical in helping adolescents formulate aligned ambitions(2), as well as sustain their efforts, delay gratification, and thwart barriers.(3) The language used by families to discuss future plans or encourage their adolescents often aligns the domains naturally: a good career (e.g., “stable job”) might be described as leading to an ideal condition (e.g., “happy life” or “better life”) and “pride”.
At the same time, a lack of education may be cautioned as leading to “nowhere,” and students might fear having a series of jobs without fulfillment (e.g., routine, easy, boring, few problems to solve, not using all of your capabilities). This is known as a student's feared self and can be a powerful motivator to stay on-course.
Alignment is about considering all three domains — college, career and condition — in harmony with one another. Futures hallmarked by only educational or career pursuits make up only a portion of a fully actualized life. Instead of focusing on college and career as separate domains, we must build students’ efficacy for threading linkages between college and college majors, career trajectories, and expected life condition as aligned pursuits, to complement family supports.
1. Carey, 2021.
2. Schneider & Stevenson, 1999.
3. Farrington et al., 2012; Nurmi, 1991.
Students ages 15-17; ideally, this lesson is delivered at the end of 9th grade.
Optimized for Black and Latinx students.
TIME TO COMPLETE:
Active Instruction: Approximately two 45-minute teaching sessions
Student Assignment work: Two evenings per activity selected, or a full weekend.
Independent Project Handout (PDF) or Editable Project Handout (Google Doc)
Internet-enabled device for each student (Optional)
Students should have some familiarity with or exposure to the concepts of:
How to research careers, industries, and job requirements
Resources to research colleges and college majors
This lesson is delivered with a combination of guided discussion and a mindfulness activity. Don’t forget to share the Participation Rubric with your students.
Learning in a remote/virtual setting? The discussion activities in this lesson can be facilitated in a video-conference setting such as Zoom®, and small group activities can be conducted in breakout rooms. Independent projects can be completed using digital tools, however if students are learning at home due to COVID-19 conditions in your area, the student’s interview for the Insider Info activity may be appropriate by phone, email, or video-conference instead of in person.
Part 1: Threading the Three Cs
First, remind students of the "safe zone" that was created in Lesson 1: Vision. Encourage them to be open-minded, non-judgmental, and assure them that there are no "right" answers.
Next, in small groups (4-5 students), have students discuss the following questions:
COLLEGE (or EDUCATION):
Do you want to go to college? Why, or why not?
If so: What would you like to study in college? What types of jobs can you do with that type of degree?
If not: What kind of education, training, or experience will you need outside of a college degree to get the career you want?
What role models do you have in the career you want?
When you look at your role models' lives outside their job, does it look like the life you want? In what ways?
How do you know that the career you want is the right career for you?
Part 2: A Mindfulness Exercise
Bring the students back to a large group setting. Let them know that you are going to begin a mindfulness activity where they will close their eyes and imagine what life could be like. Establish that students should get comfortable where they are, close their eyes, and remain quiet to allow everyone to focus and imagine. If students are uncomfortable closing their eyes, encourage them to soften their gaze.
When students are ready, read the following script aloud. Read slowly and intentionally pause between questions so students have a chance to imagine their answers:
Close your eyes and gently clear away your wandering thoughts, letting them float away like clouds. Take a deep breath. Now, open your mind to imagining your future. We are going to think about your whole life, not just your job or where you went to college, but your whole life condition. We will first imagine your ideal condition; then we will imagine an alternate path. Let’s begin with your ideal.
It is 10 years into the future – how old are you?
Where in the world are you living? What does your home look like? Who are you living with?
Let's think about your family. Are you married? Are you caring for children? If so, how many? Are you caring for other members of your family? Do you have pets?
Now, it's time for you to go work. What is a day at work like? Will you travel a long distance to get there? Do you have an office, or maybe you work from home? Will you manage other people? Will you make things, perform, or offer a service? Will you be working to advance in your career, or will you have reached your dream job?
Did you need a college education to get to this career? Will you need further education to grow in your career?
Having this job means you have a paycheck. What kinds of things will you be able to afford working at this job? What big things will you be saving for – A nice home or car? Vacations or world travel? Your kids’ college? Your retirement funds?
Interests & Passions
When you're not working, you will likely have passions and interests you will want to pursue. Think about your hobbies. What would you like to do in your free time?
