Plan for School & Life

  • Plan for School and Life (high school, middle school, elementary students)
  • Plan for College-Career-Citizenship (college students)
  • Plan for Professional Life (true professionals)
  • Plan for Families (Mission for Marriage, Constitution for Self and Families)
  • Plan for Organizations (corporations, communities…)

When we help students to write Plans for School and the 7 Areas of Life…
…attitude, attendance, and achievement will improve because students will have more purpose and a tool to inspire and guide them…
…our process of student development in families and schools will improve because we are acting on a known best practice…
…teacher effectiveness and satisfaction will improve because students will think and act with greater purpose…
…schools and colleges will improve results, recruit and retain more students, increase revenue and reputation….

Planning and Personal Leadership are in the top 3 lists for personal and professional development. Most people say they “know” about goals and plans as a best-self strategy. Yet, fewer than 5% have taken action (so far).  The time is right for implementing this common sense. Best-Self Leaders will require and reward students and professionals to use plans. When visionary leaders add course and graduation requirements, we can improve from 5% toward 95% action taken. The next generation of leaders will prove more visionary putting processes in place to reward people of good intent to do desired actions aimed at desired results.

Bill Gates applauds a high school in Seattle for helping students develop plans online to inspire and guide their actions. (Photo via Shutterstock). Source:

Page Contents Preview

  1. Bill Gates Thinks Most High Schools in America are Obsolete — But Not This One
  2. Vision for 7 Results Summary
  3. Three Key Actions in Schools by Leaders Summary
  4. Rationale for why we should add Plans for School and Life to inspire/guide students
  5. Seeds of the Calling by David Dyson as a student
  6. Key value Life Leaders can provide to educators
  7. Timeline for launching Plan for School and Life in Alabama
  8. Why Life Leaders is uniquely prepared to serve and lead
  9. Why Dr. David Dyson is uniquely prepared to serve as a “driving force” serving with educators, parents…
  10. Contact info to learn more or take action.

Life Leaders Institute aspires to help more schools to add written plans to the preparation of students so they will be better prepared, motivated, and focused with written tools to guide them, communicate intent, and help advisors know how to advise and support them better. They will be able to communicate draft plans and needs with parents, teachers, counselors, coaches, and other mentors to prepare and apply for college-career-citizenship opportunities.

Vision for Results Called to Deliver or Help

These will improve Best-Self Leadership, Planning for Personal, Professional, Social, and other areas of life, plus performance to improve academic achievement, professional and civic service, marriage and family…. It’s up to us individuals to do these things, though up to leaders to put programs in place to reward students and others to know the requirements, recommendations, and rewards.

Plans-Actions-Results Summary

  1. Students write Plans for School & Life to inspire and guide them toward Character-College-Career-Citizenship to fulfill a best practice for Best-Self Leadership and to fulfill a request of alumni, parents, and employers. This helps them to improve attitude, attendance, and achievement, to state intent and get advice from parents and advisors, plus apply to career and college opportunities.
  2. Students learn national history of where and why Veterans Day started in Alabama connected to the Civil Rights Movement, the shared value of Freedom, and character traits taught in Alabama and most other states.
  3. College students write professional plans and learn principles and practices for Best-Self Leadership and True Professionalism to improve performance in callings, career, community. Their written plans for college inspire and guide better preparation academically and personally.
  4. Beyond college, professionals and other adults improve and internalize plans required by innovative companies and encouraged in community education.
  5. Churches help people write plans for discovering, developing, and devoting ourselves to callings, gifts, and talents in all areas of life. Couples write Missions for  Marriage. People write personal prayers to internalize callings, beliefs, and foundations of faith.
  6. Alabama is branded for national movements for Veterans Day-Human Rights-Plan for School & Life through not only history but also education, events, and service.
  7. Research, development, and publication of resources for people to fulfill callings grows as an educational strategy supported by Life Leaders and those we help serve others.

Recap: Life Leaders and Partners help educators, moms and dads, and employers who want to help students write plans for school and life as well as learn history launched or led for the nation in Alabama connected to the school character traits demonstrated.

