Break the Anger Addiction



Many people seem to be addicted to anger.

The addiction often means a person will first focus on complaining, venting frustration, and creating drama…instead of focusing on a solution to the problem with a reasonable level of confidence that most problems can be solved or, at least, situations improved.

When a challenge arises, do you focus first on the solution or feel negative feelings that you have another problem?

Two examples

When working with Veterans Making Comebacks (from homelessness using caused by responses), I learned many got there because of mindsets that led to addictions, sometimes including drugs or alcohol, though almost always including a tendency to feel bad or negative at life’s circumstances. Many who assessed themselves as addicted to stimulants often also admitted some form of tendency toward anger. Some responded to their bad feelings by escaping into drinking or fighting with family (arguments mostly) of fighting with fists (often a bars with other angry men)–or numerous other ways to avoid their situations mentally.

Most I met who faced PTSD, moral injury, or pains associated with re-entry into civilian life either ended up stronger emotionally or they stayed in a state of “broke down,” at least for awhile. One of the determinants of the path taken is the choice or propensity to “think solutions” or “focus on failure.”

Another fresh example is, I tried to help a man fix a problem logging into an account using his computer. Technical support kept trying to help me help him though for the first four tries their system kept declining the newly set password. So, four times I advised we needed to edit the previous password by at least one number or letter to try again. Each time, instead of answer the request, he created visible signs of anger, repeatedly asked how many times had he “given them a new password,” and even spoke, “this stuff can give me a heart attack.” The obvious answer is to just help with the solution. Complaints or heart attacks don’t help. This man has formed a pattern–it is more comfortable to “melt down” than “stand up” with a little “courage” and “cool wits.”

Here’s a simple strategy to help: add this sentence to your Life Plan or Life Constitution–When faced with problems or stress, I… [fill in the sentence as your best-self would.] Read it out loud daily for as long as you need to replace old patterns of anger “acting out” with instinctive responses that focus on making situations better instead of worse.

You can do this if you become aware of your vision for yourself and your actual behavior and use the difference to motivate you to better thoughts and actions.

Daily Questions to Inspire You

  1. Did I make someone a hero today?

  2. Would our Lord say, “well done my good and faithful servant…?”

  3. Would my mama be proud?

Col. Stretch Dunn (USA Retired) asked himself these three questions at the end of the day to help make sure he stayed on the right path. He spoke of them when mentoring others and at annual Life Leaders seminars designed to help people improve plans for life. He asked his wife, Joan, to help him be accountable to “be, know, and do” as his best-self.

Most years for two decades during the Life Leaders Plan for Life Seminar he shared his updated page of goals for the 7 Areas of Life so others might benefit from this annual ritual and to help “hold him accountable” privately for what he stated publicly. For actions he considered extra special, such as some of those that led him toward his three questions, he called them “rituals” because they took on even more significance than “habits.”

Joan helped me confirm the updated list of questions he was using at the end of his life. He had edited the list over time, adding the second question. He also believed in a concept called “The Harder Right” that he used on his list a decade or so earlier.

Professionalism Front CoverAfter the “911” attacks on America, when Stretch and I were writing Professionalism Under Stress (about common denominators of true professionalism in college, combat, corporate life…), he told me of “The Harder Right” and its roots for him at West Point.

The core message: take the ethical action even when our instincts tell us this option will be “harder” and we may “lose” short-term.

When we do the harder right, such as admit a mistake or take ownership for paying restitution even when we could “get away with it” we usually benefit instead of lose. Our integrity gets stronger and our trust with others gets stronger because they see us tell the truth and take fair action even when it’s “harder” to do so. Many citizens and corporations, even leaders in the public office tend to “distance themselves” or “protect themselves” from bad results. In case studies on major disasters, companies and individual leaders who admit the problems and take action to fix the problems with accountability usually lose profits short-term as they pay restitution though long-term gain market share and trust in the marketplace resulting in positive gains.

The United States Military Academy (West Point) believes in “The Harder Right” and include the term in the “Cadet Prayer.” This takes a stand and increases the chances of internalizing ethical action by making it a habit to cite the concept as part of the prayer.

West Point Cadet Prayer:

“Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong”

Why Questions of Assessment Help

Why should we assess our actions? A principle of leadership and management is, “what gets measured tends to gets repeated.” At the very least, if we have a target and internalize it we are more likely to aim and have a better chance of hitting “bulls eye.” Another principle of management science is to identify and do those practices that “increase probability ” for us to fulfill the mission.

