My Scoutmaster is often good for a topic to share here.

At our meeting last night, he talked to the Scouts about how to deal with a stressful situation using the acronym STOP: Stop, Think, Observe, and Plan. In the woods, he said, it’s easy to lose your way and panic; but instead of running around blindly and getting yourself more lost, you can use STOP to give yourself time to decide what to do.

We don’t have to be Scouts to apply this concept to our lives.

The next time you face something that makes your adrenaline surge (which will probably be later today, if your life is anything like mine), use STOP to decide how to respond rather than simply reacting.

Stop – Give yourself a moment. Do not allow yourself to lash out, or go off half-cocked, or do something you might regret later. Take time to consider what’s going on. Sometimes, this step is all you need.

Think – Try to figure out what’s going on. What did your boss just ask you to do? Can you do it? Is it a reasonable request? Are you angry because she didn’t thank you after you stayed late to complete her last request? Where are you with respect to the situation, and where do you need to be?

Observe – Determine what you know. Is your boss nervous? Did that truck really cut you off, or did he just have to change lanes in heavy traffic? Is your wife mad at you, or is it something else that’s bothering her? Do you have the tools you need? Ask questions, if you can. Gather as much information as possible. It will help with the next step.

Plan – Decide how you want to deal with the situation. Tell your boss you can give her what she wants tomorrow, if that’s appropriate. Take a different route to work, if traffic is too heavy on this one. Give your wife a hand, or step back and give her space if that’s what she needs.

Sometimes, the path of courage presents itself immediately. More often, though, our initial reactions take us the wrong way. Building a pause like STOP into your life can help you see the right course before you’ve committed yourself to the wrong one.

I've been a soldier, a dreamer, a working stiff, a leader. A husband, father, example (good and otherwise), and now a survivor. I write about courage, because courage is what enables us to accomplish the impossible. If you draw breath, I love you. If you love in whatever way seems best to you and want others to love in whatever way seems best to them, I am your ally. If you believe someone is less than you because they do not love the way you do, I oppose you. If you see someone as a threat to be abused or destroyed merely because they do not look like you, or love like you, or worship like you, I am your enemy. I am a joyful and courageous man. And I stand with you who love.