3 Key Actions in Schools

  1. Add lessons, adapt writing assignments, and align rewards for students to write Plans for School and Life. This is a requirement for Best-Self Leadership also recommended by Scripture and Personal Development Literature. We can implement.
  1. Teach the state and national history that America’s Veterans Day started in Alabama (1947 before signed into national law by Eisenhower and Kansas leaders 1954).
  1. Teach the five character traits from the list of 25 mandated character traits in Alabama exemplified best by the Veterans Day history–Patriotism, Courage, Perseverance, Loyalty, Citizenship. We encourage adding 5 more traits to teach important in student development and our history: Freedom, Trust, Peace, Honor, Leadership.


  1. Boost attitude, attendance, and achievement of students preparing them better as citizens who can use common denominator principles for doing our best.
  2. Increase satisfaction and support of alumni, parents, and employers who want their children, grandchildren, and employees to be better prepared for planning, personal leadership, and professional performance (planning, motivation, time management, professionalism…are keys to good performance at most jobs).
  3. Add to the positive brand for Alabama by developing a national distinction for helping students so they know how to flourish plus write plans for life to develop themselves in school as well as college-career-citizenship.
Advance Alabama with Three Freedoms

Rationale for adding Plans for School and Life
to inspire and guide students

  • Over 90% of alumni I have interviewed or surveyed wish they were helped to write a plan for school and life while students.
  • Even more alumni want children and grandchildren to learn and apply principles and practices of doing their best in their chosen professions and other areas of life.
  • As a executive coach and trainer, CEOs citing people development needs and asking for advice most often indicate personal leadership and professionalism (including goals, motivation, time management…) as needs for performance more so than technical expertise.
  • College students I have surveyed on “What’s holding you back in college…?” the core answers are related to personal leadership–including stresses of time management, money, and relationships–more than academic ability.
  • In college courses inviting me to teach 7 Best Practices for Life Leadership and help students write basics of their Plan for the 7 Areas of Life, focus on Plans for School and Professional Life improved, as did attitude, attendance, and achievement.
  • As a first-generation college student in my family, a hardship introduced me to a calling, a “bucket list” goal Life Leaders and I are working to fulfill. Books read taught us common denominators learned from 100 of the world’s prolific people like Thomas Edison and U.S. presidents. Authors stated these principles should be taught at school and home as well as places of work and worship. I realized this is true and started encouraging others we need to take action to provide this knowledge starting in schools and colleges and continue in professional organizations and families.
  • In Scripture as well as personal development and leadership literature, best practices recommended almost always put writing a plan in the Top 3. My first three Best-Self practices are Lead Your Life, Plan for Life, and Have an Impact. Dr. Stephen Covey used “Be Proactive,” “Begin with the end in mind,” and “First Things First” with essentially the same meaning.
  • If it is core to doing our best as students, professionals…in all 7 Areas of Life, then it is core to preparing citizens. Now is the time to get this done to help students with college, career, and citizenship. Part of the answer for improving schools is improving the sense of calling and commitment of students to take ownership of their learning and development.

Just as a core of people launched a national movement to honor veterans and world peace through National Veterans Day in Alabama, some of those same people supported the national movement for Civil Rights. Alabama is the only state to have led on both movements. Now, more Americans have Freedom of Liberty and Freedom of Rights so we have Freedom to Flourish. We can teach that and teach how.

We can inspire our students about this national history led in Alabama and also teach them more on how to flourish. As they write their plans and possibilities, most will gain inspiration and increase emotional ownership for their efforts in school. The movement of those who see the value, believe in the concepts, and want to act is growing.

Dr. David Dyson, Founder and Trustee, Life Leaders Institute

This work is a calling for me to fulfill through Life Leaders assisting education, community, and state leaders who also believe the time has come for this common sense addition to how we prepare people to “be, know, and do” and productive, principled citizens.

As a college student, I wanted teaching and advising to write a Plan for School and Life plus to learn what I call Best-Self Leadership. If I had know of these principles in high school, I would have wanted them then, too.

Seeds of my Calling–a Defining Experience

Burdens can create blessings. I was in a situation I did not like though taking action helped me fix the problem and discover a calling to fill a gap.

As a student who ran out of money after a year of college at Auburn, still without a car, I finally realized working hard at summer jobs in construction labor plus weekend work as a lifeguard still would not get me through school financially.

I learned about a summer job with potential for students to earn higher levels of money based on results and learn life skills, too. I sold Bibles door-to-door out of state. [The job is so challenging they assign you a territory 500 miles from home to make you think twice about quitting the first week. :)]

Reading materials included books about principles of success learned from America’s most prolific people like Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie, U.S. Presidents, and business leaders.  Napoleon Hill researched and wrote of common denominator principles and practices the Carnegie told him should be taught in school, at home, and in places of work and worship. Hill’s publications I read included essays in Law of Success the subsequent  book, Think and Grow Rich, once a best-seller in business and personal success literature.