Stretch wrote, reviewed, stated intent, and updated regularly his Goals for the 7 Areas of Life, his Big 3 Questions, and his Mission and Vision for Marriage with Joan. Because of these rituals, he was more likely to aim at and succeed at making others “heroes,” being a “good and faithful servant,” and making his “mama proud.”

Motivating question that may influence whether a person will take action on this article: Are goals like these or the people who would be affected important enough to you to make it worth a few minutes of your time daily to write a vision or questions and assess if you took action? 

One more step we can take to make plans, actions, and results better

Plan how we can answer the questions positively. If we are going to answer important questions, we can do better if we outline plans for our time and action aimed at creating positive answers. For each question, outline a goal and action to create desired results.

For example:

  1. Help someone: one idea is to keep on your calendar a daily appointment with yourself to call someone and offer to help. If like Stretch, you can ask, “How can I make you a hero?” or “What can I do for you, Sir?” Or, you can just do something for someone you believe is needed. [It’s good to confirm what we think adds values is actually valued by the person important to us.] Your action could mean either a one minute call or a longer block of time to add value for them by “lightening their load” through service or “encouraging their perseverance” on one of their resolutions.
  2. Be a good and faithful servant: part of the core of “faithful” is to identify and fulfill our callings, gifts, and talents. When we Pray. Listen. Act. Now. (PLAN) on our callings as well as our choices, we become better stewards of our faith.
  3. Do the harder right: for many, increased awareness of instincts when you feel pressure of possible embarrassment or other loss and how you believe your best-self should respond will improve behavior. Challenging “why” you do certain things can help you stop doing bad habits that may have been taught to you by well-intentioned adults or you may have adopted as habits from peers when immature. If never challenged, bad habits can live on even for well-intentioned adults. When you have a seemingly tough choice to make, imagining a special person “watching you” can help you do the harder right and form good habits until your personal integrity gets strong enough to guide you automatically.
  4. Make your mother (or someone else important) proud of you: as we plan intentions and assess actions, a partner or board can often inspire us to improve ourselves more so than the motivation for personal gain. In addition to parents, people often choose accountability partners, children, or other family members as sources of motivation.

Principles and Best Practices Supporting these Suggestions

My best practices for Best-Self Leadership 1-3, tested and taught since 1987:

  1. Lead Your Life
  2. Plan for Life
  3. Have an Impact. 

Dr. Stephen Covey’s Habits 1-3 in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

  1. “Be Proactive”
  2. “Begin with the end in mind”
  3. “First Things First.”

Both sets of practices and habits suggest we can do better if we decide to take action, envision desired results, let that vision inspire and guide goals and actions, and assess if we are having impact with priorities.

Personal Application Example

I took inspiration from Stretch, used his list, and adapted my own. I share it here in case two examples may serve you better:

  1. Did I help a person and an animal live better today?
  2. Did I improve my ability and attitude to help others?
  3. Did I Pray. Listen. Act. Now. (PLAN) for my callings and choices?
  4. Did I improve my plan for life?
  5. Did I live my priorities?
  6. Did I do my best joyously?
  7. Did I make my family proud?

Three questions are easier to internalize. Or, after you develop your seven you could summarize into your Big 3 to remember and share with others more readily.

Have an Impact

Stretch’s upbringing with parents Lieutenant General Carroll Dunn (USA Retired) and Retha Dunn, education at the U.S. Military Academy (West Point ’66), and training in the US Army influenced him greatly. He intentionally planned for and took action to live the core teachings of his parents and honor the “code” of West Point. He invited his wife, Joan, to give feedback on his stated “intent” and be an accountability partner for his actions.  If we do these things, we will come closer to “walking our talk.”

Question for those who want to walk our talk: are we planning for life, leading our lives, and living our priorities focused on the people and principles we say are most important?

Thanks Stretch for helping people to adopt ways to lead our lives closer to our best-selves.


Stretch died unexpectedly this 2017. We honor our friendship and lessons learned with him by sharing positive principles and practices with you and those important to you. We invite you to subscribe or support if you value this article or the 7 Callings we serve.