Think now about your health. In 10 years, what kind of physical shape are you in? What do you do on a regular basis to care for your physical and mental health?
What else is important to you? What will you make time for? Are you a spiritual person? Do you go to church? Do you volunteer in your community? What causes are important to you?
What brings you happiness and fulfillment? What are your sources of joy? Do you create art, coach sports, fix things, play music, or host a podcast? Do you give back to your community? Do you spend time with your family and friends?
Take another moment to enjoy the vision of your life in 10 years. Do you like this person you are envisioning? Would you want to be their friend?
An Alternate Path
Now, take a moment to think about your life in terms of an alternate path – a different timeline, where you did not reach your education, career, or lifestyle goals. Maybe it was small decisions along the way, maybe plans changed or maybe it was one decision, that meant you were steered off course. Whatever the reason, let's imagine that you did not pursue the education path you wanted, and you are now working in a job you didn't want. Maybe it's a positive thing. Maybe it's had a negative impact. What does life look like? Are you still able to have and do all of the things you want, all of the things you have imagined for yourself? Is anything missing in your life?
Take one more deep breath and begin to open your eyes. Now, take 15 minutes to write down your reactions to your vision, and your alternate vision. What words would you use to describe these two versions of your postsecondary future self? What about this future vision motivates you?
Allow students to take 15 minutes to journal on their own.
Looking over your reflection, write down 3 affirmation statements. Affirmations can be repeated each day to remind you of your goals and keep you on track toward what you want. Your affirmations do not have to be about specific jobs, specific colleges, or specific achievements. They can be general statements, to remind you WHY you're working toward what you want. Use your affirmation statements to remind yourself of the things that you ultimately want, in order to feel happy and fulfilled in your future life. For example, two affirmations I like to use are 1) I can do hard things and 2) I am giving attention to what really matters.
Two volunteers should now be invited to share their affirmation statements with the full class (optional).
If your classroom is not conducive to a "close your eyes" activity (students may not stay focused, or may not take the exercise seriously), students can listen to the questions and react on paper. You can also transform the activity to one where students volunteer their answers to the questions out loud – it changes the tone of the activity and may prompt more discussion and peer feedback but may work better in some situations.
If students are feeling creative, encourage them to design their affirmations to display in their bedrooms at home or lockers at school. They can use magazine word cutouts, draw their own words, or design them on a computer and print them out.
It's time to apply what students have learned!
Offer these project assignment options* to extend the learning and help students understand their future alignment.
Each activity is designed to be completed independently; this work can occur in class or outside of class.
Download as a student-ready Project Handout (PDF) or Editable Handout (Google Doc)
Talk to someone who works in the industry or career that you want, either in writing (e.g., over email) or as a recorded interview. Ask this person about the education path that got them to where they are; about “a day in the life” at their job; and about the lifestyle that their work has allowed them to achieve at home. Then, develop an essay or a presentation about this career – was this what you expected life in this career would be like? What aspects of their education, career life, and life condition would you want to attain for yourself, and what aspects do you want to avoid? Finally, answer the big question: Do you still want to do this as your career?
Google Slides (docs.google.com/presentation/u/0/)
Imagine you are an employer, about to hire someone for the job that you want to have when you are 25 years old. Research some job listings online for this position, and piece together an ideal job posting. What qualifications, education, skills, and experience should an applicant have? What personality traits are important for a person in this role? What will a day-in-the-life of this job be like, and what responsibilities will this person have? Finally, what salary range is typical for this role? Write your job description and try to attract the perfect candidate. Looking at the job description and knowing more about this career, answer the big question: Do you still want to do this as your career?
For Your Research:
For Your Project:
Google Slides (docs.google.com/presentation/u/0/)
*Remember to differentiate. Students may need to engage with future-self thinking in ways that resonate best with them. Offer differentiated options to complete this expression, such as journaling, essays, visual or creative arts, podcasting, performances or skits, or vision boarding.
Depending on the climate and tone of your classroom, you may want to offer an opportunity for students to present their independent projects or otherwise display them in class. However, remember that some students may feel that the content is too personal to share in this way; be sure that sharing is always optional in order to maintain a trusting environment.
This is the final lesson in the three-part series of Postsecondary Future Selves. How have other students expressed their goals and reflections? Check out our Voices area to read the words of students who have been prompted to imagine their futures.