For this young student, the principles and practices made sense, proved helpful immediately, and lit a “fire” within. Most were basic, though new to me: the power of desire, plans, master mind alliances, specialized knowledge, and more. The concept recommended, “common denominators of doing our best regardless of academic or professional choice” should be taught at school…. This seemed like a game changer for many, at least a requirement if a person was to be prepared to do one’s best.

I went back to Auburn determined to share this good news with my dean (I had been elected VP of the SGA for Arts & Sciences). He graciously listened, then answered, my idea was good though the curriculum did not have room.

Then, I thought, this is a “zero-sum” option: if something is added, something must go. Now, I realize, students, parents, employers, and educational leaders had not required this preparation to be offered. Now, we can find a way through synergy or by offering more valuable priorities.

After learning personal leadership, professionalism, and performance principles on my own and though 25 years of teaching or attending seminars presented by Life Leaders, and more, I am convinced students must learn these principles if we are to say we have prepared them to do their best. Regardless of state ranking academically, which has room for improvement, the issue is, what does a best-self leader and “highly effective” citizen know and do. If you want them to succeed, we must require and reward–suggestions are not enough. This would apply even if Alabama was already a top achieving state.

Serving as executive coach, management trainer, and adjunct professor supported my belief: school and college are likely the best places to prepare most of our future professionals and citizens with time-intensive efforts like learning, planning, and experimenting. The time to learn best-self leadership and to write plans for school and life may be found best in school where we can give assignments, offer rewards of grades, and accomplish educational objectives for writing and more. Innovative churches and corporations should support through training and expectations of interns and parents. An estimated 5% of people will learn, plan, and do what they need on their own, though without learning and doing in school their development is delayed. For the other 95% the omission of preparation may not get filled until they decide on their own they need better skills and action to get desired results–I often see this increased awareness and motivation at age 25 or older.

Bucket List

For decades I have taught, written, and advocated writing plans for life and learning how to “be, know, and do” as our best-selves. Life Leaders trustees and seminars supported. Foundations helped us with public seminars and workshops. This is good though we need more.

A leadership principle learned is,

to provide “sustainable” desired plans, actions, and results, we must put systems in place to reward behavior we seek.

If not sure of this, “recommend” to students they write a plan they can use to make decisions, develop themselves, and state their cases with colleges and job opportunities more successfully, though offer course credit for something else–see which one most do.

In your business, talk a good game encouraging extras like training and team work without requiring or rewarding them or showing the connection to performance and promotion and monitor results. You will spend excessive time in talking and training and continue to have “people problems” and performance disappointments.

Ask an adult who has read even one book on personal development or achievement and they feel they “know” goals and plans are part of the “success” or “best-self” formula. Yet, less than 5% of adults write and review plans. Fewer students write them. We could argue it’s up to them.

Yet, the higher truth is…

it’s a leadership responsibility for educators and other leaders in society who set policy to identify what students, professional team members, and family loved ones need to “be, know, and do” to flourish with purpose and productivity. Then, we recommend, reward, and sometimes require fulfillment of best practices that define the desired vision for results and culture.

As consultant, professor, and coach, I have seen greater change and results when we reward what we talk about as important plus help people learn, develop, and take action to get the results they and the organization want. It’s often a game changer.

When I was a guest speaker in Dr. Byron Chew’s classes at BSC, students liked our class on why and how to prepare a plan for profession and preparation in college. We finally figured about 95% liked what we recommended though only 5% took time to do what we suggested because after the class, they felt pressure to do the assignments that earned their grade. When we made this work part of an assignment, the paradigm shifted so Dr. Chew introduced Dr. Dyson as a resource to help them succeed in their assignment. We improved from about 5% to usually 100% wrote plans for their grade. Some liked what they created and shared their plans and questions with advisors, then used parts like their mission and vision statements plus goals to interview for jobs and internships.

The seeds of a movement to help students write plans for school and life and learn best-self leadership has started. Alabama will either be a leader in the movement or a follower after others have helped their students more and gained the positive national branding for common sense innovation that results including more students feeling more commitment about their work and life experiences.

