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The Life Goals Analysis: A Powerful Mediation Tool

When discussing my book Seven Essentials for Business Success:  Lessons from Legendary Professors last year during a Great Reads Book Club session, I mentioned that great mediators employ the same skill set as the legendary professors profiled in the book.  One of these skills is the ability to keep disputing parties (in a mediation) or students (in a classroom) focused on the big picture. 

A wonderful tool for achieving a big-picture focus in a mediation is the Life Goals Analysis developed by John Wade.  I first learned about this analysis several years ago when John and I gave presentations at an ABA annual meeting, and I incorporate it into my negotiation courses at the University of Michigan and Coursera. During the Great Reads session I learned that host Claire Fowler, Executive Vice President of, shares my admiration for John and his career as both an outstanding teacher and mediator.

In an article published in the Bond Law Review, John defines a Life Goals Analysis as “a short (preferably one page) written list of a person’s short and long term business, health, financial and emotional goals.” His article describes an eight-step process that mediators can use in private sessions to help disputing parties develop a list of life goals, consider how offers currently on the table relate to the life goals on the list, consider the results, and decide on next steps. 

The article includes a list of life goals that are common in family property disputes.  Here are examples:

  • To get on with life
  • To open a new business
  • To stay healthy
  • To reduce stress on colleagues

To observe John’s teaching skills and learn more about how to develop a Life Goals Analysis, I recommend this video (starting at minute 50).  In the video he discusses the sad consequences when only one of the parties completed the analysis in a divorce proceeding.  

Beyond its use as a mediation tool, the Life Goals Analysis can serve broader purposes.  As noted in my recent article “A Negotiation Planning Checklist and Other Negotiation Tools” in the American Bar Association’s Business Law Today, the tool should be considered “whenever you face any important decision in life.”  

For more on John Wade’s remarkable career, visit Twenty of his articles can be accessed here:


George Siedel

George J. Siedel is the Williamson Family Professor Emeritus of Business Administration and Thurnau Professor Emeritus of Business Law at the University of Michigan.  He completed graduate studies at Cambridge University and the University of Michigan.  George has served as a visiting professor at Stanford University and Harvard University and as… MORE

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