Insider Exclusive: First Things First

Insider Exclusive: First Things First

Start your day with the right mindset to keep stress at bay

Dr. Gary Schwantz

If you could encourage people to do just one thing to improve their day and relieve stress, what would it be?

Our days are most dramatically impacted by how we begin them. A friend of mine, Claude Dollins, shared his story with me years ago. It’s called “Saddlin’ Up Time” and describes how to begin the day. As you read, notice the words that might stand out to you.

My dad was a cowboy—we called him Rope. Like most young boys, I loved spending time with Rope. As I look back, I recall an experience that was most meaningful to me. My dad was an early riser. He was up most mornings before the sun, drinking coffee, getting ready for the day. On several occasions, I watched my dad during “saddling up” time—a scene that made a valuable impact on my life.

Some of the things I remember about my dad at saddling-up time in our barn:

  • He would very slowly walk up to his horse, speaking in a low, soft voice.
  • He would gently slip the bridle over the ears of the horse and allow the horse to take the bit. This was the first contact of the day and it was slow and gentle.
  • Carefully and patiently, he would brush the horse with even and gentle strokes, talking in a subdued voice to the animal as he moved from side to side.
  • With ease and little motion, he would gently slide the blanket on the back of the horse, always reassuring the animal.
  • Next, with one motion, he would place the saddle on the horse, walking around the horse to make certain all girths and cinches were in place.
  • The final step in this slow, deliberate and intentional process, was to take the reins and turn the horse 360 degrees to check one last time before mounting to be sure everything was ready and in place for the day’s work.
  • With precision, he would put his left foot in the stirrup and with one movement, with ease and grace, he would place his hand on the saddle horn and pull himself into the saddle.

A you read those words, did you notice some of the keys to beginning a day effectively? Words such as gentle, slowly, intentional. As the first hour of the day goes, so goes the day.

Effective saddling up encourages:

  • Shaping a daily routine
  • Being intentional
  • Taking your time
  • Paying attention
  • Focusing clearly
  • Forming positive habits
  • Practicing common sense
  • Enjoying experiences

Assess your morning routine. We typically rush into the day, but could you take a different approach? Wake up a little earlier? Turn off the news? When you get to work, ask your coworkers to give you 10 minutes to pull your day together, to look at your calendar, and see what’s coming up—a quiet time to focus on what’s important.

Dr. Gary Schwantz speaks and writes about savoring life. He was a speaker at ABA’s 2017 Annual Meeting & Marketplace. Gary can be contacted at

About the American Bus Association

The American Bus Association (ABA) is the trade organization of the intercity bus industry, with more than 1,000 motorcoach and tour company members in the United States and Canada. Its members operate charter, tour, regular route, airport express, special operations and contract services. Another 2,800 members are travel and tourism organizations and suppliers of bus products and services who work in partnership with the North American motorcoach industry.


Melanie Hinton, Vice President, Communications & Marketing, ABA
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