To learn more of Stretch Dunn

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10 Habits Of Mentally Strong People

 I read this article about “mentally strong” with interest for two reasons: the habits align with best practices and lessons written by Col. Stretch Dunn and me in our book Professionalism Under Stress; and, my colleague and friend of 25 years, Stretch, died unexpectedly a few days ago. The reminders of demonstrating “grit” when you don’t feel like it encouraged me today so I share them with you.

Habits of mentally strong people (summarized from the article):

1. You have to fight when you already feel defeated.

2. You have to delay gratification.

3. You have to make mistakes, look like an idiot, and try again—without even flinching.

4. You have to keep your emotions in check.

5. You have to make the calls you’re afraid to make.

6. You have to trust your gut.

7. You have to lead when no one else follows.

8. You have to focus on the details even when it makes your mind numb

9. You have to be kind to people who are rude to you.

10. You have to be accountable for your actions, no matter what.

You are invited to read the article expanding the habits by Dr. Travis Bradberry

May you Plan and Lead your Life as your best-self.


P.S. Focus now on your priority callings and relationships.

Thanks, Stretch, for showing so many people what it takes to be a “true professional.”


Cowboy Up + Hard Work + True Professionalism = GRIT

2017-01-27-11_03_47-photos2017-01-27-11_06_53-photosProfessionalism Front Cover

Lead your Life is the #1 best practice to Plan and Lead our Lives (1 of 7).

Is your Mindset optimistic and action-oriented or do you feel entitled or defeated?

Is your instinctive response to tough situations: complain or think solutions?

Most of the time, to change our results, we need to improve or even change the way we think. Those who envision, write plans, and mentally rehearse do better.

My resolutions include at least one for developing my capacities. How about you?

May you Plan and Lead in Life, David

Courage to Try creates Confidence

To lead our lives means we need to be aware of when we talk ourselves out of taking action on a calling. My research shows people who have written their plans for callings and choices are much more likely to take action because they develop higher levels of commitment, courage, and, eventually, confidence.

Lead your Life and Plan for Life are steps #1-2 to achieve #3, Have an Impact. Because, we can only have impact if we take shots.

May you Plan and Lead in Life, David

What is my vision for life?


Have you answered the question,

“What is my vision for life?”

“What kind of person am I called to be?” “What legacy of service am I called to give?”

If you have, you are more likely to fulfill resolutions.

You can increase clarity on your vision as well as improve internalization of important goals and desired habits if you write a description of your desired results–and read the priorities daily.

You can do better if you visualize thinking and doing what is required as you read the vision statement.

You will do even better if you write “why ” this goal is important and “what” you could do to succeed, and then “decide” if the time and energy required to succeed at new results is worth your “resolution” to change priorities and habits, which usually requires spending less time on less important things so you can invest time and energy on higher callings.

You decide what works for you: start small or start big. At least, you can tackle something small to improve your life and move you toward better habits and results.

One of the Top 5 Resolutions is for the Physical Area of Life, often “get in shape” or “lose weight” or “stop smoking.”  Whether your action is taking stairs instead of elevators or walking around the block after dinner or doing a rigorous 7-minute fitness routine, or something more or different, have the courage and commitment of Helen Keller. Some can decide and get it done. Others need accountability partners. Both work. You decide on what you need and get this one done.

Write your vision, at least a page of what’s important and inspiring to you. Read your list or description daily as a habit and when you feel off track. Post it on a mirror or another special place. You can put photos of those affected if you succeed–or if you don’t–to inspire positive action or hold you accountable.

The point is to have a written vision. Do it for yourself. Do it to set an example for others around you.

This requires thinking and writing instead of periodic “wish list thinking.” You can do it in minutes per day–1% of your time resolved for planning your vision is about 10-15 minutes. The results will likely include more inspiration, getting more done in less time, and realization that planning priorities helps you live the life you are called to lead at a higher level, closer to your best-self.

May you Plan and Lead your Life, David

Resolve to be a “Superager”

This post seeks to do two things for you:

  1. Inform and inspire about goals and resolutions so we include at least one about challenging ourselves to improve mental capacity so we not only can live closer to our best-selves now but also live longer with sharper faculties.
  2. Share a New York Times article entitled “How to Become a Superager” to add more research findings and discussion to support your thinking.

I pulled a few excerpts from the article that get to the point on definition and action to succeed. The full article is provided at the end. This is a summary of the core.

Superagers” are those whose memory and attention isn’t merely above average for their age, but is actually on par with healthy, active 25-year-olds….

