Change Writer

be the change you want to see

Category: Values (Page 2 of 2)

How You Can Stop Giving Forgettable Talks

Every teacher wants their students to remember what they’ve been taught. A recent study show’s that that’s rarely the case. Here’s how you can teach to be remembered…

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Photo by cybrarian77

I love that this blog is about change. Change is what humanises us.

Think about any narrative you have ever read, or watched. A truly captivating character is one that changes. At the the heart of every good story, whatever the surrounding circumstances, there is a person who changes.

And yet, despite being captivated by the idea of change, most of us feel the futility, or at least the slowness, of change in our own lives and those around us.

Forgetting is the norm

According to a recent study the highest performing pupils in the UK forget around 60% of the basic concepts taught in the months between taking the entrance exam and arriving to class.

I think this is the sign of a deep seated misunderstanding in our culture and our age about learning and knowledge.

Imagine this: the brightest doctors, teachers, government leaders and scientists of our next generation being taught to re-call information but not being given the skill of integrating that information into anything deeper than rote repetition.

In a culture obsessed with information, we are perpetually informed, but we have lost of virtue of allowing knowledge to transform us.

So how do you teach people in a way that they transcend being simply informed, to being transformed?

1) Make A Connection

Your paper qualifications are just that: pieces of paper. They might gather you a room full of people, but it takes true human emotion, relational connection, to truly impact people at the deepest of levels. Put simply, you have to be more than smart, you have to be likeable.

2) Listen To The Learner’s Need

Often teachers arrive with a pre-conceived notion of what the learner needs. Instead, start by assuming that the learner is the expert in her own scenario, and provide only the tools that assist her in fulfilling the need she has defined.

3) Encourage Participation

Inviting the learner to be part of the discovery, is the most transformative experience you can offer someone in a learning environment. That is why good science teachers don’t just tell you what happens when you throw potassium into water, they let you do it and watch the glass bowl explode! When we invite people into the experience of discovery we ignite their imaginations that the world is bigger than 2D concepts.

 If you want to be someone who teaches to be remembered, be sure to listen hard and engage your students’ imaginations in the learning process.

Why it’s good to read people you disagree with

If you want to cultivate and refine your understanding of your own worldview, it’s important to study the worldview of others.

Why you should read people you disagree with
Photo by Tarik Browne

I discovered this when I first began studying political philosophy. Reading the likes of John Locke, Friedrich Nietzsche and Michel Foucault I would ask myself: what similarities and what differences do we have in how we see the world?

I was surprised to find out that there was always something I could agree or empathise with in another person’s perspective (a lesson I learned from Atticus Finch, Mr Gove!).

There was usually an aspect of each perspective that troubled me or caused tension, and that tension helped me to develop a sense of what I believe in, who I really am.

For example, when I began looking at conservatism: the idea of the small state and political pragmatism, I could see glimmers of value in that point of view. Though I’m far from conservative, politically, being exposed to this worldview has enhanced and sharpened my thinking.

Today I find this practise invaluable. When I read the perspective of others, however different from my own, they help me to harness my focus, or remind me of blind spots I should pay more attention to.

In Writing and Music

This idea applies to any medium that is used to carry a message.

Another example for me is Douglas Coupland, the novelist and artist. I don’t see the world entirely as he does, but the way he weaves his love for the environment into many of his novels compels me not to forget its importance (see Generation A or Shampoo Planet).

I wouldn’t necessarily choose to back the same causes as Ani Difranco, but her songwriting stirs up inside me anger at the way women are often treated in this world.

Frans Kafka wrote:

I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for?…the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to.

(via Brainpickings)

Writing that merely affirms our perspective of the world is meaningless.

If we want to be change makers, we need to hone our thinking and refine our ideas.

Exposure to conflicting and contrasting values helps us in this process.

It also helps us to avoid demonising people just because they have a different outlook on life.

It’s why I sometimes choose to read books I know I will find irritating, like The Fountainhead.

How about you? Are there people you read or listen to who you disagree with, but who help to refine your worldview?

6 Compelling Reasons to Get Yourself a Coach

A coach is someone who can act as a sounding board for your ideas, helping you stick to commitments and championing your progress as you pursue your goals.

6 Compelling Reasons to Get Yourself A Coach
Photo by Ed Uthman

Here are some reasons why you need a coach:

  1. They help you focus

    One of the things I love about meeting my coach is that he helps me refine my ideas and get down to the one or two practical things that I can begin taking action on.

  2. They hold you accountable

    A good coach will ask you how you’re doing with the targets you’ve set yourself. Living in a world full of distractions and voices competing for your attention, it’s so helpful to have someone helping you to stay on track.

  3. They give feedback

    Although the role of a coach isn’t to tell you what to do, they are listening to your process and can mirror back what they see. This can be key in identifying inconsistencies and blind spots.

  4. They help you carry your load

    Going after a dream is hard enough. Why would you choose to do it alone?
    Having one other person checking in with how you’re doing really helps to ease the load and prevent you feeling isolated, or like you’re the only person who cares about what you’re doing.

  5. They share their connections

    Most of the people who have coached me have connected me with resources or people who have helped me get unstuck from problems I’m having.

  6. They can track your long term progress

    Because your relationship has an element of commitment to it, you can be assured that your investment of time and energy explaining what’s going on in your life isn’t wasted. They’re invested in your journey, often more than friends will be.

So how do you go about getting a coach?

Many people out there pay to be coached by Strengths Coaches, or Life Coaches, or even Counsellors. These professionals are helpful, but if you don’t have the budget, don’t worry.

Look for someone who you respect and who you know is a good listener. Consider someone who has expertise in an area you wish to grow (although this isn’t essential).

