A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. That's the Boy Scout law, memorized by every scout and recited at nearly every event. It's a powerful reminder of the qualities a scout is known for, and quite a challenge to live up to.
I joined the Boy Scouts of America at age 12, eventually earning the rank of Eagle the day before my 18th birthday (the last possible day to be awarded the achievement). As a Boy Scout, I was taught some foundational principles early on that helped me transform from boy to man. A few of these stick out as key lessons for anyone seeking to make a difference in the world.
1. Be prepared
The Boy Scout motto brings with it a sense of expectation and responsibility. Every day, at any moment, you may be faced with emergency situations or unexpected setbacks. You could fail a test, run into someone in need, or witness a car accident. Regardless of what happens, be prepared. You are not helpless, and the best way to stay in charge of your life and take control during adversity is to be ready for whatever may come. Plan for the unexpected.
2. Do a good turn daily
I used to think the slogan was a bit cheesy, but somehow it got through to me. The idea is simple: the smallest good deed can impact someone's life more than you know. Behind that message lies the revelation that your actions matter. You've been given the power to change lives (which should both embolden and terrify you), and you have a responsibility to use it. Servant-hearted generosity builds up others, while at the same time instilling in you a deep sense of worth and appreciation. Empathy matters.
3. Leave it better than you found it
Taken from a closing line of the Boy Scout founder‘s final letter to all scouts, this message applies to much more than campsite clean-up. What world you were born into may be beyond your control, but what is in your control is your impact on a piece of that world. If you make an effort to leave a positive impact on every situation or person you cross paths with, you're doing your part to create a better future.
These three instructions—be prepared, do a good turn daily, and leave it better than you found it—are effective because they empower incremental change. For each of these, every small effort builds on top of the last towards a more positive life in a more positive world.
What small changes have you tried which made a big difference in someone's life?