The Plastic Effect

by drstephen

Fox Hill Point – Rye, NH, sunrise 

I stood on a large granite boulder, hands in my pockets looking down at my wiggling toes.  I had stuffed them into some wooly socks and then jammed my feet into my flip flops.  It’s not that I found my feet all that interesting; it’s just that I was too nervous to look up at the large set of waves that was detonating on the outside reef at my favorite local point break.  The surf that was delivered up by Hurricane Bill was so large that the states north and south of us had declared “Condition Black” – no one allowed in the water or they would be arrested for endangerment.  But this is New Hampshire: Live Free or Die.  Seemed ironic.

As I pulled on my wetsuit, I remembered something that was said to me by a Chilean surfer on a similar big day in Costa Rica – “These are the days that define us.”

I was waxing the board that I only go to when the waves are extraordinarily large – I call it The Laxative.  I grabbed my 6-foot, heavy water leash and fastened it to my ankle.  I must have checked that Velcro five times before I actually got in the water.

When you duck-dive under a big wave, you get an appreciation for just how insignificant you are in the big scheme of things.  The waves this day were thick, powerful ground swell waves generated a thousand miles away by 125 MPH winds. They stood tall and clean, perfectly groomed by light offshore winds.  They had marched across the Eastern Atlantic for days to meet me here this morning.

The set waves were spaced out every 18 seconds.  An interval of that length is a key indicator of the power of the wave itself.  14 or 15 seconds is usually an epic day – 18 seconds is almost unheard of on the east coast.   I took full advantage.  I had some all-time thrilling rides and some world class wipe-outs.  As I ambled back up onto the rocks, arguably the most treacherous part of any surf session, I notice my “leggie” was no longer 6 feet long.

I laid my board on the sidewalk to inspect my leash.  It was now a full 9 feet.  Incredible.   The force of the surf had actually stretched it by an additional 50% – and it still held up.  Physicists call this phenomenon plasticity: the ability of a material to stretch and be reshaped under stress.

Every day we have the incredible opportunity to get out of bed, “paddle out” and stretch ourselves.  The human mind has many innate requirements.  These can be referred to as Essential Elements.  One of these elements is struggle.  Struggle gets a bad rap.  From the beginning, we are taught that it something to be avoided.  We fear it, complain about it, or want to be rescued from it.  Instead, we should embrace it.

Struggle shapes us.  We are plastic beings.  Neuroscience refers to this quality as neuroplasticity.  With the right perspective, coping mechanisms, and rest and repair strategies, we move forward, expanded.

The next morning I found myself more confident in somewhat smaller, but still challenging surf.  The prior day’s experience had changed me as a surfer.   I was stretched.  I paddled into large waves comfortably, punched through the sets with ease, and smiled as I noticed my leash trailing further behind me than usual.

Now go stretch yourself,

Dr. Stephen Franson

10,000 lbs – You’re joking, right?

by drstephen



“That’s ridiculous,”  I heard myself say out loud.  I was standing in front of the dry-erase board at my local CrossFit , where each day the WOD (Workout of the Day) is posted. And that’s what it said: DEAD-LIFT 10,000 LBS AND RUN A MILE FOR TIME

My brain just reacted to the suggestion that I would even consider subjecting myself to anything close to the demands presented by the workout on that board.  I became defensive, thinking “would that even be good for me?”  I started to get irritated.   I must have felt threatened by the idea that someone else was going to come in here today and actually do this.  Eventually, I dismissed it as a prank – a joke.  Someone from the previous class must have gotten their hands on the dry-erase marker and was standing by to see our faces.  I knowingly looked over my shoulder.  No one.

I am continually amazed by the phenomenon of self-doubt.  At what point do we resist the dominant voice of fear in our heads and simply trust?  How often do we miss experiences, relationships or growth because of hesitation or uncertainty?  How can we master the primal voice of self-preservation and recognize that it is there to serve us – not enslave us.  We are created to be extraordinary beings.  We have enormous capacity.  We just need to learn how to access it.

“People overestimate what they can achieve in a day; and underestimate what they can achieve in a lifetime.” (author unknown)

Life can be overwhelming.  At times, we face challenges that may seem insurmountable.  Breathe.  Evaluate the situation, clarify the objective, and chunk it down.  Identify the highest priority action steps and knock them down – one at a time.  Most of us are already working hard enough, what we really need are better strategies.

