Second Arrow

Bob Eng |

Last week I sustained a fracture in my foot. As a result, I couldn’t do my morning workouts and jogs, or listen to audiobooks and podcasts during them. In other words, my morning routines were fractured too. 

For at least two days after the injury, I felt confused, unmotivated, and anxious. This emotional turmoil was worse than the injury that birthed it. 

Looking back, I’d lost an important part of my identity. I prided myself on a morning routine that included meditating, working out, jogging, and listening to books. Now that my ability to do those things was gone, so was part of the identity and narrative about myself that I’d constructed.  

You may know the story of the two arrows. In my case, the 1st arrow was the foot injury itself. Objective and observable with tangible consequences.  

The 2nd arrow of emotional angst was my mind’s response to the first. It was not only more painful than the first, it was my own mind’s doing! 

Proof that the 2nd arrow was my mind’s doing became evident soon enough. By the end of the week, the doctor and friends had convinced me to treat this episode as an opportunity. An opportunity to try new routines and workouts. Later at a church service, I joined in an upbeat song by singing, swaying, and clapping. Then and there, I became pumped about exploring new exercise and audiobook routines!  

As effortlessly as my mind had conjured doom and gloom, it brought forth anticipation and excitement. Man, what a healing. Not for my fracture, for my soul. 

As I write, these words come to mind:

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness. (author unknown)

First arrows happen. They’re out of our control and can inflict pain. An unfavorable medical lab result, unkind words from a boss, traffic. Thankfully, after a 1st arrow, there lies a space or opening when we are free to choose. That opening is a gift. Appreciate it, befriend it. If we can welcome this gift each time, we’ll learn to choose our responses and 2nd arrows wisely.