How do you become [or remain] a superager? Which activities, if any, will increase your chances of remaining mentally sharp into old age? We’re still studying this question, but our best answer at the moment is:

work hard at something.

Many labs have observed that critical brain regions [discussed in the article] increase in activity when people perform difficult tasks, whether the effort is physical or mental. You can therefore help keep these regions thick and healthy through vigorous exercise and bouts of strenuous mental effort.

The road to superaging is difficult, though, because these brain regions have another intriguing property: When they increase in activity, you tend to feel pretty bad — tired, stymied, frustrated [at first]. Think about the last time you grappled with a math problem or pushed yourself to your physical limits.

Hard work makes you feel bad in the moment. The Marine Corps has a motto that embodies this principle: “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” That is, the discomfort of exertion means you’re building muscle and discipline.

Superagers are like Marines: They excel at pushing past the temporary unpleasantness of intense effort. Studies suggest that the result is a more youthful brain that helps maintain a sharper memory and a greater ability to pay attention.

This means that pleasant puzzles like Sudoku are not enough to provide the benefits of superaging. Neither are the popular diversions of various “brain game” websites. You must expend enough effort that you feel some “yuck.” Do it till it hurts, and then a bit more.

In the United States, we are obsessed with happiness. But as people get older, research shows, they cultivate happiness by avoiding unpleasant situations. This is sometimes a good idea, as when you avoid a rude neighbor. But if people consistently sidestep the discomfort of mental effort or physical exertion, this restraint can be detrimental to the brain. All brain tissue gets thinner from disuse. If you don’t use it, you lose it.

So, make a New Year’s resolution to take up a challenging activity. Learn a foreign language. Take an online college course. Master a musical instrument. Work that brain. Make it a year to remember….

Now, think.

Think of “senior-age” people you know. Some likely are purposeful, healthy, and self-reliant, while others may be inactive, obese, fully or partially dependent, with little purpose beyond their “doctor visits.”

Sure, genetics, injuries, and more can happen to us, though we should admit, we create most of our circumstances. Or, at least, we can create our plans, actions, and responses.

Now, think of yourself. Do we want to live fully, ever growing, and self-reliant as long as we can or do we want to take it easy, do as little as possible, focus on pleasure instead of purpose, expect others to take care of us, and lose our mental and physical faculties due to lack of use?

There is plus side to needing to work hard and stay engaged when older just as there is a down side for succeeding so much you don’t need to work anymore. If you achieve the latter, your best-self will find new purposes to add value for society and keep yourself engaged with energy. If you are facing tough challenges, you have opportunity to grow to meet the challenge to not only make your “Goliath” go away but also to expand your capacity for doing more and responding better.

Writing goals, resolutions, and actions is not a guarantee of success though it is a guarantee that you have done one of the steps required to do your best. In my work with Veterans Making Comeback from homelessness and professionals with high and low levels of commitment, I have found, there is a correlation between a person having a written plan and having a sense of calling as well as a high degree of commitment, courage, and confidence.

What callings do you feel led to fulfill?

What choices will you make for goals and resolutions?

If you “look in the mirror” for an honest assessment of what you seek, as well as where you are, and write goals and resolutions you will be more likely to live as a superager.

After reading the article linked below, I felt compelled to share this post with you and to add more to my goals and resolutions to expand my mental and physical capacities. I hope you do, too. May you Plan and Lead in Life, David

To read the article: 2017-01-03-12_42_44-photos

Author of the article:

Lisa Feldman Barrett, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, is the author of the forthcoming “How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain.”

Ask the Mom of a Prisoner

A mother called me this Sunday morning. She had received from her daughter a few workbooks I developed she thought might help her son prepare better to get out of prison.

If you wonder if adding Plans for School & Life to school lessons and writing assignments could be valuable to the development and decisions made by people, especially young people, ask the mother of a prisoner is she wishes we would add that preparation to education and what it means to be prepared for citizenship.

This mother is also thinking of how life may be different for her son if he had thought more, wrote more, and prepared more for the plan he desired for the person he wanted to become and the life he wanted to lead.

Do you think a student with even a bit more hope and direction will be more likely to succeed as well as avoid trouble? Of course, you do.

Have your read or heard of the power of goals or other components in plans? Of course, you have.