50 repetitions of 200 lbs. is 10,000 lbs.  I can do that.  Run a quarter mile, do 25 dead-lifts, run another quarter mile, do 15 reps, run another quarter mile, do 10 reps, and finish with another quarter mile. I can do that.

“11 minutes, 31 seconds.”   I heard Danny Vee bark out over the pounding of my heart.  I had just completed what I knew was impossible 12 minutes ago.

Your 10,000 lbs. may look different than mine.  It may be a sick parent, a difficult child, financial hardship, a failing marriage, or crippling anxiety.  You may look at it with fear and doubt, or get defensive or angry, but ultimately, that does not serve you.

Know that you are magnificent and that you have capacities that you have yet to explore.  Sometimes inertia is our greatest enemy.  Doubt leads to fear, and fear creates paralysis.  Choose to change your perspective and push.  There are two ways to measure the strength of a person:  how much they can move, and how much it takes to move them.

God Bless.


$1440 a Day

by drstephen

dollar bill

Can I have 20 bucks? I am not going to give it back, in fact, it’s absolutely unrecoverable.  It’s not really going to go towards anything worthwhile, honestly. I am just going to blow it – on nothing, absolutely nothing. In fact, how about $60?

Time is the great equilibrator. Everyone gets exactly the same amount, everyday. This is a highly unique quality of time. With the exception of the day that you are born and the day that you die, you get exactly 1440 minutes to spend. Everyone, everyday.

How will you spend it?
I’ll suggest that we would all do better with our time management if we had a “Time Register” that functioned like our Check Register. Every morning at 12:00 am 1440 minutes gets deposited into our Life Time Account, which of course was emptied the day before.  What’s your plan – your budget?

How will you leverage this resource? Do you invest it? (Think study, rest, explore, experience, relate…) or will you squander it? (Think waste, worry, fear, regret, retreat…)

We would all do well to examine our “spending habits”. The Heath Brothers introduce the concept of Grasp and Twist in their book Switch. Teach a new concept by using another widely understood concept (Grasp) and then make a slight adjustment to convey the new idea (Twist).

Each moment is spent like a dollar. Every minute is invested in something. And in its own unique way, time is given to everyone equally; it cannot be stored or hoarded. It cannot be recovered or regained. It can only be used to purchase experiences. Minute by minute.

Now breathe and go do something worthwhile.

Dr. Stephen Franson

Want To Be Happier? Could It Be This Simple?

by drstephen

We all want to be happier.  Even the happiest among us want to be happier still.

Know this:  Harvard University is deeply engaged in the study of happy people.  They have teased-out the common traits and behaviors of the happiest people they could find.  Here are some of the high points:

1.  Use your strengths. It turns out that when we get to do things that come easier to us, we are happier. Humans like to be good at things. Remember that the next time that you apply for a job, encourage your child or ask your spouse to help you do something.

2. Savor the moment.  Apparently we needed research to tell us to stop and smell the roses. (Or at least I did.) As the world speeds-by, it seems that those who stop to appreciate how freakin’ fortunate we all are experience greater happiness. I’ll have to schedule that.

3. Engagement. Once again, the evidence frowns on multi-tasking. It seems that trying to focus on more than one thing at a time not only interferes with accuracy, quality, creativity, production and safety; it turns out that it robs us of our happiness as well.

Do this: Embrace the fact that it is not only what we do that matters, but how we do it.  Accept that your mind is a magnificent single-processor that blooms in the light of purposeful work; do something that allows you to express your natural virtues and engage in the splendor of the here and now.


Dr. Stephen Franson

Sunshine and Insulation

by drstephen

sunshine and insulation

When you build a house in New England, temperature management is a critical consideration.

The highs and lows of our seasonal temperature variations are some of the most impressive in the world.  You don’t build a house for severe winter and you don’t build a house for extreme summer – you build one that will perform well in both.

Two key considerations here: Insulation and Windows. Insulation will keep your hard-earned dollars from radiating out the roof in the winter, and well-placed windows will allow the heat of the sun to pour into your home from the Southern Skies.

This dynamic speaks to the art of raising a person as well– and not necessarily just a child, either.

People need insulation and sunshine. 

Insulation comes in many forms: intestinal fortitude, self-image, personal security, financial stability, emotional harmony, familial and social community, etc.

The same can be said of sunshine: praise, love, support, grace, honor, respect and acceptance, etc.

