A few years ago, my daughter experienced her first sleep-away camp. I didn’t know what to expect at the time, I hoped it would be an extraordinary experience that would in some way contribute to her growth and development.
To my amazement, she had a great time. It was so much fun that she lamented that she wished she could go back right away!
Even better, she wanted to go back every year, and every year since, it’s been a powerful growth experience.
What was really wonderful at the time though was to see that not only had she had a good time, but she learned some amazing life skills that will truly make a difference in her life for years to come, several of which I have only learned to practice myself most recently!
The first lesson that struck me was not being overcome by “What if?”
Sure, she went in with some trepidation about meeting new people, what if she didn’t fit in, or what if she didn’t know anyone?
But she fully embraced the opportunity.
The day we dropped her off, she simply accepted that she would explore this new experience and see what would come. There were no tears of fear and no clinging to mommy or daddy, just acceptance that what was to come would be a new experience.
The takeaway; “what if?” discussions serve no purpose. At the end of the day, you can’t control everything, so beating yourself up and churning over the possibilities only serves to create stress and discomfort with what is about to come, even if it is not about to come!
If you are going to get stressed, get stressed about what you do know, not about what you don’t know.
The second lesson was that even when you lose or fail in life there is a win or an opportunity that usually comes out of it.
She described a game called “freeze” that they played at the dinner table each night that saw each camper try to outstare the others.
One camper got to shout out “Freeze!” (he/she didn’t have to participate), and then everyone would have to stop moving and the first one to move was the loser.
As the losers, they had to clean up the table after everyone else. But, they also got to be the ones who yelled, “Freeze!” the next day. So losing always led to a little win the next day when you got to be the caller.
Opportunity is often a side effect of failing.
The third lesson was to never think you have won or succeeded until you “know” you’ve won or succeeded.
The camp had a game that campers played on a dock where each person stood at opposite sides of the dock, perched precariously on the balls of their feet while holding a rope between them both. Each had to pull on the rope trying to get the other to somehow fall in the water.
You would lose if you let go of the rope, or fell in the water.
Well, she learned a hard lesson when she thought her opponent had put her full feet on the dock (against the rules) and as she went to point it out, she lost her balance, and the other person took advantage, sending my daughter into the drink!
Never believe you’ve won until you have solid proof!
The fourth lesson she learned was that sometimes you are going to reach higher than you ever have before, and it’s going to feel scary.
Don’t give up.
Pause, take stock, and keep reaching higher, it’s the only way to go.
She was climbing a climbing wall for the third or fourth time in her life, each time having aborted about halfway into the climb. She was scared but she was also only 5 or 6 years old at the time.
This time, being a little older she had developed a little more hutzpah and was going to give it a shot.
She described to me how she got about half the way up and then wanted to stop. She looked down towards the instructor who encouraged her to keep going. With one over-reaching thought of ringing the bell, she pushed through her fear and kept climbing.
She was so proud to tell me she had rung the bell at the top!
She overcame her fear of the unknown.
Did she grow another inch perhaps?
The last lesson she learned is to reflect on and celebrate each day.
Each evening at dinner the campers had to tell everyone their thorn, rose and bud for the day.
The thorn was something that hadn’t worked out for them, the rose was something they most enjoyed about the day, and the bud was what they were looking forward to doing tomorrow.
The opportunity to reflect and re-set for each new day is something we should all do every day, it keeps your subconscious focused on the positive, and not so much dwelling on the negative.
Mindset rules so make yours a positive one!
These five simple practices are life-changing, so wonderful she’s experienced them already at camp, but for those a little older it’s never too late to try.