Category Archives: Change

Positive Deviance

The Positive Deviance Initiative defines Positive Deviance as an approach that realizes “…that in every community there are certain individuals or groups whose uncommon behaviors and strategies enable them to find better solutions to problems than their peers, while having access to the same resources and facing similar or worse challenges.”

This methodology has been used by the Initiative in a wide variety of contexts.  One of the first initiatives involved improving child nutrition in Viet Nam.   Researchers to villages with high levels of child malnutrition found that not all children were malnourished.  They studied the mothers with healthy children to see what these “positive deviants” were doing differently and then asked those women to teach the other women.  Malnutrition was reduced.

Another action involved altering cultural perceptions towards female genital mutilation in Egypt and other countries.   When women and men  listened to stories of local women who had not been ‘cut’, were not promiscuous, and were able to marry, attitudes began to change.  Change was further propelled by women who told their stories of how ‘cutting’ had ruined their lives.

A major problem in culture of honor societies, such as those in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is the negative attitude of men towards women.  Misogyny is rampant and fierce.  How can positive deviance tackle this problem?  Fortunately, we have an important example of positive deviance in Ziauddin Yousafzai.  

Ziauddin Yousafzai

 

Although raised in a very traditional family in a small community in Pakistan, Yousafzai valued education so much he decided to become an educator and open schools for both boys and girls.  His first child was a daughter.  Instead of ignoring her, he made sure she knew she was valued and that she received a quality education.  Thanks to this positive deviant father, Malala has become a voice heard world-wide making the case for educating all girls everywhere.  

Positive deviance is dangerous in regions controlled by the Taliban and like-minded men.  What can we do to find and support positive deviants?

 

A Call to Action

Just as I finished President Carter’s new book, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power, I heard the news about the killing rampage in Isla Vista, CA.   Here was a perfect example of what President Carter described: a man who used power and violence to punish women.

While religion has not yet been mentioned as an explanation for the killer’s rampage, attitudes in the US have been shaped by religious ideologies that value men over women.   This over-valuing of men permeates all aspects of our culture.  Many laws in the US control women in ways that clearly indicate that the law-makers  do not view women as adults equal to men.  When misogyny is rampant, violence against women is the result.

President Carter is a member of The Elders, a group of ‘independent global leaders working together for peace and human rights.’   One major focus of The Elders is on achieving equality for women and girls.   The Carter Center, founded by President Carter and Rosalynn Carter, lists 23 action steps that ‘can help blaze the road to progress’ and end misogyny.

Tony Porter called to men to get out of the Man Box.  The way we socialize men creates violence against women.  It is up to men to challenge and change male culture.  It is up to men to end violence against women.  It is up to men, the many men who truly care about women, to end misogyny. Let us heed President Carter’s and Tony Porter’s Calls to Action and end misogyny now.

 

 

 

Educated Girls

I recently finished reading two books by very different individuals who have a common goal: educating all the children in the world (especially girls, who are more likely to be deprived of an education).  The books are I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and The Promise of a Pencil by Adam Braun.

Malala was born into a very poor family in the Swat Valley of Pakistan while Adam was born into an upper-middle-class family in Connecticut.  Their lives could hardly have begun in more different circumstances, but both realized an important truth: individuals can have a powerful impact.  They didn’t need to wait for the world to change; they decided to act.

Malala, encouraged by her father (who, with much difficulty and privation, opened a school in the Swat Valley), became the voice for girls’ education in Pakistan.   Adam initially followed a conventional path by becoming a consultant at Bain, although it was never a comfortable fit: he was left feeling empty and unfulfilled.

Malala and her father defied death threats to continue her education and that of other girls.  They realized that educated girls could improve their own and their families’ lives and that nothing should prevent that education.

Adam, an adventurous traveler, discovered how desperately education was needed throughout the impoverished regions of the world.  He wanted to create a foundation to build schools in those regions, but his parents and co-workers felt that leaving his job at Bain was too big a risk to take.

When the Taliban shot Malala, it was truly a shot heard ’round the world.  Malala’s voice, which primarily had been heard in Pakistan, has now become the international voice championing girls’ education.  With the aid of Shiza Shahid, Malala has an organization to raise awareness of the importance of girls’ education.

 

 

 

 

 

After several months of a sabbatical from Bain during which he focused on laying the groundwork for his education foundation, Adam realized that he couldn’t return to Bain.  He plunged fully into his organization: Pencils of Promise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are two individuals who come from very different backgrounds, but who have common goals.  They want to live in ways that make a positive difference in the world by making sure that all children (but especially girls) receive an education.

