Why Poverty?

November 30, 2012 at 10:58 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Reflection is looking in so you can look out with a broader, bigger, and more accurate perspective.”

– Mick Ukleja and Robert Lorber

We experience life in many ways. Some being as we hear stories from family, friends or those we don’t know about life before we were born, ‘Back in my day…’ As memories of experiences that we have lived ourselves or have happened during our time, ‘Remember when…’ As the current moment that is happening right now, ‘Choices, choices, choices…’ And as the future that we can or can’t envisage, ‘What will become?’ Each of these are happening in thoughts and actions, individually and collectively, with similar and dissimilar human experiences being lived, shared, perceived and interpreted in a variety of ways by a global village of over seven billion different people.

I am reminded of a quote by Edmund Burke about reading, “Reading without reflection is like eating without digesting”. If we replace the word ‘reading’ with ‘life’ or ‘experience’ I think we arrive at the quote at the beginning of this post. Reflection makes up such a vital part of our human experience, the ability to process, grow, develop and make a difference in our own lives and the lives of others throughout our journey. Life can feel busy and pressured, with certain eventualities impossible, especially if we don’t take the time to reflect, asking questions of ourselves and others like who, what, where, why and how.

 Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

– St. Francis of Assisi

Each of us could recall a time when we felt really authentically connected and aligned to self, others and the world around us, the what’s important, as an individual or collectively within a team or group. These times are when we are filled with energy, passion, deep purpose and meaning. They are usually when our individual or shared vision is connected and aligned with the daily thoughts, words and actions that we are experiencing, wherever we may be, feelings of empowerment and contributing within our spheres of influence.

This week on ABC 2 here in Australia and on TV stations right around the world we were individually and collectively asked Why Poverty? Five films were aired here in Australia, one each night, with more that will be able to be seen online after November. Each film has the purpose of engaging the audience and providing opportunities to reflect on why in a world that has so much do we still have so many that live with so little? Each film explores various challenges and issues associated with poverty, along with our own connection to these themes of potential, justice, equality, opportunity, compassion, empowerment and inspiring ‘be the change’ thinking and actions.

Engaging in the discussion and exploring how our individual and collective thoughts and actions contribute to challenges that the global village faces is a shared responsibility. Our perspectives of what is poverty, what constitutes fair access to our human needs and aspirations, the connection, support or decisions that are required to reduce the hardship of those experiencing the effects of poverty, evaluating the abundance vs scarcity mindset and its affect on our thoughts and actions, wealth as wellbeing rather than just monetary or material possession accumulation and our role in empowering and inspiring others through our own example and the language we use are important to continuing to build and work towards the vision and values we have for humanity.

I am currently reading Stephen Covey’s book, ‘The 3rd Alternative’. It is inspiring to consider a 3rd alternative to this issue, honestly evaluating the beliefs we have created and fostered within the developed and the developing worlds, how these beliefs drive our thoughts and actions, what needs and aspirations promote authentic connection and fulfilment, and experiencing true synergy within our shared humanity to create a better world for all. Rather than highlighting difference or creating separation, we can as the initial quote suggests, ‘look in so we can look out with a broader, bigger, and more accurate perspective’. I hope that this Why Poverty? discussion achieves its aims and that all that it touches are able to reflect on the themes and information discovered.

“Let no one be discouraged by the belief there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills – against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence… Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation…

It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance”.

– Robert Kennedy

I have attached a link to the 5 part discussion (opening and closing segments are embedded in this post or use the link to see all five) of the BBC World Debate from a studio in South Africa, involving former British prime minister Tony Blair, Oby Ezekwesili, a former Nigerian government minister, Vandana Shiva, a scientist and grassroots activist from India and the South African author Moeletsi Mbeki. This debate again highlights other perspectives and themes that we can reflect on.

BBC World Debate – Why Poverty?


Explore Discover Act through abundance

November 23, 2012 at 11:01 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”
~ Albert Einstein

Within any challenge there are opportunities to explore the possibilities, discover your potential and then act authentically. This philosophy is fostered throughout all of our programs and integrated into the meaningful connection to action beyond the experience. During activities, discussions, reflections and initiative challenges, participants are experimenting with and processing their attitudes, values, beliefs, thoughts, choices and actions. The mindset or attitude that an individual brings into interactions with self, others and the world around us greatly affects any outcome.

