Planning for myself as an important experience for being a facilitator!

Markus was a course participant of the training course in person centred approaches in Vienna and the multiplication training. He was studying and involved in research at Vienna University:

My story is about two circles of support meetings and my wish to change the university. Oh no, I should only talk about planning my wish to finish my academic studies.

Preparations before my own person centred planning started

To get the "ambassador certificate" I had also to plan for myself but it was a strange feeling for me to prepare my own person centred plan with help to make my wishes for change come true, so I managed to postpone it for quite a while.
The change I needed to make was clear: For years I had become stuck in my academic studies which had a negative influence on a lot of my activities. I couldn't give my full attention to new projects; I always had a subconscious pressure that I should finish my studies. My connection to university got smaller and smaller and I even changed my answer when people asked 'what am I doing as a profession?' I used to say that I was studying and working for the university as tutor and involved in small research projects. About a year ago I changed my answer to: 'I had not finished my studies.'

So I had to decide whether I want to finish my studies as quickly as possible or stop them. I began to look for supporters that could help me with this dilemma. First I asked a friend who agreed to be my facilitator. It was more difficult to decide whom I wanted to ask to be my supporters. I needed people who could help me and with whom I felt comfortable enough to talk about my problems.  Finally, I asked two advisors from the institute who were helping me for my final thesis, two university friends who were also writing their thesis, my girlfriend, a colleague who was working on a similar topic for her thesis and a good friend who already finished two academic studies. Two of them had no time for my first circle of support but six people agreed to support me.

To create an interesting experience for all participants

An important part of the preparation for the first meeting with the facilitator was to enable the supporters learning or experiencing something new at the meetings. We decided to use “post-its” to tell each other what we appreciated about them. So every person got some “post-its” and wrote positive attributes on them to stick them on the back of the person. When everybody was finished we helped each other to put the notes on a piece of paper. If some messages were not clear we asked what that person meant. At the second meeting we used picture postcards. Each chose at least two and used the picture as a prompt to tell the group what happened since the last meeting and how they were feeling on the day.

My part of the planning session

The main part of the planning was of course my wish
My main question was: ‘Is it better for me to finish university or should I stop my studies?’ We tried to figure the best way for me out with three posters:
What will happen / change if

  1. I stop my studies
  2.  I continue like before
  3. I finish my studies with a diploma

When I compared the three posters I realised that there is only one way that would make me happy: Number 3! After realizing that, we continued with the Method of PATH to plan towards this goal. I prepared the most important things that make me happy in my life. This helped us to find goals that I wanted to reach by November 2012 (that is the moment when my degree programme is changing from diploma to bachelor).  We had difficulty with the time we had planned a three hour session but it was not enough, we worked two hours more but were not even half way through the PATH process. So we ended up making a ‘to do-list’ for the following weeks and checked them at the second meeting. We made a poster to sort all different things I am working on at the moment to find out what is more important and what I shouldn’t spend too much time on. Again the time was not enough and we didn’t finish the PATH Process so we needed to plan another meeting.

What did I learn?

It is extremely important to experience person centred planning for yourself. It is much better to imagine how it is to facilitate for other people. A group of people have a lot more ideas and ways to solve problems. That helps a lot. It is pretty exhausting to concentrate and work in this setting. So don't forget about strengthening positive activities and words to not feel overextended.