Scouting For the Long Haul
When Baden-Powell wrote Scouting for Boys, he heavily emphasized that one of the attributes Scouts should strive for is endurance:
A Scout saying is “Never say die till you’re dead”— and if he acts up to this, it will pull him out of many a bad place when everything seems to be going wrong for him. It means a mixture of pluck, patience, and strength, which we call “endurance.”
It is such an important things for Scouts to have, that I wrote about it in my Keystones of a Scout series.
When people think of endurance, they often think of being able to run a marathon or go on a super long hike. Although having physical endurance is important for Scouts; it doesn’t stop there. Having a persevering character is extremely important for anyone doing Scouting.
Why? Because true Scouting isn’t something that is built overnight. It’s not a formula; it’s not a list of metrics or numbers or achievements. It’s about the growth of individual Scouts and the building of good Troop and Patrol cultures. These, by nature, are things that take place over a longer period of time.
If this message is spread among new volunteers, it will greatly benefit Scouting. It will mean less frustration created by unrealistic expectations and more of a focus on what’s really important in Scouting.
Scouting isn’t a task to be accomplished. It’s not like school where you eventually graduate. While the goal of College is the degree at the end, the goal of Scouting isn’t the Eagle Scout badge of the B.S.A. (or highest rank of another organization).
This is very important to remember, because it’s so easy to get caught up in that way of thinking. I’ve known so many Scouts and Scouters who look at Scouting in exactly that way. As a consequence, it becomes a race for Scouts to get to Eagle, then afterward their interest in Scouting disappears.
On the Scoutmaster side, the focus is how many Eagles their Troop can produce. If something doesn’t seem productive at earning rank requirements, it goes to the bottom of the priority list, no matter how important it might be to Troop culture or character building.
No, instead of that way of looking at things, it is important to remember that Scouting is an applied character code – a way of living. There is no completion or graduation of a Scout, there are just different stages and different applications of the principles.
It’s an over-used metaphor, but Scouting is a marathon. The way marathoners prevent burning themselves out is by pacing themselves and having a long-term mindset.
This is what has to be done to prevent Scouting burn-out. Being involved in Scouting isn’t easy, especially if you’re setting high standards. You can go into it completely ‘gung-ho’ then get burned out and disillusioned when results don’t happen right away and things don’t progress as fast as desired.
So pace yourself! Make rough long-term plans and put them on paper. Though they will often change, it helps to keep a big-picture perspective. Make a habit of reviewing the big picture and coming up with creative ways of helping to bring it about. Take one thing at a time and never lose your contagious enthusiasm!
Have a long-term mindset. You’re in it to win it for the long haul. By contributing little-by-little, week-by-week, it all adds up, and a first-rate Scout Troop slowly rises out of the dust!