But often, sunshine comes in disguise. Sometimes you sense more heat than light. 

Responsibility is this type of sunshine.

I fear that all too often today leaders, teachers, and parents can be too focused on insulation, and miss the benefit of a little sunshine. We would do well to shift our focus from insulating our people in an effort to protect them. Rather than trying to keep them from struggling, we should trust our people to try and fail successfully – cope, rebound, and try again.

Plants grow toward sunshine. Innately, a plant will twist, turn, reach, and sprout toward sunlight. People, especially kids, are a lot like plants. Give them responsibility and let them have at it – they will grow to it.

Now go grow,

Dr. Stephen Franson

5 Biggest Lies in Weight Loss

by drstephen

In order to achieve the results that you want, you’ll have to change the way that you think.

One of the most commonly ‘Googled’ phrases of all time is “weight loss”.  There is arguably more information about weight-loss, dieting and exercise available on-line than any other health-related topic.  There is more money spent and more time invested by millions of people every day on the topic of weight loss and dieting than in any other time in history.  Yet obesity rates skyrocket and the resulting chronic diseases that it creates flourish.

Clearly, the problem is not lack of information – but rather lack of transformation.

Transformation can only take place with consistent new behaviors performed over time.  The key phrase here is “over time”.  Real positive change only happens when we start right strategies and stick to what we started. In order to stick to new behaviors, we have got to start with a new understanding.  These paradigm shifts are critical to lasting change – the driving force of better outcomes.

In order to slay the dragon of weight loss, you must start with the understanding that obesity is the result of Chronic Hormone Imbalance.

The body fat accumulated with obesity (called adiposity) is a symptom of Chronic Hormone Imbalance.

There is a symphony of hormonal interactions that biochemically control your metabolism and your resulting health and function.  The critical hormones at play here are Insulin, Glucagon and Cortisol. The interplay of these three factors largely control how you look, feel and function. Specifically, these hormones determine whether you are in Fat Storage Mode or Fat Burning Mode.

Mastery of these hormones is the path to achieving your Ideal Weight – for a lifetime.

There are as many beliefs that are absolute pit-falls for those that are trying to conquer obesity.  Here are the most egregious of them all:

1.      “Obesity runs in my family”

2.      “I will work it off at the gym”

3.      “If I eat Low-Fat foods, I’ll lose weight”

4.      “If I just eat less I’ll lose weight”

5.      “Sleep is a luxury and has nothing to do with my body weight”

If you believe what everyone believes, you will do what everyone else does.  If you do what everyone else does, you’ll get what everyone else gets: FAT.

For a compelling and complete overview of The Bonfire Health Wellness Weight-loss Solution watch the 15 Pounds Healthier in 15 Weeks Workshop.

  • You will learn how to conquer the habits that locking your body into Fat Storage Mode
  • You will gain an understanding of food choices that promote fat burning and muscle building
  • Learn the secrets to food timing that drive real body changes
  • Discover the causes of “belly fat” and finally lose your Stress Gut
  • Achieve your Ideal Weight and stop chronic disease in its tracks
  • Create the body that you’ve always wanted
  • Unlock the keys to looking good, feeling great and functioning better

Yesterday’s Weather

by drstephen

Recently I was helping my wife, Camilla, prepare a workshop entitled “Starting Well: Shape Your Children Today For Healthier Tomorrows.”  She asked me what I thought was the most important take-away message for the attendees.

I said “Yesterday’s Weather.”

Yesterday’s Weather is an expression that I learned from a behavioral expert who specializes in the field of software engineering. Social psychologists widely accept the position that the best predictor of tomorrow’s behavior is yesterday’s behavior.

As a New Englander, preparing for the brunt of yet another winter weather system, I can relate to the weather analogy. It turns out that despite all of the technology and gadgetry, meteorologists still consider better than 50% accuracy the Holy Grail – whereas if they simply said that tomorrow’s weather will be like yesterday’s, they’d be 72% accurate.

The most profound message for parents who are eager to give their children the best chance at better health and life outcomes is simply this: you create culture.

The culture of your home will shape your child’s choices…forever. Pick your battles.  Know the strategies that predict greater health, and insist on them. Be consistent and congruent.

Live these strategies out loud in front of your children. Embrace the most influential position that you will ever know: Role Model.

As I said once to a parent of five: you cannot possibly watch all of those kids all of the time. But they are always watching you.

