Scouters encourage and assess Scout Spirit in Scouts, but how often do we apply that same scrutiny to examine our own attitudes and actions?
Speaking for myself; I don’t always live up to what I’d consider an ideal expression of Scout spirit; but I doubt anyone does either.
How do we build Scout Spirit in ourselves? Think of it in terms of first aid training.
Exercise Rational Control
While we can’t control what happens around us, we can control how we react.
If someone’s clothing catches on fire their first reaction is running away from the flames, an objectively irrational, but predictable response. To counter that irrational response we teach people a rational alternative; “stop, drop and roll”.
When Scouters find themselves in a emotionally or physically challenging situation we should apply the same rationale; stop, drop and roll.
Of course I am not suggesting you literally drop to the ground and start rolling around (although you may feel like doing just that sometimes!); but intentionally reacting with Scout spirit, not the just the first thing that comes to mind.
In first aid our initial task is gaining control of the situation. If we succumb to panic or emotional reactions instead of gaining rational control we can’t render effective first aid.
When faced with challenges and difficulties our initial task is reacting intentionally with Scout spirit. If we succumb to an emotional reaction instead the problems just grow worse.
Controlling our reactions doesn’t magically transform bad to good, but it does affect the way we’ll arrive at resolutions to difficult circumstances.
Be Intentionally Positive
I don’t know about you; but I can be pretty reactive. Faced with difficulties the first reaction that crosses my mind is usually negative. But I don’t have to accept that first reaction, I know I can choose to react positively if I do the mental equivalent of the “stop, drop, and roll.”
I’d really rather not wake to a steady rain on a Sunday morning camping with Scouts; but it’s bound to happen. I’d really rather not show up at a Troop meeting to find that the Scouts have no plan and no idea what to do; but it happens.
In either of these scenarios (and dozens of other common difficulties a Scouter will encounter again and again) I can choose to respond negatively or positively.
If I catch myself reacting negatively I’ll try to stop (this get’s better with practice) and take the time to think. I’ll try to step back and gain a little perspective on the situation and shape a positive reaction.
This doesn’t mean I’ll go skipping out of my tent into the rain smiling, but it does mean I will consciously choose to meet a difficult situation with a positive attitude. I can’t actually stop the rain, and it would be foolish to deny it’s pouring, but if I try I can find genuine joy and positive motivation somewhere in the whole mess.
This is not always easy, but it is always possible.
More often than not if I extend the effort to control my reactions, think things through, gain some perspective, and shape an intentionally positive response I have a better time, and so do my Scouts.
In the first minutes following an auto accident people are in a state of shock and confusion. First responders take control of the situation to prevent further injuries and begin rendering aid to the victims.
Every so often Scouts do something irrational, out of character, or just plain foolish. At that moment the adults around them are going to be in a state of shock and confusion that prevents them from shaping a rational response. Hopefully one of them will have the presence of mind to take control of the situation to prevent complicating things further.
In the same way that first responders train themselves to react to the scene of an accident we ought to be intentional how we’ll react to difficult situations with Scouts.
Who takes control of the situation? What are the first steps in triaging the damage? How will the whole mess be resolved?
If the adults trusted with the well-being of a group of Scouts don’t discuss this sort of thing there’s a pretty even chance that the initial reaction to problems won’t be very rational or helpful.
The temptation is to form some sort of written policy or plan, but I warn against it. Scout spirit can’t be quantified and defined in a policy statement, it needs breathing room to deal with individual Scouts and circumstances.
I think it would be much more useful for adults to sit down and discuss how they will apply Scout spirit when difficulties arise.
Aim at understanding principles rather than creating a list of rules.
Applying first aid rationally doesn’t just happen, we have to familiarize ourselves with the principles involved and practice them.
Applying Scout spirit is no different.
This is great, Clarke. If I’m getting it, in first aid we’re taught to take a deep breath, assess the situation, and determine the best course of action. In real life, emotional, situations we often don’t do this. We either jump into action before understanding the situation or as you said we run, pants on fire, away from the situation in many cases making worse. In first aid we are also, often, taught to do no harm. When life gets emotional we often do more harm before even realizing it because we haven’t thought through our response. We haven’t asked “how do I use Scout spirit in this situation?”
Funny how it all makes perfect sense with the luxury of hindsight. The trick is, again as you said, to build it into our nature to apply Scout spirit to everyday encounters. Thanks for another timely post. You gave me something to think about, something to work on, and even some ideas for a Scoutmasters minute.
Great analogies. Thanks, Clarke.