DYLW Featured / Tips for Designing Your Life / Women / workshop

Got an Anchor Problem?

Susan’s Journey Designing a Virtual DYL Experience

In our Designing Your Life (DYL) workshops, we teach participants how to identify, categorize and tackle difficult problems. My personal nemesis is anchor problems. Like a physical anchor, these problems hold us in one place and prevent motion. We are stuck because we are anchored on only one way to solve the problem.

COVID Frames New Problems We Have to Solve

Like many of you, our new COVID reality has created huge constraints and forced us to change the way we do things.  When our trip to Germany to certify DYL facilitators in Europe got canceled in March, our answer was to reschedule the certification when “things opened up again.” Obviously, no one knew when that would be, so we left it open-ended and held check-in calls with our partners in the months that followed.  In May, our partners told us they wanted us to deliver a virtual certification in June. They were ready to drive DYL business and wanted us to support them.

Anchor Problems Have a Big Pull

I got off the Zoom call frustrated.  I was anchored on in-person workshops as the ONLY way to certify new DYL facilitators with high quality, so I decided to email my colleague with all the reasons why a virtual solution wouldn’t work.  Yep, I was all about sharing my anchor.

  • First, a three-day in-person certification would take at least six, long Zoom sessions. Everyone knows that long Zoom sessions are like sticking a needle in your eye – awful. I even found some research to back that up, sinking my anchor deeper.
  • Second, I didn’t think we would be able to do in Zoom the ideation and other “radical collaboration” exercises we do so well in our in-person certification. What were we going to do? Use chat for ideas? That’s a hard no. My anchor sank deeper.
  • Third, we wouldn’t be able to see everyone teach and coach them effectively, which is the secret sauce of our certification. If we couldn’t give people individual attention, I knew it wouldn’t work.
  • Fourth, I have done enough virtual training to know that you can’t just do virtually what you do in person. To do it right, we would have to re-design the certification; I was worried that four weeks was too short to get it done right and I was also worried about the ROI. After all, we would be working long hours without any compensation. My anchor was now firmly entrenched.

Reframe to Release the Anchor

And then I saw this video and got unlocked! It’s the Rotterdam Philharmonic playing the finale of Beethoven’s 9th with the musicians playing their parts by video from their homes.  Play it and see if you get goosebumps as I did.  My reframe was clear from this performance.  A virtual experience can offer value that exceeds even a live performance – imagine that!   I saw things I have never seen in a live concert hall.  I saw see each individual musician play their instrument up close and personal.  Virtually, I could see them listening for their entrance and deeply concentrating on their colleague’s music to stay in sync.  I could see each artist as a person – their passion for the music, their homes, their unique attire, and even their short interview on what their part in this piece meant to them.  I witnessed the music come together in a unique way that made me hear Beethoven’s 9th with new ears.

So, I did what we teach.  I reframed my anchor problem into this solvable one. “How might we create a DYL certification that is highly impactful, provides personal coaching and uses the radical collaboration that makes it work so well?”

Ideate to Create a New Solution

Kathy Davies, my DYL co-CEO, and I had multiple ideations sessions to create six highly interactive and customized Zoom sessions.  We used breakouts, we paired up different people to teach back to each other, we role modeled the modules in virtual and in-person formats, we used ideation technology and every Zoom feature to achieve our goal.  And it worked, surpassing all expectations and delivering even more than the in-person certification experience!  It’s our very own Beethoven’s 9th!


  • Timing Was “Just Right” While the Zoom sessions were three and a half to four hours in length, the fact that over half of that time was devoted to facilitators teaching others, getting individual feedback and coaching made it feel like a live workshop.  We also built in energizers, personal connection time and 20-minute breaks – all new. Participants said the time “flew by” and the length was “just right”.
  • Innovative Using MIRO, an ideation technology, we were able to create ideation sessions that were as powerful as the in-person experience.  Our folks loved being able to collaborate in this new format.  Feedback like “innovative”, “fun” and “engaging” described their reaction to these sessions.
  • Better than In Person! – Kathy and I visited every breakout and were able to observe, give feedback and coach every potential facilitator at least three times during the sessions. In addition, we paired each participant with a consultant who is an expert in giving feedback and coaching. We knew it was a winner when a woman who had completed our in-person certification thought this virtual experience “was far better at preparing me to deliver DYL.”
  • Great ROI Well I have to say mea culpa (or my bad) on my ROI worry.  Our R&D investment was well worth time and had multiple benefits.  First, we were able to deliver two certifications for the price of one – these folks now know they can deliver DYL live or virtually.  Second, we learned that the design worked, and we could apply what we learned to design a virtual DYL solution – the hallmark of a great prototype.
  • More Personal Connection with a Journey We also got an added benefit from delivering six sessions over two weeks. Since we started every session with personal connection activities, we got to know people at a deeper level and in new ways. Designing a journey and not just an event is a keeper!

What’s Next?

We are taking what we’ve learned and building a DYL Digital Journey as an alternative to our in-person and half-day workshops.  We’re innovating in new ways, building a DYL app that delivers 10-20-minute modules that include key content, tools and social connection.  We will couple that with engaging zoom ideation and radical collaboration sessions that take you from learning into action.  We’re also really excited about building a life design community that goes on a month-long journey together, learning, practicing, prototyping and getting support to build your way forward.  We believe we will forever be in a hybrid model that gives customers a choice.  Do you prefer an in-person workshop or a virtual DYL journey?   Watch for our launch announcement!