Life Leaders and I want to work, to help, to succeed as servant leaders and a “driving force” helping educators and parents help students plan and lead in life. We need more advisors, advocates, and action-oriented leaders in service and funding to provide opportunity so we can get core work done soon instead of take decades.

If you are an educator, parent, or other citizen who also wants to boost success of our students as well as our schools and colleges, I welcome hearing from you and hope you will follow our work or help us lead. Perhaps you know a person who can help us succeed or you may be that person.

Thanks for reading and thinking. I hope you subscribe to the Life Leaders email list and to blogs posted by Life Leaders and me.

David / 205.422.6484

Draft for Deliverables Served
by Life Leaders Education Summary

  1. Students write plans for school and life for use in class assignments, planning with parents and counselors, applications to college and career, improved insight into purposes and inspiration, decision-making, and performance….
  2. Student attitude, motivation, development, achievement, and satisfaction improve.
  3. Inclusion of national history led in Alabama for the movements for Veterans Day (adding Who and Where) and Civil Rights…with connections to selected mandated character traits (at least 5 of the 25 fit beautifully).
  4. Resource for teachers nationally for Veterans Day, Patriotism in Action, Rights, Freedom to Flourish, Best-Self Leadership, Planning for School and Life, and Character Traits (we focus on five of Alabama’s–Patriotism, Courage, Perseverance, Loyalty, Citizenship–and five more we think should be added–Trust, Honor, Freedom, Peace, Leadership). This can add to professional development of faculty, student examples, student development, and positive state branding in the nation before the World Games 2021.
  5. Satisfaction in education by parents, employers, and civic leaders improves because of adding Planning and Best-Self Leadership to help students and professionals.
  6. National branding and media appreciation for educational innovation in participating schools increases providing success examples for students plus inspiration to excel. When Alabama increases national rankings because, in part, students are helped to write plans–and the process helps to inspire and guide them–journalists will call.
  7. Fewer former students become homeless and more succeed with a better plan and personal characteristics and sustain with better plans, personal leadership, and performance. Spending over a year teaching and coaching Veterans Making Comebacks (in a veterans shelter after being homeless) showed me this added benefit. Many confided that as students they had not thought much of what kind of people they wanted to be.

To share your ideas or learn of programs for education leaders, principals, faculty, advisors, and students, we welcome hearing from you.

Timeline on the Plans for
School & Life Movement Launched in Alabama

  • 1973 – David Dyson inspired by teachings of Napoleon Hill and Andrew Carnegie while he sold Bibles door-to-door to pay for school added a belief, personal leadership should be taught in school as well as places of work and worship–started learning and advocating.
  • 1973-75 advocated best practices to be taught at Auburn and used them personally.
  • 1976-78 used and tested plan for life and organization with college students nationally as chapter consultant and program leader for Pi Kappa Alpha National Fraternity.
  • 1978 – 80 The Career Planner published as organizer for college students and young professionals, taught in community seminar at UAB.
  • 1987 – Dyson developed the 7 Areas of Life and Personal Leadership Model.
  • 1988 – Dyson completed doctoral studies in Educational Leadership and started a  professional practice that became Life Leaders Institute to help individuals and executives with plans, professional, and leadership development.
  • 1991 – Personal Leadership organization formed with Johnny Johnson, VP at Birmingham-Southern College to learn and discuss personal leadership.
  • 1992 – Personal Leadership Association launched monthly seminars and Plan workshops to help people write Plans for 7 Areas of Life and learn Personal Leadership and professionalism, trustees added, and incorporated.
  • 1990s – lectures in Dr. Chew’s BSC business class helping students with plan for school, profession….each semester for 10 years.
  • 1990s – Life Planning & Leadership course taught multiple years at Birmingham-Southern. Students in the leadership program led the charge for the College to add this course successfully after David had been told his course was “too practical.”
  • 2000s – taught Leadership and Planning UAB School of Engineering 2 years
  • 2011 – Dyson and Dr. Bice (then state superintendent) discussed value and goals of plan for school and life as well as lesson plan for teaching how and where Veterans Day started in Alabama. Dr. Bice endorsed both and approved action on the Veterans Day lesson plan that year though said the plan for life concept needed to wait until faculty could be involved and trained.
  • 2014 – Letter of endorsement from Mayor Bell for pilot offering in schools
  • 2014 – Superintendent of Schools requests Freedom to Flourish and Plan classes…
  • 2014 – Pilot of Freedom to Flourish classes in Birmingham Schools succeeded though program stalled when superintendent left
  • 2015 – Plan for School and Life web site, photos, resources added.
  • 2016 – Radio programs advocated addition to education. Schools and leaders began to call asking for affordable programs to help principals, faculty, and students…
  • 2017 – Developing new web site, blogs, online resources, identifying educational leaders and advocates to help get this initiative advanced to the next level.