Now go and create the future,

Dr. Stephen Franson

Do These Genes Make My Butt Look Big?

by drstephen

15 Pounds Healthier in 15 Weeks, Healthy Weight Loss

The belief that our genes determine our experience is arguably the most dangerous trend in modern thinking in regards to health.

It is easy to understand why this way of thinking is attractive and believable. Firstly, if our genes dictate the way that our body will look, feel, and function, we are immediately relieved of the enormous responsibility of lifestyle choice.

Simple question: in the before and after photos above, did Kendra’s genetic code change?

The answer is a resounding “no.”  Kendra’s genes did not change, but the way that her body looks, feels, and functions did – dramatically.

So ultimately, what changed? Her gene expression changed.

Your body, your thoughts, your health – your life – is dramatically altered by gene expression. Your genes determine your potential. Your lifestyle predicts your outcomes. The choices that you make every day regarding how you eat, how you move, and how you think will determine how your genes are expressed.

Everyone is handed a guitar – what they choose to play is up to them.

Go make beautiful music,

Dr. Stephen Franson

Choose Better Tomorrows Today

by drstephen

Quality of Life Trajectory

Quality of Life Trajectory

This graphic is highly flexible and could represent an infinite number of factors that are associated with QOL (Quality of Life): physical health, emotional well-being, financial security, happiness, and fulfillment…for the sake of this discussion, let’s keep it broad and general: Overall Quality of Life.

Not many people believe that the black line accurately represents the future quality of their life over time. This line’s trajectory would suggest that they would look, feel, and function at the same level throughout their later years as they do today – and then eventually expire.

The orange line represents the most common assumptions around QOL. This line implies a slow, steady decline over the decades, ending in a considerably poor state before your eventual demise.

In my clinical experience, I’ve met many who believe that the red line more accurately represents their expectations. Not very inspiring.

They believe that they are on a path that has been set – either by some genetic luck-of-the-draw or a penance for sins of the past. They also believe that they are doomed to a life that will be shorter and sicker than they wish; and there’s nothing that they can do about it.

The experts disagree.

As sited by Shawn Achor in The Happiness Advantage, it turns out that researchers have come to one hugely compelling conclusion: we should all be more optimistic.

Optimism by definition means that we recognize that our choices influence and predict our outcomes.

Want to experience the blue line? Make better choices.

Our behaviors will drive our experiences and shape our outcomes. Studies show that there is a consistent set of beliefs and behaviors that are common among these outliers. These behaviors are observable, definable, and – most importantly – reproducible.

If you want to be successful, do what successful people do.

Ultimately, this can lead to one very exciting conclusion: if I wish to be extraordinary, I should do what extraordinary people do.

The green line is illusive. It is hard to find, hard to walk, and harder still to stay on. But it’s there, waiting for you to enjoy.


Dr. Stephen Franson

Life Does Not Suck…It Pulls

by drstephen

Life Does Not pulls

Be careful how you define success. You will spend a lifetime chasing it.

I heard Pastor Bruce Boria make reference to a profound concept this past Sunday. He was commenting on the stress associated with lifestyle expenses relative to income. The discussion around cost of living keeping pace with – and often exceeding – earned income is not a new one. But what struck me was his use of the word “margin” in this context.

My friend Bill O’Brien once told me that it was a dire sin to hear a sermon in church and allow your mind to drift and shape the message into something “non-churchly.” I must confess – I am guilty.

I am hard-pressed to make it through a Sunday message without jotting down a note or two that might sprout into a blog post or workshop slide.

Margin: the space between cost and gain. That critical space. That often thin and barely recognizable air between what you must give and what you have. The space where our wants relentlessly press up against our means.  A space that we must guard and defend.

Life has a distinct pull. We can all feel it. Our roles, our jobs, our friends, kids, spouse, hobbies…they are all vying for the time, energy, and focus that we divide and deal out off the top of a new deck every day. These things cry out, some louder than others, like baby birds in our nest, hoping to get the meal dangling from our beaks.

Given this dynamic, balance is illusive, but a worthwhile pursuit. Harmony, however, is within arm’s reach at all times.

Why do you do what you do?

The honest answer will fall into one of four categories: Self, Service, Stuff, or Status.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed by the pull of this life, remember: check your margin.  This little space between cost and gain is where you’ll find Peace of Mind. The larger the area, the easier it is to find.