Many years ago I developed and taught an intensive (approximately 16 hours per week) six week class to adults with disabilities.  Part of the purpose of the class was to help these people find work or become self-employed.  It was so successful that we added single parents to the class.  Hundreds of people who had never worked or had not worked for years became employed or self-employed.  I was also able to help many of the more severely disabled were able to obtain more permanent disability benefits.

The beginning of the process, or the 1st phase, focused on relationships and acceptance.  The next part, or 2nd phase, focused on learning about ourselves and how much control we really had over our own lives while as specified in the serenity prayer, and I paraphrase, knowing where we had power, where we didn’t, and understanding the difference.  In almost all circumstances people learned that they had a great deal more control over self and situations and could positively (or negatively) influence others more than they thought.  (Our emphasis was, of course, to have positive influence over events and others and exercise positive productive control over self.)  The 3rd and last phase focused on doing and becoming. At about the point where we moved from the 2nd to 3rd stage we did a brainstorming session. Note, that before even beginning the brainstorming we had developed relationships and a sense of safety with each other.


First we would show a humorous video to help people relax and lighten the mood.  This is a very important component of brainstorming.  The video we showed was about a bear named Humphrey.  I’m afraid that it’s not quite as funny as it seemed to be at the time but it’s still cute and humorous.  Humor should always be the kind that brings people together and does not put down or offend anyone.

Here is the video, followed by another of Humphrey.

  2.  Second we would begin brainstorming on all the ways the group thought they could earn money.  They could suggest anything.  Almost invariably things like prostitution and selling drugs were brought up; but though and inappropriate way to make money, it helped everyone understand that they could say anything that came to mind...and that is crucial.  Many much more appropriate ideas would also come up.  Usually this part of the session was filled with laughter and either my partner or I would write everything suggested by the group.  As more and more outlandish ideas were shared, others felt safer to share whatever came to mind.

Brainstorming needs to allow and even encourage people to “think outside of the box” this best occurs when people are comfortable with each other and in a lite even humorous setting. 

   3.  Third we turned it practical.  We would challenge everyone to go out and earn $50.00 during the week.  (This was in the late 1990’s when $50.00 was a bit of money.)  We also told them that if they did it, we would match with another $50.00 and it would not affect any of their other benefits (we had some latitude for these things those days).  The only rules were that it could not be from family and it had to be legal.  They had to bring verification such as a receipt or check for what they had done.  Many of these people had never earned money on their own and did not know they could before this.  Many had not earned money for years.  Most met the challenge.  Many did so well they left the program right after that because they were either employed or self-employed.

This part of the process required that you try what has been brainstormed to see if it works.  Often if you start second guessing too much too quickly you talk yourself out of a great idea and never give it a try. This is a stage for optimism and experimentation. 

I remember a quote from Maxwell Maltz: ‘Often the only difference between a success and failure is not ones greater abilities or ideas, but the courage one has to bet on his (or her) ideas and to act.’

Certainly you need to show some caution about significant negative consequences, while at the same time you want to give the possibilities a chance.


Write out a plan, make written goals and objectives, check for significant negative consequences, be prepared to adjust the plan as you receive additional data and feedback, and DO IT!

If you would like to learn more about writing goals and objectives, click here.  While the topic is Beating a Food Addiction, if you scroll down you will see an excellent section on writing goals.


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