Why Life Leaders is Uniquely Prepared
to Serve Schools and Communities

  • Life Leaders has offered over 250 public seminars since January 1992 to instruct and inspire professionals, students, and other citizens to learn Best-Self Leadership principles and practices as well as write Plans for School and Life they can use to guide them.
  • Materials have been developed and tested over 25 years by founder Dr. David Dyson, Col. Stretch Dunn (USA Ret), and other members who have taught seminars and published works, such as books and workbooks on Planning for Life, Personal Leadership. Professionalism Under Stress, Earning Empowerment, 7 Motivating Values, Financial Fitness, Patriotism in Action, Freedom to Flourish, and more.
  • Patriotism in Action of Life Leaders led the movement to add the state and national history of Veterans Day starting in Alabama (1947) to educational lesson plans so all students learn this national history.
  • Patriotism in Action led the campaign in 2012 resulting in the U.S. Senate passing a resolution giving official historical designation to Alabama and Raymond Weeks as “driving force” (per President Reagan) for establishing America’s Veterans Day.
  • Dyson and Dun via Life Leaders wrote the book that tells the history of Veterans Day starting in Alabama in the patriotic guide, Patriotism in Action.

Why Dr. David Dyson, founder and trustee of Life Leaders, is uniquely prepared to serve as a “driving force” with educators, parents, and community leaders to add curriculum, resources, and coaching…

BSC students at seminar on Goals, Resolutions, and Personal Leadership

Educational Preparation and Teaching:

  • Serving schools and students to plan and lead their lives as best-selves is a calling.
  • Presented Dr. Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” for his first seminar in Alabama (1993); organized the seminar for 1,000 attendees.
  • Taught the opening seminar on Personal Leadership: 7 Best Practices to Plan and Lead your Life preceding Dr. Covey’s seminars on “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and “Principle-Centered Leadership.”
  • Opening seminar and emcee for Dr. Ken Blanchard, author of “Situational Leadership” and “The One Minute Manager.”
  • Opening speaker and emcee for Dr. Denis Waitley, author and narrator for the “Psychology of Winning;” and Hyrum Smith, author of “Where Eagles Rest” and Past Chair of Franklin-Covey.
  • Earned the doctoral degree in Education, Department of Educational Leadership, at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University.
  • Completed the Institute for Educational Management at Harvard University.
  • Completed the College Management Program at Carnegie-Mellon University.
  • Developed and taught “Life Planning and Leadership” at Birmingham-Southern College (students wrote plans for school and life plus best-self strategy).
  • Developed and presented classes in selected Birmingham City Schools on Freedom to Flourish: Why and How by teaching how Veterans Day started in Alabama, the connection to the Civil Rights Movement, and school character traits, plus intro to plans for implementation. Freedom: Liberty – Rights – Flourish. Thanks to advocate and internal leader Dr. Jackie Jackson.
Dr. Dyson teaches high school at Ramsay

Research, Development, and Publication:

  • 7 Areas of Life model used in planning for life and leadership
  • 7 Best Practices to Plan and Lead your Life
    model and suggested strategy
  • Earning Empowerment Model to guide how to earn and delegate empowerment
  • 7 components of Attitude and Ability to assess and develop through your plan
  • 7 Levels of Leadership model
  • Hierarchy of 7 Motivating Values model that builds on “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” providing a tool to choose values and and create vision in a plan.
  • Master Your Goliaths: 7 Steps to Set Achievable Resolutions
  • Veterans Making Comebacks (assessing Goliaths and plans for homeless veterans…)
  • Patriotism in Action (history of founding Veterans Day, Alabama character traits, patriotism…) co-author with Col. Stretch Dunn assisting.
  • Professionalism Under Stress (best practices and lessons for Professionalism, Stress, and Leadership in military and civilian life learned from college, corporate, and combat lessons–with Col. Stretch Dunn, USA Ret).

To explore programs or services in your school, community, or other organization:

Dr. David Dyson, 205.422.6484,, or voice messages, 205.670.1733

Publications and Presentations

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