Blog: Michael Drew on becoming a positive role model
on 01 August, 2014

There’s a saying in the fire service that sometimes you have to slow down in order to speed up. Sometimes when things aren’t going well at a fire scene, we have to take a step back for a moment and regroup. This often results in changing our tactics in order to achieve the desired result of putting out the fire. 

Making these tactical changes midstream is difficult because it means that all the energy we’ve already expended wasn’t enough to get the job done and now we’re faced with even more work for what is hoped will be a better outcome. Abandoning one plan in favour of another is mentally and physically challenging. Consider the similarities when things in your personal life are out of control and you need to step back and regroup.        

The first sign of trouble is when you start feeling sorry for yourself and letting the little things get you down. Maybe you feel discouraged because your department is closing fire stations or cutting back on staffing. Other times you feel as though you aren’t appreciated for the things you do. Perhaps you are questioning what else you can do to add meaning to your life. These personal reflections can signal a time for a change. If you find yourself questioning your sense of self-worth, it may be time to change tactics; to slow down in your personal life in order to speed up again.

To do this, let’s go back to the reasons you entered this line of work in the first place. Chances are you really enjoy helping people and feel a genuine sense of purpose when serving your community. You knew back then that you weren’t going to get rich becoming a firefighter but would receive something far better than pay; the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life.  Helping people in this capacity is certainly noble, but is firefighting the only way to achieve this? What if you could experience a sense of purpose on your days off too, by donating a little of your time and talent to someone in need? As a mental health counselor, I believe in the therapeutic value of helping people who are less fortunate. Serving others can broaden your perspective, resulting in a deeper appreciation for what you have as opposed to focusing on what you are lacking. In essence, your helping others results in helping yourself.

You can start by looking into areas that have personal significance for you. For example, there are many organizations that seek dependable people with good listening skills who mentor youths to stay in school. Matching firefighters with at-risk youths is a natural fit because students look up to firefighters and appreciate having a positive role model. There are a staggering number of youths dropping out of school and having positive adult mentors available to help them can make a significant difference in reducing this problem. According to Dropout Prevention, over 1.3 million students drop out of school every year in the US Similarly, Data 360 reports that in Europe, an average of 12% of all high school students will drop out without graduating.

Many of these youths are marginalised by poverty, unstable family supports, and a lack of access to helping services. If you could give just an hour of your time each week to serve as a dependable student mentor, you could be the difference in helping a student succeed in school while providing yourself the personal satisfaction that comes from doing something meaningful; the very same values that brought you into the fire service to begin with. As a mentor, you can experience something life-changing while also representing your department in your community. By slowing down your personal life to help someone in need, you can speed up the personal fulfillment that comes with making a difference. 

References:

http://www.data360.org/dsg.aspx?Data_Set_Group_Id=1653

http://www.dropoutprevention.org/statistics

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