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

To learn more of Life Leaders

To recommend or request: David@LifeLeadersInstitute.org




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

100 Posts Milestone


WordPress sent us a report that this blog hit a milestone of 100 posts.

Thank you for reading and forwarding posts. And, thanks to Kyle Crider who has been advising and helping me design the layout and functions.

With your use and or recommendation of this material, I hope to provide you and others with another 100 posts and make this site better as one valued for information and inspiration that leads to learning, improvement, and action toward your callings.

This message, posted on the Dr. David Dyson (author) Facebook page, tells more of the “purpose” and “motivation” for this work:

Inspired friends,

You and others who care about developing our capacities to succeed and serve others are invited to subscribe to this site, which focuses on my writings intended to provide information and inspiration we can use.

Part of my callings and “bucket list” goals include doing better to write articles, workbooks, and books to help people identify and fulfill callings. I welcome your advice and advocacy to individuals, groups, schools, communities, and leaders in society so we can reach more of those looking for resources.

Thank you, David

May you Plan and Lead your Life

Expand Capacities to Increase Freedom

Einstein inspires these thoughts and actions about “widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures”:

  1. In addition to doing daily activities and tasks, we can grow more by intentionally planning and preparing for expanding our capacities.

How would you like to change in the way you think or behave toward others?

What characteristic is holding you back?

Which one is good that could be even better if you focused on making it a strength?

Have you listed your important goals and resolutions to inspire your improvement?

You can add to your goals for the 7 Areas of Life at least one for the Personal Area to think of a way you would like to improve in the way you think or act and the Social Area to identify a way you could improve relationships. Visualize your better or best-self. Write a goal or result. List an action that could succeed. Ask and answer why this is important to you and others (what will happen if you take action and what will likely happen if you don’t?). You likely need all of these to focus on the end result and to keep you moving instead of stay on the path not leading you to your desired journey.

Consider the man who admitted he had “anger issues.” Three marriages. Three divorces. Distant relationships with ex-wives, the new one, even children. Improving this characteristic is more than daily living and wish lists. It almost always requires intentional action inspired by a big reason to choose a better self.

Let us remember, If nothing changes, nothing changes.

He had a choice to make: stay in a comfort zone of beliefs and acceptance, I am a “hot head though after the blow up I am over it and don’t mean to hurt anyone…they should know that and get over it.” Keep telling yourself that and keep getting the same results. Or, widen your “circle of compassion” and your capacities to think and behave differently. Is it worth 1% of your time, about 10-15 minutes daily to improve your plans, actions, and results?

2.  “Compassion to all living creatures” means treating dogs, cats, horses, and most others with respect and care. Enlightened people treat living creatures about the same–humans and animals deserve respect for their purposes. Those who hurt animals when no one is looking or for entertainment likely will hurt or cheat people when no one is looking. Just because what is “legal” has not caught up with what is “ethical” is not justification for people to behave badly.

Have you ever realized you were doing something you thought was okay because “everybody was doing it” and decided it was not okay? I have, too. When bad things are done to other people or to animals, sometimes it is done by people with bad intentions though some people of good intent do bad things because they have not been taught well or they have not yet figured out “right” on their own. Many children learn right and wrong as they mature though too many older adults still suffer–and cause suffering–because they are too lazy or too overwhelmed to include improvement in their daily lives.

A few minutes of daily reflection on plans, actions, and results can save us and others from excessive heartaches as well as increase joys and successes.

May you Plan and Lead your Life, David


Definiteness of Purpose

 “There is one quality which one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it.”

Napoleon Hill, author of The Law of Success and Think and Grow Rich

Napoleon Hill learned from Andrew Carnegie, common denominators of doing our best exist, make an impact when learned and implemented, and should be taught at home and school, as well as places of work and worship–and often they were not (in many schools and other key places, still not taught, which we can fix). Carnegie introduced Hill to scores of the world’s most prolific people, including U.S. presidents, business leaders, and scientists such as Thomas Edison.  He compiled their common denominators into a list of principles and practices published in essays and books.

If you read more of Hill’s work, you will see his emphasis on writing your definite purpose and internalizing it as a key to building desire and action. This process and plan can become a great source of motivation, habits, accountability, and results.

I first read his books as a college student in a summer job selling Bibles door-to-door. The ideas plus the summer experience planted the seeds of my calling to help people learn and use best-self leadership. Hill’s work influenced mine and is a reason why I emphasize so much to students, professionals, and families alike that we should write plans to help us discover purpose, focus, and internalize what’s most important.

May you Plan and Lead your 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

I will do what I can

I cannot do everything;

I will…do the something I can do.

-Helen Keller-

The first of my seven best practices to PLAN and LEAD in LIFE is:

Lead Your Life.

Mindset matters. Discouragement when challenges come is a key reason why some of us quit or fall short on resolutions. That is, if you let discouragement disable you. Yet, we have the option when discouragement comes to show our determination to do our best to follow through, to make the best of the situation, to not quit–unless a better use of your time and energy has emerged to merit you changing priorities.

Part of Lead Your Life means honesty with yourself for what your callings are and consideration of if you are responding to your callings. In short, what do you want or need to do? Are you thinking and acting with commitment and confidence?

If a blind woman demonstrated better optimism and perseverance than you have, then count your blessing for having sight and consider if you are using your blessings fully. Do your resolutions get sidetracked at the first sign of disappointment or discomfort?

It may be time to “Cowboy Up.” Do less complaining and more improving–if you want different results.

Developing an instinctive reaction to disappointment that you do your best in spite of not being able to do everything or as well as you wish can serve you well to keep you moving to do what you can. Those who stop trying when results fall short of expectations usually hurt their chances of success by persisting through the early stages.

You will do better if you write a sentence or more on how you will apply the example of Helen Keller in your life. A vision statement or even a vision sentence can help you internalize your commitment and inspire action. Write it. Read it daily. Choose an action daily to implement. Internalize the vision and habits.

An example of a vision sentence you can use, remember, put in your vision statements or constitution: I do my best for that is all anyone can do. When faced with challenge or disappointing results, I remember why I resolved to complete this goal and press on, optimistic my perseverance will prevail. As I face challenges, I remember, my response can expand my capacities.

My research shows, if you have a written plan including your purposes or callings, you are more likely to develop and demonstrate commitment, courage, and confidence. Most people who assess themselves a “C” or worse on “Commitment” almost always assess themselves a “C” or worse on “Callings and Choices” identified and internalized in a plan. Positively, one key way to boost commitment and confidence is by writing a description of callings, vision, resolutions, desired results, or whatever you wish to call them.

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.”