campfire marshmallows

The Advantages of Being a Girl Guide

lifelessons work Mar 30, 2024

I was riding a bike through a rainstorm in the Netherlands, trying to read a map to find my way back to the rental shed, and was thrown back to a childhood memory of orienteering on a Nova Scotia springtime day.  The chill rain, the feeling of bewilderment as I struggled to understand the paper I was holding up, the need to complete the task - it was all very familiar.   I spent some formative years as a Girl Guide (Girl Scouts for folks in the US and other parts of the world), and as the rain dripped off my hood, I reflected on how some of the lessons from those days are still serving me well, particularly as a midlife professional woman. From the motto "Be Prepared", to the art of selling cookies, to an occasional urge to buy a souvenir embroidered patch when visiting somewhere new, the Girl Guide experience equipped me with a set of skills and perspectives that have come in surprisingly useful.

First and foremost, the Girl Guide motto "Be Prepared" has taken on a whole new meaning in midlife. Long gone are the days of packing a backpack with essentials for a weekend camping trip. Now, being prepared means going to bed positively early, making sure I have some kind of period protection packed, even if it’s been 2 months since I’ve had one, and starting my day with exercise to quieten my anxiety gremlins.

Another valuable lesson from Girl Guide days? The art of the sales pitch. Those mortifying and terrifying hours spent peddling cookies door-to-door prepared me for the boardroom and beyond. I know how to read an audience, to strategically choose my moments, and close the deal.  As an introvert, any version of cookie-selling has never come easily to me – but when I link the difficult task to a greater good, it does become easier.  Also…cookies.  They’re good, right?  Sugar in any format does seem to help meetings go more smoothly.  

And let's not forget the merit badges. While I may not be earning physical badges anymore (damn!), the pursuit of personal and professional challenge remains a constant in my life. Whether it's learning a new skill, trying out something as a creative pursuit, or starting running for the 14th time, I approach these opportunities with the same enthusiasm and determination I had when earning those coveted patches. I have a real completer-finisher streak in me that was ignited in my guiding years.

Then there’s camping.  And you know what guides taught me?  I don’t like it.  I didn’t then and I don’t now.  I actually wonder if it was a former guide that first came up with the concept of glamping.  Because I’m not against the concept of spending time outdoors.  But I AM against being cold and damp.  I AM against unnecessary discomfort.  In my working life this translated into paying real attention to every part of the working environment and how we worked – I made sure my team were taking vacation and that overtime was occasional if at all.  I cared what is going on in people’s lives outside the office and thought about how the organisation might be able to support when times are tough.  How the employer thinks about these things is a key factor in employee burnout – as senior leaders, we are in a position to experiment with, promote and insist upon ways of working that support our employees.  Where it’s feasible and sensible to lean towards a glamping experience and away from a leaky tent in a rainstorm, that’s what we need to be doing – for others and for ourselves. 

Perhaps the most tricky lesson of the Girl Guide experience is about the power of sisterhood. One should say that the bonds forged over campfires and craft projects have a way of lasting a lifetime.  But you know what?  That wasn’t true for me, and probably most pudgy, shy little kids.  Sisterhood can be affirming and uplifting.  It can also, just as easily, be isolating and diminishing. As midlife professional women, we certainly understand and give lip-service to the importance of surrounding ourselves with a supportive network of like-minded individuals, but it is often easier said than done.  Relationships, families, differing career trajectories, different life paths, can all cause rifts and drifts in our friendships. When I think about this, the lesson I’m left with has two parts – firstly, the lesson is right; we are stronger together.  Secondly, it takes work, humility, and vulnerability to keep the sisterhood alive.  In the business of midlife, it’s all too easy to set that aside, unfortunately. 

However, if all else fails, remember:  if you were one of us, you've always got a trusty supply of campfire songs and s'mores recipes to fall back on. Because sometimes, the key to thriving in midlife is simply embracing your inner Girl Guide and letting your sense of adventure (and humour) lead the way.

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from The Midlife Now.

We hate Spam. We will never sell or share your information, for any reason.