Hearts and Hurdles is a game for opening, and reconnecting at the start of a gathering. It’s the moment you share progress in front of the group. This always always causes a bit of stifling and anxiety for presenters, and often leads to people downplaying their progress, becoming defensive, or plainly bluffing about how well they’re doing. This effect then cascades through the whole check-in exercise, as the experience that the previous presenter creates, tends to rub-off on the next in line.
To break this cycle, Hearts and Hurdles brings some rules to presenting each check-in. As a first rule, participants have to share something that has made their hearts beat faster in enthousiasme (the Hearts), something that went really well, or perhaps a breakthrough that they might have had.
As a second rule, and to the opposite of the first one, participants also have to think of events that raised blockages to their progress, or caused heart break (the Hurdles). These are events that disappointed them, or got them stuck. This way, participants are encouraged to keep their stories real, reducing chest beating, and creating a comfortable setting for everyone to show vulnerability.
How to set it up
- Choose a large empty wall or something like a panel. Name one side Hearts, the other one Hurdles
- Explain the intent of the exercise to participants. Then have them silently write down a maximum of 3 Hearts, each on a separate post-it. And for each Heart, ask them to write down 1 Hurdle: no heart without a hurdle! (use standard-sized post-its, and markers to encourage people to keep the message concise)
- Ask participants to share their Hearts and Hurdles in front of the group one by one. Let them stick each post-it on the wall, when they’ve shared that particular story. Don’t invite questions or feedback from the group, just let it sink in. As a facilitator, write down the name of the presenter, and stick it by their cluster of Hearts and Hurdles.
- After presenting, people will have heard an honest update from everyone (the good and the failed), and can re-read what everyone’s been through on the wall during the break.