Tag Archive for 'Be Better'

The Space Between

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Years ago, I chased the dream of making the US Olympic Track & Field team in the 3000 meter steeplechase. One warm April evening in Southern California, the night before an important race, I was reading a book that a favorite college professor had recommended – Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl.

My eyes fell upon a single paragraph that was so compelling, so astounding, so memorable that it has profoundly influenced the rest of my life.  That paragraph conveyed a profound idea.

“Between Stimulus and response there is a space.   In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response.  In our responselies our growth and our happiness.”

I was overwhelmed by that idea. It meant that I was not bound by my upbringing, my current habits or my future circumstances. It meant that I always have the power of choice – no matter what.

I was alone, in a hotel room, but I wanted to find someone to share it with.  I reflected on it again and again, bathing in the joyful freedom of it.  The more I pondered over it, the more I realized that I could choose responses that would even affect the stimulus itself.  I could become a causative force of nature in my own right.

My commitment to live in alignment with this powerful principle has been challenged many times – especially last week.

My 16-year-old son Jacob is a cross-country state champion.  I was running a difficult 1000 meter repeat workout with him.  The kid is fast!  It was all I could do to run every other interval with him. I struggled at the edge of my pain threshold. I was running much faster than my fitness level should permit.

Near the end of the second to last interval, I noticed that Jacob’s running form was beginning to suffer.  In his fatigue, he was forcing it, tightening up, over striding. Through gasping breaths, I reminded him, “stay loose – don’t muscle it – use your arms more – shorten your stride.” In the midst of my wise admonitions, he growled, “Will you just shut up?”

My first inclination was to react in anger.  Here I was busting my hump – risking heart attack – trying to help my ungrateful son through a very difficult and important workout.  How could he show such disrespect and ingratitude!

I felt like dropping back and walking off. Then I remembered my freedom to choose and resolved to lengthen the space between his stimulus – and my response.

Instead of lashing back at my son, or walking off leaving him to struggle on alone, I continued to run with him, offering an occasional cheerful encouragement.

200 meters later he said, “Sorry Dad.”  During the 90 second rest before the start of our last interval, he tried to explain his reaction.  I put my arm around him.  “No worries, bro. We’ll work together and finish strong.”

After the workout, Jacob was still contrite.  He again apologized for his retort and asked for my ideas about handling fatigue as he runs deeper into his workouts.  On our cool-down, we had a great discussion – not only about the biomechanics of efficient running, but also how we have power to call the shots in our running and how we run our lives. Because I chose to act constructively instead of reacting destructively, the warmth and closeness of our relationship was restored and even strengthened.

It’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment and say things we will regret. What we need is a pause button. And we have one. A wonderful little mechanism located somewhere near the heart.  It helps us pause between what happens to us and our reaction to it – and gives us time to choose a better response.

Therein lies our freedom and our happiness.

Interfere for Good

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A subtle but powerful message nestles among the pages of Charles Dickens’s classic tale, “A Christmas Carol” – a message that most readers miss.

 The ghost, Jacob Marley, brings Ebenezer Scrooge to the window and shows him a sobering sight: “The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither…  Every one of them wore chains like Marley’s… The air was filled with lamentation and regret…”

Were they miserable because they had been “sinners” in mortality and now must carry burdens of guilt and chains of selfishness forever?  Surprisingly, no.  Dickens says, “The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power forever.”


They were doomed to wander to and fro witnessing the pain and sadness in the world that they could have done something about when they were mortal; but now, since they were ghosts, without physical substance, they were powerless to alleviate the suffering they witnessed… 


…at least that is what they believed; but, through his skillfully crafted story, Dickens suggests a deeper message.


The spirits weren’t powerless, they only thought they were.  Jacob Marley unwittingly proved them wrong.  He was so focused on helping his self-centered and deeply sad partner, that he broke through his own limiting beliefs in his powerlessness and released Scrooge from his prison of greed and selfishness.  Without fully realizing what he had done, Jacob Marley blessed both their lives – and the lives of all whom Scrooge served from that day forth.


What then held powerless the other spirits that wandered mournfully through the night?  Ghostly chains – chains without substance – that is all.  It was only their belief that they could do nothing that held them back.  After all, weren’t the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future also spirits?  And didn’t they – like Marley – interfere for good in the life of Ebenezer Scrooge? 


As it was with them, so it is with us. Whether spirit or mortal, we are more powerful than we realize. “God bless(es) us every one” with opportunities to interfere for good. We are limited only by our belief that our opportunities are limited.


Now, you might be broke as broke can be; but, is there someone who needs a smile or an encouraging word?  Is there someone you haven’t thanked recently for how they bless your life?  Have you felt impressed to pause in your busy day and do some act of kindness that you really don’t have time to do?  Where does that impression come from?  Perhaps it comes from a wandering phantom who is finally breaking the ghostly chains of self-limiting beliefs and is interfering for good – through you. 


Let us “honor Christmas in our hearts and try to keep it all the year” always seeking opportunities to interfere for good.




One of my best friends, my editor and coach, Tom Cantrell contributed this piece. He says it is my Christmas present.  Thanks for sharing Tom, and - “God bless us, every one.”

Stop Doing List


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Have you ever written a To Do List? It is no secret that a To Do List is an effective tool for increasing focus and productivity. Some are so obsessive about this, if they accomplish a task that isn’t on their list, they write it down so they can enjoy the satisfaction of checking it off!

How about an idea not so well known? This idea can also have a dramatic effect on how we live and what we accomplish. Business author, Joe Calloway, suggests that along with our To Do List, we should create a To Stop Doing List.

This is a list of things to stop doing; things to stop wasting our time and attention on; things to give up; things to let go of. This list may include grudges we are holding onto, a general attitude of negativity, poor habits, things we do or think or feel, that steal our time and energy. As Joe Calloway said, “…things to stop doing.”

Things to stop doing? Does this sound negative? A photographer friend of mine told me wryly, “Brad, sometimes you need a good clear negative to get a positive picture.”