Some years ago, I came across a story about the soaring success rates in teaching adults to speak a second language when they were simply asked to assign themselves an alter ego. They developed new stories to tell themselves—the Spanish-speaking selves they wished to become. On the first day the only objective for the class was to fully outline who they wanted their (in this case) Spanish self to be. They chose a name. They chose an age. They chose the clothing and styles they wanted to represent themselves as. They chose a family dynamic and even assigned names and ages to their new, imagined family tree. They banded together with other classmates to choose “families” of their own. They outlined familiar traits and even wrote down “fond memories” for their new selves. As their characters, they listed their favorite traditions, dishes, places to visit. They filled in all of the details of their imagined Spanish homes.
What happened next astounded the teacher. What she discovered was the students fully became the “stories” they had themselves outlined and created. At the door each day, they left their old stories and seemingly their constraints in the hallway and for a few hours each week, they immersed themselves in who they had decided to become—Spanish speakers. They donned their Spanish character hats and they played their part with no doubts…for they were who they said they were.
What she experienced that semester she recounted, was one of the biggest revelations of her teaching years and her life. What she saw was an elevated engagement in the process through choice and decision. She also noted its direct correlation to success. She witnessed the individuals as the collective “family” come prepared to do their part toward the pursuit of mastery of the language. She found each one step into their assumed role and part by personal commitment, part by the responsibility of the contribution to the whole. And everyone benefited.
When it was time to reinvent what the second half of my life might looked like, I immediately thought of this article and decided that a blank slate, a new way of approaching the next life wasn’t a bad idea at all. What if I left all the limiting old stories I assigned myself and simply began with “new clay.” What if I I approached my new season with a fresh way to invigorate and apply my skillset and gifts? What if I dropped all my “shoulds” at the door and simply walked toward the life I imagined?
And so I started with the end in mind.Read More