Being open to opportunity within challenge is an attitude or mindset that takes effort. Being human means we are exposed to a diverse range of messages and insecurities that can limit our potential in any given situation. Developing an empowered mindset, like what we discussed last week, an attitude of I Can… a belief in You Can… and inspiring We Can, doesn’t safegaurd us from experiencing vulnerability or failure but can provide us with the courage to authentically engage throughout life’s successes and challenges. This mindset is about connection to the unique gifts and talents that you possess, developing inspiring and supportive networks around you, and a belief in abundance within the global village.

This is why this TED Talk from Peter Diamandis caught our eye this week. We believe abundance is our future, just like the title of this talk. As Peter discusses, abundance is not about a life of luxury but instead a life of possibility. Tapping into the wellspring of individual and shared potential on this planet has seen, is seeing and will see incredible feats and advancements. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t challenges or issues that are being faced within the global village. Instead it means that if we take an attitude of scarcity and disconnection into meeting those challenges we will dilute the creativity and innovation required in crafting a better world for all. Empowered individuals are able to be the change they wish to see in the world, through daily thoughts and actions that promote love, peace, respect, joy, cooperation, compassion, responsibility, courage, awareness and appreciation.

Within reflection we are able to evaluate our thoughts and actions, are they consistent with what we are hoping to achieve? Each of us possess an ability to make a difference and authentically connect to self, others and the world around us. We have the ability to engage in conversation and dialogue that empowers and inspires daily thoughts and actions, our own and those within our spheres of influence. As Peter discusses, the potential contributions of the future we can’t predict, individuals and small teams are doing amazing things that would have seemed impossible not too long ago. Technology is providing many avenues to be heard or make a difference, some of which are used as examples in this talk.

Watch the talk below and consider how our thoughts drive our actions. Reflect on what we really need in our lives as humans and how abundance or scarcity beliefs can affect our gratitude for and joy experienced within all that we do have. It is a privilege to work as Explore Discover Act facilitators, providing opportunities for participants to explore the possibilities, discover their potential and then act authentically. We are inspired by the potential of each individual and group that we support.

“People with a scarcity mentality tend to see everything in terms of win-lose. There is only so much; and if someone else has it, that means there will be less for me. The more principle-centered we become, the more we develop an abundance mentality, the more we are genuinely happy for the successes, well-being, achievements, recognition, and good fortune of other people. We believe their success adds to…rather than detracts from…our lives.”
~ Stephen R. Covey

I Can… You Can… We Can…

November 17, 2012 at 12:06 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“We are all inventors, each sailing out on a voyage of discovery, guided each by a private chart, of which there is no duplicate. The world is all gates, all opportunities”.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Can vs Can’t. This is the age old communication juggle, especially witnessed between kids and adults that takes place around kitchen benches, on sporting fields, at music recitals, in the shopping centre, in school classrooms and everywhere in between. Sometimes the message is communicated through words. Clear and strong indications that something is or isn’t going to happen or the uncertainty of what’s possible in a given situation. While other times it is through non verbal communication. We may confidently apply positive thoughts and actions, or alternatively see body language, inaction or lack of commitment and effort that affects a particular task. Individual and collective beliefs and attitudes are developed and reinforced through the experiential nature of life, our connection to self, others and the world around us as we navigate life’s successes and challenges.

Like the quote at the beginning of this post says, ‘the world is all gates, all opportunities’. This is a belief and attitude that we may choose to focus on within our daily thoughts, words and actions. It provides connection to authentic, empowered engagement within our experiences, affecting positively not only our own lives but others within our interdependent global village, families, friendship networks, communities and all that we share this time and space with. It sees us being able to be resilient, courageously make a difference, sending out ripples of action, hope and the celebration of diversity within our spheres of influence. It is all about potential, an attitude of I Can… a belief in You Can… and inspiring We Can…

So much of what we do at Explore Discover Act relates to this theme. All of our programs integrate exploring the possibilities, discovering your potential and then acting authentically. We believe strongly in individual and shared potential, meaningful connection to action beyond our programs and empowering participants within their learning and leadership journey. This is why this TED Talk that I watched this week struck such a chord. A school that is designed around empowering children ‘to be the change they wish to see in the world’ is an inspiring example of building beliefs and attitudes that are built around individual and collective potential. Watch the video below to learn more about Kiran Bir Sethi and the Riverside School in India.

