To examine which differences play a significant role in people’s triumphs and traumas.
To empathize with groups whose differences are ignored or attacked.
Introspection and speculations
Achievement, failure, difference, and impact
30 min (15 min of play, 15 min of discussion)
Playing cards, paper, pencils
Explain to the participants that you are going to lead them through a personal introspection exercise
that includes imagining responses to what if scenarios related to their lives. No person will be asked to
share his or her thoughts if anyone feels uncomfortable in the middle of the exercise he or she can stop
participating. Most participants find this activity to be a positive thought provoking exercise.
Ask the participants to make themselves comfortable and have plenty of personal space. Suggest that
they use a piece of paper for responding to the first couple of questions. These are notes for oneself,
and they will not be shown to anyone else.
Use the following script to guide the participants through the rest of the activity. Feel free to modify the
language to fit your personal style.
“Beginning with this year, look back on your life. Think of your successes in personal and professional life.
Take a couple of minutes to make a list of five things you have achieved, things you are proud of.”
“Now look back on your past and make a list of five failures in your personal and professional life. Take a
couple of minutes to note down the list of things you wish hadn’t happened.”
“I am sending a deck of playing cards around. Please take a card, any card, and give the rest of the deck
to the next person. (Pause) Does everyone have a card? Please look at it and note the suit: spades,
hearts, clubs, or diamonds.”
“I am now going to construct a fictional scenario and ask you to imagine certain things. You may close
your eyes if it helps you relax and to imagine. Think how your life would be different if you had been
born in an alternative universe. On this planet everything is exactly the same as on Earth. You are the
same except for one difference:
If you picked a club, you will be physically challenged in your alternate life. You will be a
wheelchair –user from your early childhood. If you are currently physically challenged, you will
join the ranks of the physically abled. Other than this difference everything else will remain the
If you picked a heart, your gender will be different. If you are a man you will be a woman in your
alternate life. If you are a woman you will be a man in your alternate life. Other than this
difference everything else will remain the same.
If you picked a diamond, your sexual orientation will be different. If you are hetero sexual you
will be homosexual in your alternate life. If you are homosexual you will be heterosexual in your
alternate life. Other than this difference everything else will remain the same.
If you picked a spade, your race will be different. If you are a white you will be a different race in
your alternate life. If you are not white, you will be white in your alternate life. Other than this
difference everything else will remain the same.”
Introspection Exercise: (These are personal, not for discussion)
“Please take a few minutes to speculate on how your life would be different in this situation. Think of the
different successes and failures on your list, and imagine how this difference would have influenced
events. Do you feel your life would have been easier or more difficult because of this single difference?
What changes would you face in your personal and professional life?”
On the whole, was this activity pleasant or unpleasant?
Which step in this activity was especially uncomfortable?
Which step in this activity was especially pleasant?
Did most of the achievements on your list relate to your career, your family, your friends? Or
Did most of the failures on your list relate to your career, your family, your friends? Or yourself?
Did most of the achievements or failures occur during a specific period in your life?
Which was an easier task for you listing achievements or listing failures?
What happened when you switched from listing achievements to listing failures?
Did the difference make you more successful or less successful?
How do you think you would have coped with the difference?
Which of these differences do you think would have the most significant impact on your success
and failures, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, educational level,
personality type, social class, or thinking style?’
When you were imagining the impact of the difference did you think about specific people who
belonged to that group?
Do you agree with the statement “in America anyone can achieve their dreams regardless of
such factors as his or her race, gender, physical abilities, or sexual orientation.”?
Do the organizations you belong to accept differences among members and attempt to provide
everyone with equal opportunities?
Do you know someone who feels that he or she has been denied equal opportunities because of
one of the differences we examined in this activity?
What do you think would have happened if we had changed more than one aspect of your life in
What would you say to someone who claims that none of these differences would have changed
things in their lives?
What can you do to have a positive impact on everyone despite their differences?