We can take action now and improve the lives of many. Perhaps you or someone you teach or know needs a better plan for life. Or,  perhaps you would benefit from not having to pay so much in taxes to support those former students who are in prison.

What if the prisoner, that’s mom’s son, and a former student had been more inspired and informed of positive possibilities, would he have been more likely to focus his time and energy toward callings instead of be tempted to do drugs–and the things he did while impaired by drugs, which sent him to prison?

If he had outlined what he could do to achieve possibilities and to solve problems instead of repeatedly think of his problems, would he have had more hope and reason to do good things leading to a better life?

All of us can identify what we do need to do to become our best-selves. Most of us already agree, if you do those things more people will spend their time positively and less people will end up in prison, homeless, or worse.

If we added Best-Self Leadership and Plan for School & Life to K-college and/or career plus help those already in communities, how much better could we do and how much could we save in human capital and in costs for law enforcement and incarceration of too many lost souls.

A country song of the past comes to mind with a line in the lyrics,

“You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.”

If you want people to improve how well they stand for something good, we can invite and reward them to write their callings and choices.

We can reward students for the effort with grades in school and steps to graduation.

We can include this positive action to earning a way out of prison. “Marking time” can help a man learn the value of freedom or it can kill his spirit and numb his conscience to inspired possibilities. Time without freedom is not the only answer. Some people plan and prepare better in a year than some who exist in the system for a decade. Some veterans making comebacks I have taught and coached made more progress in a month or two than some who stayed in the system for years–with little purpose, planning, or action.

If you value this thinking, you could write an inspired idea in your plan. And, you could support Life Leaders as we seek to help educators prepare our students with plans for school and the seven areas of life. You are invited to follow this blog. David

Know When and How to be a “Sheep Dog”

Sheep Dogs Life Leaders

People tend to be born–and many continue–to live with the mindset of sheep. They need to be fed and protected or they may die. Sometimes, it’s fine to be sheep–eating, sleeping, being part of a herd. Sometimes, we need to be Sheep Dogs–the one or one of those who accepts the call to serve, protect, lead, or provide for others.

Many think first of our military and first responders, which is good. They are protectors and they provide service and sacrifice. We should also think of leaders in families, communities, and places of work and worship.

For the veteran or civilian who has chosen alcohol or narcotics or anger to cope with PTSD, moral injury, or other pain, the inner “Sheep Dog” can come out and develop to take care of self better to boost capacity to care for others. The enemy of our loved ones is not always a predator or terrorist–sometimes the “Goliath” we need to “Master” is within our choices.

Part of our purpose on this planet is to Plan and Lead in Life as our best-selves. 

Life Leaders is hosting a public service seminar in the Birmingham Area to help us know better when and how to be a Sheep Dog, led by Col. Stretch Dunn (USA Ret), co-author of Professionalism Under Stress: Lessons for Professionalism, Stress, and Gunfighting in Military and Civilian Life (Dunn & Dyson).

Life Leaders hosts monthly events focused on Planning for the 7 Areas of Life, Best-Self Leadership, Patriotism in Action, and Freedom to Flourish. And, we provide educational and community development program and project leadership. To receive an invitation or information:

Radio Show on Lou in the Morning: Purpose, Plans, Veterans, Students

Lou Vickery and I discussed three positive programs on his radio program, “Lou in the Morning,” which airs in South Alabama and Northern Florida–Pensacola to Atmore to the Eastern Shore of Mobile. WPFL FM 105.1;

Summary of Points

  1. Veterans Making Comeback: new Veteran Golfers Association on the Eastern Shore of Mobile at Lake Forest in Daphne started by Simon Coulls and Tim Gressett, golf pro…Free Golf Clinic for Veterans and Families, Saturday, August 29…purpose of plans for veterans and families to support healing and healthy living–veterans with PTSD recover and grow better and faster with a plan that boosts a sense of purpose and steps toward improvement…Workbooks on our web page ( comebacks).
  2. Life Leaders Seminar, Thursday, August 6, Birmingham, “Your Spiritual Purpose and Plan,” joining me is Bishop Dr. Bernard Omukubah. Free and open to the public. For an invitation,
  3. Plan for School and Life national movement can start in Alabama and Florida. College and school counselors say less than 1% of  students come to them with written plans so they can see how to help best.  People do better with purpose. If you wish you were helped to write a plan and/or want us to help teachers guide their students to develop plans, you may join our mailing list or tell of your interest.