What we want for ourselves, others or the global village is not always communicated through the verbal and non verbal channels that we are exposed to within our lives. Not only what we receive directly from others that we are connected to but also the messages that are gained through the various technological devices that connect us to information and entertainment. Becoming mindful of what and why we think and believe can allow us to open pathways and opportunities to action change. Each of us can not only make a difference for ourselves but also empower and inspire others to do the same. The Design for Change competition that has evolved out of the Riverside School journey is now empowering students right around the world to feel, imagine, do and then share. Each of us can implement a similar reflection within our days to discover ways ‘to be the change you wish to see in the world’.

I’ll leave you with one last quote, one that I believe sums up the immense power and influence that the daily choices of what we think, say and do can have on ourselves and others.

“In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true”.

– Buddha

Kick It To Me!

November 9, 2012 at 10:03 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Imagine our life without play.

No toys, sporting equipment, imagined friends or experiences, games, creative expression or joy. No moments of connection that are built around so much more than our similarities or within our comfort zones but that breaks down perceived connection barriers such as nationality, language, gender, age or any other difference that individuals may want to identify with.

I want to start with a couple of quick stories. 14 years ago I was in China, first major trip overseas and plenty of examples of stretching comfort zones or perceived barriers to connection, especially through my lack of local language and the sheer number of people in areas of the country that we were travelling in such as Beijing. Each afternoon I would go for a run but this one afternoon I stumbled across an outdoor basketball court. It hit me how much I had been missing playing but with all these games already happening around me, teams had been assigned, friendships established and barriers like how would I even ask to play or what the local expectations and rules were, I initially thought this may be all too difficult. But something was stronger than that. I was drawn to the energy created by play. Through finger pointing, head shaking, hand moving, handshakes and high fives I was suddenly on a team and involved in the creation of inspiring memories, moments of play and connection.

Fast forward 5 years from that trip to China, having now been living in the UK for a year, I found myself in NY State, USA working at a YMCA summer camp. Being a teacher, having grown up loving being in the outdoors, heavily involved in sports and games of all descriptions, this was something that I had always wanted to do. Life for 8 weeks included, working with 25 odd staff from various parts of the world, living in a cabin with 10 kids, each day facilitating activities such as swim teaching, boating, rock climbing, challenge courses, bushwalking and the list could go on, every second weekend a day and a half off to recharge the batteries, and above all an overwhelming sense of amidst life’s successes and challenges, through play deep connection is achieved. That summer, along with the two others that I went back and worked provided so many amazing memories of games and sports, cheers and chants, me singing poorly but loudly, individually and collectively stretching comfort zones and growing, friendships and connection, all the while celebrating difference and participation.

These last two stories are from my time in Africa. I was lucky enough to live and teach in Uganda for a year in 04/05 and then to be back in Africa for 6 months last year. On my travels through Southern Africa last year it saw long driving days at times on the 43 day adventure from Cape Town to East Africa. Play became such an important element to bringing our group together and maintaining connection when people were tired and around each other a lot. Through bus olympics, challenges, 20 questions, made up games and their imagined transition to becoming a TV hit, music, and the various others opportunities that we created we were able to gain a depth of awareness and appreciation that would otherwise have remained an unknown. The way that individuals are able to confidently share more of who they are while playing can see the group dynamic benefit from diversity and the unique contribution that each is able to make.

I was then at The School of St Jude in Tanzania for 3 and a half months volunteering as a teacher mentor. Out of so many amazing memories from that time one really sticks out. I was asked to organise and facilitate a team building event for all staff, local teachers, admin, groundskeepers, cooks, cleaners, drivers, as well as international volunteers working at the campus. The afternoon team challenges rotation, competing against others but really just allowing each individual to connect through play saw such an outpouring of joy. The comments that I received really touched me, whether it was local Tanzanian staff asking when was the next event, vivid recollections of favourite games or moments straight after and throughout my time at the school, the laughter, group problem solving and creativity that was on display or this email that I was sent by one of the Australian volunteers:

“Yesterday was an amazing experience, one that will be definitely be added to my extra special memory treasures. I was the only mzungu (mzungu means person of foreign decent in East Africa) on my team and it didn’t matter one little bit, what a privilege. Thank you with all my heart for such a wonderful gift for us all.”

