One time on a sailboat...
One game that I like to use with groups of people is something we've dubbed "Sailboat", which is a metaphor driven game.
The basic premise of Sailboat is to get groups of people to tell you what they are trying to achieve, what's holding them back, and what motivates them without asking them these questions directly. So, instead, I ask them to draw a boat. The boat represents themselves. I then ask them to write down on post-it notes the islands that their boat is trying to go (what they are trying to achieve), then the anchors (what's holding them back), then the winds (what motivates them).
I've used this game with many groups of people, ranging in ages from 13 all the way to 80. It works, so I like it. The feedback and honesty is great.
So, anyway, the point of this post. One time I was doing this game with a group of teenage mothers. These were young mothers who had previously left school to have their children and were now beginning to get back into the education system and explore career possibilities. Whenever I do this game I like to make some predictions as to what the group will say at various stages. I'm often wrong in my predictions, which is perfect because it validates the reasoning behind the game - don't make assumptions about what motivates people. I never state my predictions out loud.
We get to the anchors, and I predicted that a few would list their children as anchors, given the demands of parenting, their young age, etc. Here's the thing: no one listed their kid as an anchor. Not only that, but when we got to the winds almost all listed their kids as motivating forces.
This was something I didn't expect. I suspect that many people would say that their children held them back from achieving their goals - but perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps, when people really look at what they are trying to achieve they see that their kids actually help them get to their goals.
I really hope to be wrong like this a lot more often.