As you may already know, I am a big believer in the power of summer camps. Every summer I take time away to return to a favorite summer camp and invest in future leaders.
Each morning I lead yoga and start the day focusing on a specific camp value (integrity, health, courage, inclusion, play, stewardship, family, leadership, and acceptance) and ask campers how they will embody that value today. Together we celebrate the ways we have aligned with them as we hiked, canoed, and swam around our tiny cabin-lined lake site.
Learning to align our espoused and aspirational values (the ways we hope to be in the world) with our daily actions is learning to live with integrity.
These awesome teens learn important skills and gain confidence every year. It is an honor to behold their growth over the course of two weeks.
But camp isn't just great for youth. Getting away to reflect, be in nature, and focus on core values is critical to living with intention and integrity every day for adults too (that's why I lead retreats).
So I am taking this month (while I am away at camp) to write you letters home about camp values each week with the hope you can take a minute to imagine yourself among the doug fir with me, singing campfire songs, and reflecting on the way your values influence daily action.
I wanted to start with one of the most important values for daily wellness, personal growth, and relationship development. I am starting with it because I see it everywhere I look at camp. I am talking about courage.
Showing up, authenticity, and courage
Courage is complex, because we assign a lot of silly stories to it. We imagine the cowardly lion learning to roar, a last minute hail-mary winning a football game, or a valiant soldier in a military conflict.
I am not going to suggest any of those are not courageous, but our cultural stories about courage limit us in seeing other places where true courage shows up. Part of the beauty and inspiration I see at camp each year is in the willingness of so many young people to show up bravely in their authentic selves among people they barely know.
When we envision courage, we rarely envision a scrawny 8-year old, clutching a sandwich and a sports drink about to board the bus for her first night away from camp.
When we limit the definition of courage in our stories we limit our ability to recognize it in ourselves and those around us.
When was the last time you tried something new?
Just showing up for their first night away from home is an act of courage for some of the 8 year old campers each year. So is donning swimwear at the swim dock, the non-athletes trying out kickball, and the non-artist who creates their first masterpiece collage.
Trying something new is always risky, and often involves emotional exposure. We feel vulnerable in these moments and as we age we start avoiding them completely.
But at camp everyone is encouraged to try new things. We make mistakes, we make ugly art, we get dirty, we fall down, we cheer, cry, and hug. Celebrating the slips in the process is art of how we make it safe to try.
Ask yourself, What do you need to feel safe to try?
When was the last time you brought your whole self to the table?
I see courage everywhere at camp, but my favorite moments are during the talent show. I think it's because I have always been a singer, but over time I stopped singing in front of other people. I miss it and I mostly only sing now at camp- even there it takes great courage for me.
Every year we have campers who forget words, who panic and stop playing piano mid-performance, who dance off-beat, and sing off key. But every year there are so many of these campers who keep singing, who start playing again, and who dare to do so unabashedly.
What would it take for you to try again?
And every year there is a camp community watching, whispering "you can do it" and "do you want help?" in the tense mid-performance silence. We are here for you.
Having a community of support is critical for bravery, authenticity, and innovation. As we dare, we fall, and we get back up, this community sees us in all our imperfect beauty and supports us on our way.
Who has your back amid mistakes? Who do you hold as they dare to try again?
I hope these thoughts on courage inspire you while I am away at camp. If you want to spend some time focusing on courage with me when I get back, join me at one of the Daring Way events I am hosting this fall specifically focusing on courage, authenticity, and integrity.