Camp Woodland Blog

Simple vs Easy

Posted by on June 30, 2023

A blog I recently read by Growing Leaders really grabbed me because “simple” vs “easy” is something that I think so many people struggle with (myself included). Author Dr Tim Elmore points out that “it’s important to recognize the psychological difference between simplifying life and making life easier. Nearly every student (and adult, for that matter) should work to simplify their busy and complicated lives today. But nobody becomes the best version of themselves when life is easy. We don’t grow. We don’t learn. We don’t improve.”

He further clarifies that: 

  1. Simplifying life is about removing unnecessary complexities that cause undue stress. 
  2. Making life easier is about removing challenges that youth actually need to grow. 

Tim Elmore believes “the need of the hour is for caring adults (teachers, coaches, employers, and parents, caregivers) to enable students to cut back and simplify their complicated lives, but not remove the challenges they must face. Simplifying life means removing the clutter. We should do that. Making life easier means removing the very hardships that enable them to mature and prepare for what’s ahead.” 

I would add that camp leaders and staff have joined the caring adults team that is looking after and impacting young people (YOUR child/ren). At Woodland, we do one (simplify) but the exact opposite of the other (remove challenges). Simplifying life and removing “clutter” is part of the DNA of summer camp. This is especially true at Camp Woodland. Each camper has a limited amount of “stuff” that came with them (enough clothes to get through 8 days or so until laundry is sent out). There is a modest, shared indoor space for sleeping and hanging out that becomes “home” for six weeks. Did I mention that campers share a bathroom (hello quick showers!)?! Once a day the cabin is “inspected” by the nurse and OD (CIT who is officer of the day) for physical clutter and awarded points for cleanliness and tidiness (spoiler alert: this will carry over into home life for a period of time!). 

We also simplify other kinds of clutter. Three meals a day (and various snack opportunities) provide nourishment for active days. Trips to Starbucks, Chick Fil-A, or other establishments are not necessary. Campers are able to choose six daily activities for two weeks at a time without any carpools, public transportation, or caregiver chauffeuring required. A break from school, homework, tests, grades, sports and other activities provides a much needed reprieve from the “busyness” of family life. 

Rest hour (my personal favorite) is incorporated into the everyday schedule. We pause mid-day to catch a breather, slow down, and find a place of calm before the next round of camp fun. Last, but certainly not least, technology is completely removed from the equation (that alone simplifies and declutters life tremendously!). Snail mail, Bunk Notes, photos on SmugMug, the occasional post on FaceBook or Instagram, weekly newsletters and blogs seem to do just fine for any news that needs to be shared with the outside world (YOU!). 

It is evident that camp life in general at Woodland certainly simplifies things. What I would really like to dive into (and most likely why you sent your camper/s to us); however, is how we embrace challenges as opportunities to grow instead of avoiding or eliminating them. This is where things may not be easy. Things may even get a little hard and messy. And, that’s perfectly OK. Dr. Elmore reminds us that, “Nobody becomes the best version of themselves when life is easy. We don’t grow. We don’t learn. We don’t improve.

In some ways, the really hard part is behind us. The act of physically getting to camp (anticipating the experience, packing for 6 weeks of extreme weather conditions, saying goodbye to family and friends, leaving the comfort of a private room/bathroom, making the journey to the Northwoods by planes, trains, and automobiles, etc) can test even the toughest of tough. Homesickness often makes an appearance for new campers during the initial adjustment phase, and it can sneak up on even the most experienced veterans. Easy?! I don’t think so! 

Campers typically resort to what is familiar and comfortable at the beginning of the season – activities (what they already know how to do), foods (anything that resembles Mom’s cooking), and friends (people from home or cabin group if a first time camper). Being almost a week into the summer, the “newness” of camp is starting to wear off a little. Campers are getting into the flow of the routines of camp, navigating the lay of the land, learning the cadence of their daily schedule of activities, acclimating to the habits of cabinmates and group living, and putting trust in the counselors at the helm of their care. 

This is where the opportunities for growth really challenge what could be seen as “easy”. This is where we see campers start to put a baby toe out of their “comfort zone”. This could look like trying a new food, meeting a camper from a different cabin, or setting goals for activities (cantering in riding, nailing a back walkover in gymnastics, getting a lead part in a play, hitting the target in archery, mastering a killer serve in tennis, trying sailing for the first time, kneeling in riflery, and much, much more!).  

As a rule and part of the “magic” of camp, is that we don’t remove all difficulties or push them out of the way on purpose. Let me say that again. We don’t remove all difficulties or push them out of the way ON PURPOSE. Will campers be successful on the first try? (Probably not.) Make mistakes? (Heck, yea.) Get frustrated? (Absolutely.) Experience disappointments? (For sure.) Come out as better people in the end? (Just wait till August!)

Do we as camp leaders and staff leave the scene and hope for the best? (Not a chance!) Do we guide, encourage and support? (Most definitely!) Are we looking for signs of progress or success? (In both small and big ways!) In a way, the leaders and staff are like training wheels and are there if needed and able to be removed when the time is right.

In conclusion, Tim Elmore reminds us, “To simple, say ‘yes.’ To easy, say ‘no.’ Don’t reduce the difficulty. Reduce the volume.” Camp reduces life’s “clutter” and “noise”, AND our job is to foster growth in every possible way (embracing challenges is part of that). We WANT kids to grow, learn, and improve on their journey to becoming the best version of themselves while they are with us!

We are super excited for our 54th season – thanks for sharing your camper/s with us!

p.s . I HIGHLY recommend that anyone who is in/directly part of the village it takes to raise young people today subscribes to Tim Elmore’s Growing Leaders blog!