This is the privilege of my work throughout 12 years of various educational roles. This is the journey of Explore Discover Act, providing programs that allow participants the opportunity to increase awareness and appreciation of potential, through connection to self, others and the world around us. We will continue to use play as a vehicle within our experiential programs, learning by doing with reflection. We love seeing the engagement, enthusiasm, curiosity, belief, vulnerability, support, openness, celebration, trust, respect, initiative, hope, courage and fun that is discovered this way. The stories above a just a few of the experiences that remind me each day to take the time to be in the moment and pay attention to connection. Whether that be with family, friends, at work, facilitating for groups or with those we meet throughout the journey of our days, an attitude of playfulness inspires my thoughts and actions.

This short video caught my attention this week. It connected with me because of its message as well as its mission. A movie that inspires people to become mindful of the thoughts and actions we have individually and collectively around play, its importance to our health, happiness and the future of life. A movie that challenges our assumed best practice, that asks questions and provides examples of how play should be embedded into all aspects of life, from birth through the journey of potential that each of us is on.

Think about those memories that stand out in your mind from your life, the ones that inspire you because of the connection and joy that was experienced. I would imagine that the mindset that you had in those moments mirrored playfulness, open to the uncertainty of connection and filled with the energy, passion and joy that we experience through this process.

Watch this short video, then go and play, kick it to me, kick it to me!

Reshape Language – Reshape Thinking

November 2, 2012 at 10:04 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

As humans we spend a lot of time describing, labelling, differentiating, determining, discussing and justifying to ourselves and others, about our individual and shared experiences and ultimately potential or what’s possible. We are processing constantly, this is our thinking, the language or communication we use within or verbalise to others. Our words and subsequent actions are a product of this thinking, so in order to make changes, deal with the challenges of life and positively engage and connect to the opportunities that exist we must first reflect on reshaping language that limits us on this journey.

Aimee Mullins’ talk uses her own life experience to illustrate the importance of this point. She herself has a vision of her potential that is not reflected by definitions or labels that others may use. Doorways to authentically engage with life, experience successes and challenges with a positive attitude, and make a difference within her spheres of influence have been opened for her, rather than restricted or closed along the journey. She has been able to move beyond the limits and labels that can be created through the language that we use for ourselves or others around us.

We live in an interdependent world. Each of us is on a journey which can impact our shared potential when we don’t honour the range of capabilities that exist. As Aimee discusses, language allows us to evolve. Adaption has always been central to our life on Earth and is still front and centre today as we evaluate opportunities to best care for humans, animals and the precious environment that sustains our existence. Choices, thoughts, language and actions are made by individuals and groups that can empower creativity, potential and opportunities through connection to self, others and the world around us. Alternatively, by continuing to remain stalled or bogged down in problems and disconnection, individuals and groups limit adaption and what’s possible.

Consider the language we use everyday. Imagine the shift if individually and collectively we used language like opportunities rather than problems. Or as Aimee discusses striving for possibility rather than normalcy, honouring the rare and valuable contribution that each of us is able to make rather than having to fit into a comfortable box that actually limits our potential and ability to connect. I love the way that Aimee describes adversity as just change we haven’t adapted to yet. What can we achieve when we are open and engaged, exploring the possibilities, discovering our potential and then acting authentically? This is our journey, the way we interact with ourselves, others and the world around us, the thoughts, words and actions that make up our days.

“Isn’t it wonderful that none of us need wait a moment before starting to change the world.”

– Anne Frank

We don’t need permission or to wait for a certain time to reshape the language that we use. Each of us can open the door and reshape our own daily thoughts, words and actions. This in turn can as Aimee describes, give the key to others to do the same. We are able to inspire through our own example. Our individual and shared belief in self and others can empower and allow each of us ‘to be the change we wish to see in the world’.

“Thought is the blossom, language the bud, action the fruit behind it”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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