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Ian O'Byrne

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. - Viktor E. Frankl In issue of my newsletter. Subscribe at #life


Ian O'Byrne

The job of a citizen is to keep his mouth open. - Gunter Grass #freedom

Ian O'Byrne

I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will. - Charlotte Brontë In this week's issue of TL;DR newsletter #identity


Ian O'Byrne

If the structure does not permit dialogue the structure must be changed. - Paulo Freire In this week's issue of TL;DR - #dialogue

Ian O'Byrne

The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion. - Albert Camus In issue of TL;DR - #identity


Ian O'Byrne

Control your controllables

3 min read

In his studies on flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi presented insight into this highly focused mental state and tranquility.

We have all experienced times when instead of being buffeted by anonymous forces, we [feel] in control of our actions, masters of our own fate. On the rare occasions that it happens, we feel a sense of exhilaration, a deep sense of enjoyment.

Stephen Covey expands on this by positing that people filter experiences before they reach our consciousness. In between stimulus and response, we have the freedom to choose how we'll respond to each situation we're presented in life. 

Covey expands on this by indicating that people are generally proactive or reactive. Much of this focus relies on their locus of control.

  • Proactive people recognize that they're responsible for how they respond to outside stimuli. They have an internal locus of control. They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their state. They believe that their situation and existence is a product of personal choice and decisions derived from their values and virtues.
  • Reactive people believe their condition is a product of their physical and social environments. They have an external locus of control. Their moods and actions are determined by the moods and actions of others or the things that happen to them. They allow the actions of others to determine and control their situation and existence.

We have a choice about how we choose to focus our time and energy. We have a circle of concern, or things that garner attention in our daily lives. These include our health, friends, family, the environment. We also have a circle of control, or things that we have actual, direct control over. These include what we eat, the friends that we choose, where we live. 

Stephen Covey indicates that the circle of control exists within the circle of control, but describes this as a circle of influence. Proactive people focus their time and energy on elements in this space as they can actually change these things. The more you act on decisions made in the circle of control, the more this circle of influence expands.

Put simply, by shifting attention from the cirlce of control to the circle of concern, you're losing the freedom to choose how you'll respond to situations in life. You're allowing events outside of your control your moods and happiness.

Focus on the things you can control in life. Remove constraints, complications, and negativity from your life. Strengthen and expand your circle of influence.

Control your controllables.


Image Credit

Figure from James Clear

Ian O'Byrne

Seneca on practicing what you preach

2 min read

This morning's read caught my eye as I read a letter titled "On practicing what you preach" from Seneca.

The letter is advice provided from Seneca to Lucilius about becoming your own master and not losing sight of your goals or values.

Specifically, this section was valuable for me:

It is the mark, however, of a noble spirit not to precipitate oneself into such things on the ground that they are better, but to practice for them on the ground that they are thus easy to endure. And they are easy to endure, Lucilius; when, however, you come to them after long rehearsal, they are even pleasant; for they contain a sense of freedom from care,— and without this nothing is pleasant. I hold it essential, therefore, to do as I have told you in a letter that great men have often done: to reserve a few days in which we may prepare ourselves for real poverty by means of fancied poverty. There is all the more reason for doing this, because we have been steeped in luxury and regard all duties as hard and onerous. Rather let the soul be roused from its sleep and be prodded, and let it be reminded that nature has prescribed very little for us. No man is born rich. Every man, when he first sees light, is commanded to be content with milk and rags. Such is our beginning, and yet kingdoms are all too small for us! Farewell.

The quoted section above is guidance on practicing what you preach. Filling your days by living what you believe. There is the theme of poverty that is found in many of Seneca's letters. 

In that section, the line that resonates with me the most is the one that states "Rather let the soul be roused from its sleep and be prodded, and let it be reminded that nature has prescribed very little for us." I'm intrigued by this guidance that in living close to what our values might determine for us, there is an opportunity to temper our expectations for what we think we need...and instead listen for what the heart and soul holds for us.


Image Credit

Ian O'Byrne

January 21, 2016

2 min read

How to stop overscheduling yourself and goal-setting

This is a post from FastCompany that I was directed to by yesterday's post about scheduling as a maker, and not a manager.

The guidance they offer in terms of scheduling goes in the same vein as a "hell yes or no" philosophy in terms of goal setting...and agreeing to collaborations.

The elements are:

  • Establish your priorities. Make your priorities about values (e.g., freedom, career growth, family, money, etc.) and copmaring that to committments (activities/events). If they don't pair up...don't do it.
  • Share those priorities. Communicate goals with those that matter in your circles. Family/friends won't fault you for working late when you're chasing promotion.
  • Don't say yes right away. Slow down and think. It's not your responsibility to make those around you happy.
  • Use a printed, monthly calendar. Paper calendars allow you to write in the margins, create unimposing "to-do" lists.
  • Schedule in your personal time. Schedule in a "me party."


From this list I'll think about the paper calendar idea. I've seen colleagues use the paper "to-do" list, or journaling. Not sure if I could/would do that.

I think I need to take point #3 to heart. Don't say yes immediately...and it's not my responsibility to make others happy.

Also, need to establish priorities and communicate those with the inner circle. But...I think those are pretty much established. Need to look at shorter term (yearly, quarterly) goals.