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Diplomacy in Action

Alexander - A case study of expectations out of alignment


"Yes, I am planning for my future. I have given it a lot of thought. My first choice is Harvard University where I plan to major in business. Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania is my second choice. I am not sure about my back-up school yet. Because I know that this decision will be the most important decision in my life, I have given it considerable thought. I basically have no interest in business but my mother has convinced me that going to a school like Harvard and having a business major will open the doors of opportunity for me."

So spoke Alexander, a bright, articulate young man who was finishing his junior year at a prestigious international school. His grades were excellent, and he was enjoying his International Baccalaureate Diploma Program. His favorite course was the Theory of Knowledge. "I just love philosophy, especially when we discuss the meaning of life as seen in literature, poetry and even in systems of government. Each topic we study is so stimulating to me," he explained enthusiastically. "I would like nothing better than to become a philosophy professor someday!"

Unfortunately, Alexander's enthusiasm did not spill over to his career plans. He was somewhat dispassionately determined that it was the right thing to do. His career plan would not be allowed to match that which he loved and felt passionate about. When asked if he discussed his future goals with his counselor, he explained that the counselor thought that going to a prestigious school was a good thing but he told Alexander he needed to "beef up" his resume.

"My counselor told me that competitive universities require more than excellent grades and SAT scores. While the International Baccalaureate Diploma would give me a leg-up on many other candidates, I also needed to contribute some 1type of community service and make sure I had participated in enough sports. Boy did he stress me out with that dose of reality."

Alexander went on to explain how he became stressed. He loved being part of the mock trial team but it conflicted with swimming, the only sport where he felt comfortable. "I just didn't know what to do? I am still stressing on this one for next year. I am hoping some other options will come up where I can continue in the mock trial competition and still participate in some kind of sports. What kind of community service would do the trick? We had some options given to us at the school but none of them turned me on. I knew I needed to pick something. So I chose to be part of the environmental clean-up campaign here. It didn't thrill me but it didn't take much time or effort on my part. All these expectations!! Wow, I feel ill just thinking about this. I don't think adults understand how stressed we can get!!!"

Yes, Alexander was stressed and was becoming depressed as well. His expectations and the expectations that others had for him were not aligned. His talents, interests, and values did not support the choices he was making. His life was not in alignment with what he truly wanted to do. Rather he seemed willing to defer to what he and others thought he should do as opposed to doing what we heard from his inner voice.

This chapter will focus on understanding who we are and how to set expectations that align and match to our strengths, talents, ethics and values, personality prototypes and our passions and interests. We call this keeping in STEPP.

Chapter Objectives
Students will
1. understand "Alignment Theory"
2. learn to identify their individual strenghts, talents, and passions
3. identify your individual personality prototype
4. develop a personal code of ethics and values
5. evaluate expectations including, social, professional, personal, and academic

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