Then ask them if they’d be willing to coach you, clearly defining your expectations (How often do you want to meet? What will your times together look like? What types of questions would you like them to ask?)

Have you been coached? Did you find the experience helpful?

Change Makers Avoid Insulation

If you want to stay alive to the world, it’s important to avoid becoming segregated from the needs around you. Wholeheartedly embracing a life of change means opening your eyes to the pain of the world and letting it shape you.

Homeless Afghan Refugees by Zoriah
Image by Zoriah

That’s one of the reasons travelling can be so good. It helps us to break out of our normal habits of who we usually talk to and where we usually go. Surrounded by a world we don’t recognise, we do things that are outside of our ‘comfort zones’ and we feel great because of it.

A recent study showed that the 20% most wealthy Americans give away an average of 1.3% of their income, while the poorest 20% give away 3.2%.

What is it that makes the wealthy so stingy?

According to the researchers, it has to do with being insulated from need:

“when both groups were exposed to a sympathy-eliciting video on child poverty, the compassion of the wealthier group began to rise, and the groups’ willingness to help others became almost identical…insulation from people in need may dampen the charitable impulse.”

This is an important lesson for us wannabe Change Makers.

If we want to be the kind of people who cause change, we must expose ourselves to need and pain. Once we know people who are suffering, we’re more inclined to identify their needs, and to make decisions about what we should do about them.

I live in South Africa, a place that has turned segregation into an art form. Back in the days of Apartheid, cities were designed to keep the different racial groups separated and to make civic areas predominantly white. A recent article in The Guardian describes Cape Town’s original planning strategy:

“Cape Town was conceived with a white-only centre, surrounded by contained settlements for the black and coloured labour forces to the east, each hemmed in by highways and rail lines, rivers and valleys, and separated from the affluent white suburbs by protective buffer zones of scrubland”

Boys during Apartheid
Image by UN Photo

Although this segregation is no longer vested in the law, the infrastructures remain the same. Black people live in black settlements, mixed race people in mixed race settlements, and white people in areas of prime real estate inhabited mainly by whites.

It’s rare for white people to have relationships of equality (real friendships) with people of other races. The black people they encounter are gardeners or domestic workers, cashiers or waste collectors. They are relationships with an unequal balance of power, in which the black person is subservient to the white person.

This setup fosters insulation, and works against the progress of change. The design of the city encourages and enables the rich to turn a blind eye to the day-to-day realities of the poor. They don’t see their pain, and therefore don’t feel motivated to do anything about it.

Of course South Africa is just an extreme example of a natural habit of the human condition. We push those on the margin out of sight, and those with power and riches to centre stage. We naturally choose the path of least resistance, where we won’t be inconvenienced by someone asking us for change, or expressing their pain.

We close our eyes and hope that someone ‘higher up’ will do something about it, forgetting that those ‘higher up’ are elected as our representatives and will only focus on things they believe matter to us.

Do you find yourself insulated from the needs around you?

Is there a small step you could take to connect more with the world’s pain?

5 Totally Selfish Reasons To Become A Change Maker

You may think that you have to be a self-sacrificing saint to become a Change Maker. That’s not true!

Here are 5 good reasons for selfish people to pursue change:

  1. You meet amazing people
    I’ve met some of my favourite people in the course of pursuing change. These people have courage, determination and amazing stories. They live all over the world, so I have somewhere to stay wherever I go!
  2. You gain a sense of purpose
    I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying “it’s better to give than to receive”, but you might not know that research shows it to be true. Focussing on something bigger than yourself is really good for your outlook on life.
  3. You find belonging
    When you start going after change, you discover others who carry the same desire. You realise that you’re not alone in the world but actually belong to a likeminded tribe of people.
  4. You learn to turn your dissatisfaction into action
    A healthy sign of maturity is being able to convert your frustrations into action. Being a change maker means learning to do this well and to communicate it effectively to others.
  5. You leave a legacy
    When you invest in something bigger than yourself, and connect with others who share the same passions, you ensure that your investment isn’t wasted, that you will leave your mark on the world.

That’s my list. Can you think of any other selfish reasons for becoming a Change Maker?

Why Awareness is for Pussies

One day a friend of mine, who knew I had a blog about human rights violations and injustices, sent me a post from the Stuff White People Like blog, entitled Awareness. Here’s the gist:

An interesting fact about white people is that they firmly believe that all of the world’s problems can be solved through “awareness.”  Meaning the process of making other people aware of problems, and then magically someone else like the government will fix it.

My friend’s point was clear: awareness doesn’t solve anything and only makes those who are not affected by [insert issue/cause] feel like they’re doing something about it. It creates that smug feeling of self-satisfaction.

When I first received this critique from my friend I felt judged and was annoyed at him, but the more I thought about it I realised that there was some serious truth in his point. If I claim to care about a particular cause, I need to go out of my way to do something about it. I don’t know what motivated him to send it, but I’m glad he did.

Real change happens when awareness is converted into action.

What do you think? Do you feel like there’s way too much ‘awareness’ and too little being done?

Let’s get this show on the road

Welcome to the first post on Change Writer, a blog that will be exploring how you can become a change maker in the world around you.

When I first started asking this question, I was very aware of the problems and pain around me, but had no idea where to start. As I travelled and asked questions of people a few steps ahead of me on this journey, I realised that we need connection points where we can share ideas without feeling judged.

Change Writer is for you if:

  • You long for change, but don’t know where to start.
  • You’ve tried out a few things, but have become disillusioned.
  • You’re a seasoned change agent wanting to share your ideas.
  • You’re coming with an open heart and open mind and an eager desire to learn.

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© 2014-2017 Jonathan Morgan