Tag Archives: boy scout

Walking in Circles

Did you know that we walk in circles? Without a visual reference to follow, we will walk in circles (“We can’t help walking in circles”), research has proven it. I learned of this fallacy in boy scouts. On the first weekend camping trip our Scout leader instructed us on how to use a compass, but also informed us of the tendency to walk in circles. Especially if we got lost and panic set in. 

One of the reasons we walk in a circle is because of the imperfections in our gait. I personally know that my left foot hits at an outward angle greater than my right foot. Another factor that contributes to us walking in a circle is not having a clear visual cue to follow and adjust to. This was an important factor when I was in boy scouts and we would go hiking in the woods.  Hard to see the sun, and the trees started to look the same, especially when we would be in a dense part of the woods. A compass was an important tool but we also learned how to use the landscape around us to stay on track.

I’ve been thinking about this phenomenon because I’ve noticed we can walk in circles in emotional and mental ways, too. I see it in students, adults, and the culture. Walking around and around, just repeating the same thoughts and emotions. People are in motion, so they feel like they are getting somewhere, but in fact all they are doing is covering the same ground. When nothing changes, panic sets in. Anger and frustration sets in. And then things just get worse, and someone can spend years, decades, covering the same ground, over and over and over.

The most important factor needed to keep from walking in a circle is having a clear visual cue. This allows you to adjust your path. The same holds true for our mental or emotional paths. These markers can be developed in different ways. My family decides on a word each year. I have constructed a vision board before. Or simply writing down a goal on a 3 x 5 card and taping it to a mirror is a cue. It allows you to adjust your path.

The marker has to be visible, though. Too many times we simply state a change we want in our mind, or we know we need to be a better person, yet we just keep that in our hearts. And then we walk in circles because we have no visual cue to help us adjust our steps. 

Without any guidance we all walk in circles. Even if we are walking with someone. Our lives are meant to be traveled across the landscape. That is the beauty of life, the places we go and the scenery of the world around us. Same holds true for our mind and soul, for our emotions and wonderment. But we need a visual cue to keep us on track, whatever that cue may be. So find it, write it down, print it out, set it and start walking toward an incredible life.


Filed under Family, Life

A Spark

From a Spark

I was a boy scout in elementary school in Minneapolis, Minn. We went camping once every month. Yes, even in January. We had to plan our meals, decide on job duties, plan a route for hiking, not to mention build a fire. To build a fire properly takes the right environment.  A clean level spot. A ring of dirt or stones was advised in my day.  You will need the correct wood, tinder, kindling and fuel wood. There are a number of ways to arrange the wood. I usually used the lean-to arrangement. But most importantly you need a spark. Nothing works without a spark.

Everyday I see articles and inspirational photos about finding your passion. The messages from these post are great. But they set an expectation of going from nothing to a full fledge fire. It doesn’t work that way. You have to have a spark. And once that spark is alive, it must be nurtured or else it will be extinguished before it can ignite a fire.

I have seen this human spark start a change in people but falter before it could make a lasting effect on their life. I have seen it in the classroom. I have heard it in colleagues voices. There are things that start a spark in all of us. But instead of fostering that spark to a raging fire, the spark flares up for a day or maybe a week and is gone. Until something ignites the spark and the cycle continues.

There are some things I learned as a boy scout that might get that spark to catch fire. I wish I could guarantee you will find your passion and life becomes one of those inspirational photos, but I spent enough time trying to get a fire going in the winters of Minnesota to know that nothing is guaranteed. But I hope I can share some ideas with you to make a positive difference in your life. Let’s see if we can get that spark to a fire.

Work and Patience

The first aspect is patience and work. You can build the perfect lean-to, have dry, combustible tinder and the first spark doesn’t catch. Maybe it was the wind. Maybe it burned the tinder too fast.  Maybe it started to rain. There are too many external factors to name that have the power to extinguish a spark. Same holds true in our life. I love to write, and I have so many ideas (sparks), but life just gets in the way.

If the first spark doesn’t catch, you try again. And again. And again. Even when a spark catches the tinder you have to work at keeping it burning until it catches the kindling. I remember huddled down around the small flame, hands spread out like bird wings trying to protect the flame from the wind. Sometimes gently blowing onto the flame so it would catch another twig on fire. It takes patience and work to get that spark to a level that it is ready for fuel wood.

Whatever sparks your heart, if you are not willing to work at it, you will never reach that level of passion in your life. You have to work and you have to have patience. You have to make time to work at that spark.

The Right Fuel

Once that spark has become a fire, it needs the right fuel. You would think any wood would work for a fire, but no. Each type of wood has their own properties for factors like heat, smoke, and coaling. Some are better for cooking, while others create a great campfire mood with intense flames and sparks.

There is not an easy answer for what fuel you need to make your spark into a fire. Factors to consider regarding this include time, finances, a mentor, and schooling. The hurdle for many people at this stage is the What now? question. No campfire keeps burning without someone looking after it. Nobody succeeds alone. Take the time and be honest in considering what or who you need to succeed. What will it take to keep the fire burning? Then collect the right fuel to keep your goals going.

The Fire is Out

Someone might be thinking, ‘I had the passion, in fact things were going well, but I still failed. The fire is out.’  I understand.  Believe me I know the feeling. But don’t just throw away this post just yet.

Every morning we would start our breakfast fire from the coals left over from the night before. It would take a little work and patience but in no time we were cooking eggs and bacon. The embers of our failures can be the “spark” to new adventures, new goals. Those new goals still need work and patience. They will need the right fuel. But you can take those coals from a past spark to start a new fire.
Share with me how your spark became a fire.

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