Do you act or react?

Do you act or react?
I like this story told by Dallin H. Oaks…
“I recall a memorable lesson I learned from Chicago Daily News columnist Sydney J. Harris. He wrote:
“I walked with my friend, a Quaker, to the newsstand the other night, and he bought a paper, thanking the newsie politely. The newsie didn’t even acknowledge it.
“‘A sullen fellow, isn’t he?’ I commented.
“‘Oh, he’s that way every night,’ shrugged my friend.
“‘Then why do you continue to be so polite to him?’ I asked.
“‘Why not?’ inquired my friend. ‘Why should I let him decide how I’m going to act?’
“As I thought about this incident later, it occurred to me that the important word was ‘act.’ My friend acts toward people; most of us react toward them. He has a sense of inner balance which is lacking in most of us; he knows who he is, what he stands for, how he should behave. He refuses to return incivility for incivility, because then he would no longer be in command of his conduct” (“Do You Act—Or React?” condensed from the Chicago Daily News).”
Reflecting on this story, it challenges each of us to focus our attention on the individual responses that we must make, to the personal adversities sure to impact upon each of us throughout our lives – sometimes even daily!


Each of us have the power to choose what to do, in essence to act, and not simply be acted upon.
In most encounters in life, it is my sense that we can determine the kind of experience we are going to have by how we respond.
How we choose to act and behave ultimately shapes our character. Charles A. Hall aptly described that due process in these lines:
– We sow our thoughts, and we reap our actions;
– We sow our actions, and we reap our habits;
– We sow our habits, and we reap our characters;
– We sow our characters, and we reap our destiny”
May we always remember that “A soft answer turneth away wrath.”- Proverbs 15:1
How can you choose to act and not be acted upon?

A big stick!

You’re safe, I’m not going to hit you with this big stick!

Do you remember the Stephen Covey quote “When you pick up one end of the stick, you pick up the other.”

Many years ago, whilst walking home with our golden Labrador Shane, he found a big stick and was determined to carry it all the way home.  A fence with a narrow opening became a massive problem for Shane.  Carrying the stick, no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get through, as the stick was longer than the narrow opening in the fence.  Several attempts at manoeuvring his head and his body in different directions, proved unsuccessful – he couldn’t do it.  Eventually, I took the stick from his mouth, carried it through the fence and gave it back to him on the other side.

I have never forgotten that experience with Shane.  I remember watching him try over and over again.  It was only when I intervened, was the obstacle overcome.

So it is with all of our choices in life.

We are free to choose our actions – “you pick up one end of the stick” but if we think that those choices are simply isolated to us alone – we are mistaken “you [also] pick up the other [end of the stick]”.

Both ends of the stick came with Shane that day.  The consequences quickly followed.

What are the consequences of whatever “stick” you choose to action and pick up today?

Do you see?

Are you quick to observe?

It was 1972 – one Sunday morning, I was a youngster and I’d determined not to go to Church with the other members of my family. Apparently, I had a bit of a reputation for running away on Sunday mornings and hung out with other friends. However, as I remember it, toward the end of the service that day, I’d walked in, sat down on a chair, and fell asleep!

The distance from our home at the time to Church was several miles and back then we’d take the bus. I recall being asked “How did you manage to find your way here?” I replied “I just walked along the route the bus took!” Little did I know then, as I do now that, “the route the bus took” was anything but direct, and added at least 2 miles on the journey!

As a young child, observation was a key learning outcome – and so it is in life. Had I not been observant on my previous bus journeys – I’d never have reached my destination that day. When we are quick to observe, we promptly look or notice and obey.

Dennis Waitley said “we learn by observation, imitation and repetition”

There are lots of examples of observational learning. Pay close attention to all that goes on today, pause, reflect and observe – you’ll soon see what I mean!

The inner chimp

What happened to Rory McIlroy? Day 1, destruction +8, Day 2, brilliance -6, how can that be?

Yesterday, I was out golfing for the first time in nearly 2 years. It was a lot of fun. I wasn’t expecting too much – and that was exactly what happened! But I got to thinking about the challenges of what goes on in our thoughts, that directly affect our actions.

In The Chimp Paradox, Dr. Steve Peters illustrates the neuroscience behind the complex inner workings of the brain. According to Peters, we all have three parts to our brains. One being an “inner Chimp,” playing havoc with our rational thoughts and our emotional reactions, in a wrestling match over dominance when under pressure. Our inner Chimp is impulsive, it can impair our actions with self doubt & fear, chattering away in our heads with unwanted thoughts creating inner turmoil and potentially overwhelming the rational brain. When the Chimp is allowed to rule our thinking by having lots of fun, we can self-destruct. Day 1 perhaps? Rory talked about “pressure” with The Open being back in N. Ireland – at the same time holding the course record at Portrush since he was 16 years old.

Overnight – control returns.

Day 2 – The two other parts of the brain, namely the “human” and “computer” kick in and take control. In the human arena, the rational, compassionate and humane Rory resurface, he smiles and jokes with the crowd. Memory banks for reference filled with all sorts of automatic strokes of success kick in, as the computer is switched on again. Rory’s back, but sadly its not quite enough.

How do your thoughts affect your actions?