As Malala states in her book, reflecting on being shot, everyone will die.  What matters is how you live.

 

Save your Brain!

Sleep

A few decades ago, a talk show co-host  infamous for his temper bragged that he needed only four hours of sleep.  Current research has shown that the two are connected.  Inadequate levels of sleep lead to reduced willpower and increased inability to maintain an even temperament.  If you find your temper easily frays or that your thinking is sluggish, look to how much you sleep.  Sleep deprivation impairs glucose regulation which negatively impacts willpower. The result may be a frayed temper along with a series of poor decisions.

Reduced willpower and sluggish thinking as a result of inadequate sleep may be caused by deterioration of neurons in the brain. These neurons work hard when you are awake and can become over-stressed if there is not enough of a recovery period during sleep.   As neurons break down, so does your thinking.

Although the ideal number of hours of sleep vary by individual and by age, research at the National Sleep Foundation  suggests that the average adult needs 7 – 8 hours of sleep to achieve optimal physical and mental health results.  You can read more about the importance of sleep in the chapter ‘To Sleep…’  in Walking in Sunshine.

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Discover Why:

  • adaptations matter
  • walking is the best exercise
  • sunshine is necessary
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Organizing a Life Record

Journal (383x640)I’ve never been one to write in a diary or to journal, even though this is supposed to be a good way to better understand where you are and where you want to go in life.  I see the beautiful, blank-page books and think, “I’d like to own that.”  In fact, I do own a couple of these books.  But they are empty.  I display them as objets d’art on shelves.  They are empty in part because I like them pristine, but I also don’t want to commit my thoughts to those pages because I am sure I would want to make changes, erasures, etc.  The pages would be messy and, given my handwriting, unreadable.  The book would no longer be lovely.

Blogging is a better form of journaling since I can easily edit the ‘pages’.  However, since I publish these pages, I don’t wish to make the blog posts too personal.  But I would like to have a record of life events and, on occasion, my thoughts on those events.

My solution to this issue is to use Google Calendar as a sort of diary/journal.  I record events (an old man drove his car into my tree!), which I can later find (when did that happen?) by using key word search.  This is much better than a traditional diary or journal.  Another benefit is that I won’t lose this ‘diary’ since it exists in the ‘cloud.’

I also use the calendar for its intended purpose which is to schedule activities. Beyond that, I use the calendar as my To Do list: I schedule blocks of  time for each thing I need to do.  I’ve found I tend not to look at To Do lists after I write them.  But if I give the item a block of time on a particular day, it is more likely to be accomplished since I receive automatic reminders that also show up in my Gmail account.  This type of ‘list’ is also flexible.  If I find that I really cannot do that item at that time, it is easy to move it to a different day or time.  I am much more productive and organized when I schedule everything.

Different types of items/events can be  color coded, which can be useful to highlight when an activity is repeated over the course of the week or month.  For instance, I block out all the class periods I teach in one color, with the time I need to leave to make the drive to the college in another color.  I schedule those blocks at the beginning of the semester so that I will not accidentally plan a competing event.  As another example, when I realize I need to do laundry, I put it on the calendar.  I do the same with grocery shopping.  Everything is put on the calendar.  If I want to make sure I get a book read for book club, I schedule time for it on the calendar.

Some of you probably think I am over-scheduling, but I find that it actually simplifies my life.  Once it is on the calendar, I don’t have to worry that I will forget to do it.  My stress level is reduced.

When I work on something that was not originally on the calendar, I put it on the calendar so that I have a record of doing that particular job.  This is especially important if you do freelance work.  You can also make notes in the job block about the task. You can add hot links to the calendar block to provide further information on an event.  For instance, if you have a meeting with a new client, you can add the URL of their website to that time slot to provide a reminder to refresh your memory about that client.

This is obviously a personal calendar not meant to be shared.  Many of you will have a shared work calendar.  However, I know it is possible with Google Calendar to determine whether an item is public or private, so you should be able to use one calendar for both work and personal activities.

I have the calendar pin-tabbed in my browser so that it opens and stays open when I open the browser.  This makes it easy to add notes and new events.  The calendar is also synced with my phone and Nook so that I can stay on track.

As an organization tool and life record, Google Calendar really does make life run more smoothly and productively while reducing stress.  There is no need for a diary, a journal, or to do lists in addition to a calendar.  Everything can be done  on one screen that  is easily modified and won’t be lost.  Organize your life with Google Calendar.  Give it a try.

Note: Outlook’s Calendar probably can be used in a similar way.  I just prefer Google.