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» Charting a course

Commentary & education 06 Sep 2012 06:23 pm

Charting a course

Do you have a blueprint for the rest of your life?

At the beginning of each school year, I invite freshmen and seniors to create one. My 100 Goals assignment urges students to draft 100 long- and short-term goals, select the top 10 and then write an essay about their No. 1 goal.

Like most good ideas, it isn’t mine. It comes from a book called “Character Matters” by Thomas Lickona. He even uses the expression “blueprint for the rest of your life” that I shamelessly stole for my lead.

It doesn’t matter who thought of it. The values-clarification is what counts — that, and getting kids to think past what’s for lunch and start considering the rest of their lives. Having just spent three hours poring over the final results, I can announce with confidence that, in the words of The Who — since I’m stealing, anyway — “the kids are alright.” (Apparently, nobody told the band that the two-word “all right” is the preferred spelling.)

Most students start the assignment certain that I am crazy, that they can’t possibly articulate 100 wannabe accomplishments. I’m gratified that most manage just fine, and some even whip up more than the required number. (They still think I’m crazy, however.)

Here is just a sampling from more than 1,300 goals that have crossed my desk in the past week. My goal is to …

Stop letting people get to me. Find a muzzle big enough for my sister’s mouth. Own an endless supply of Twizzlers. Say the most random thing in public. Learn to use chopsticks.

Take a bath in money. Stand on the Great Wall of China. Own a pink Camaro. Graduate summa cum laude. Become an extreme couponer. Be in a food fight. Grow spiritually. Zipline in South America.

Shoot par in a round of golf. See a double rainbow. Find the end of a rainbow. Make wool-free Uggs. Make my parents proud of me. Stop throwing up at cross-country meets. Wrestle an alligator. Swim in all the Great Lakes. Take care of my grandma.

Learn 100 digits of pi. Win an eating competition. Visit the real 221B Baker Street. Find something Duct tape can’t do. Own a teacup pig. Get crazy at a very important meeting. Learn to use chopsticks.

Treat my parents better. Bow-hunt a bear. Ride a cow. Stand up for myself more. Quit biting my fingernails. Not drink pop (soda) for one year. Be punked by Ashton Kutcher. Perform in a Shakespearean play. Go backpacking in a rainforest. Be a better listener. Cook like my mom.

Delete my Facebook page. Stop complaining so much. Pray every morning and night. Go out of my way to meet new people and make new friends. Send food and supplies to the troops. Exercise daily. Make sure everyone has a home. Catch the wabbit.

Stop caring what other people think. Own a cute puppy. Scream “You ain’t got no pancake mix!” during a fight. Visit the University of Michigan with my mother and spit on their campus. (She graduated from OSU.)

Help juvenile delinquents become better people. Play music in a presidential inauguration. Learn CPR. Donate a kidney. Donate blood. Visit the Louvre. Never lose the child inside. Never change who I am for somebody else.

I was going to write how great it is to work daily with a segment of the population for whom the future is filled with unlimited potential, but then I realized that we all have that same potential, hidden though it may be beneath obligations of work, home, family, mortgages and those bald tires on the car.

We should all have 100 goals, regardless of age, regardless of situation. My own list was drafted back in 2005. It’s probably time for a revision.

The assignment is pretty self-explanatory, but if you’d like a copy of the various categories I share to make the writing easier, send me an email. If you send me a list of goals, I might even use some in a future column, thereby fulfilling one of my goals: to make other people do my work.

As for the kids, they’re definitely going to be all right. Except maybe for the one who wants to scream about pancake mix during a fight. Him, I’m not too sure about.

@cschillig on Twitter

Originally published Sept. 6, 2012, in The Alliance Review.

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