Someone cuts you off in your car, your blood boils, and you lay on the horn.
Your spouse makes a cutting remark, so you fire back with an insult of your own.
You look outside and it’s another cold and rainy day. Your body language slumps, your frown deepens, and you feel a somber weight hold you down.
Each of these examples provides a stimulus (something that happens to you) and a response (how you react to it). What most of us don’t understand is that there is a space between the two where we can actually decide our response. Many of us–myself included for a large part of my life–think that one follows the other with subconscious succession.
Responses to given stimuli are either actions or thoughts. Who’s responsible for your actions and thoughts? You and only you. With that in mind, you can’t blame your responses or your reactions to life on anyone or anything but yourself.
That ex of yours that drives you crazy.
That boss who is constantly talking down to you.
What do they all have in common? They are all different forms of stimuli around you. You get to choose how you respond to all of it. You can choose to be happy, you can choose to be pissed off. It’s all up to you.
How you respond to the world around you both in actions and in thoughts can be a conscious choice; you just need to harness that power. Simply being cognizant of the fact that you can choose how to react will provide enough awareness to take advantage. Most of us wander around responding without thinking, blaming our mood or something we did on a certain event or person.
Now before you start getting worked up by what I’ve written here (just another stimulus for you to respond to…), I want you to consider the man who is quoted in the image at the top of this post. Victor Frankl and his family lived through the Holocaust as a prisoner at Auschwitz and other concentration camps across the Nazi empire. His wife, mother, and brother all died during their time enprisoned.
Talk about one hell of a stimulus. Millions of people were lost in the Holocaust, some of Frankl’s closest family amongst them. Rather than allowing that experience to derail his life, he went on to pioneer the practice of logotherapy as a psychiatrist. Through his practice as a psychiatrist and his book Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl taught others how to find meaning in their darkest hours. He could’ve allowed the tragic events of the Holocaust to ruin what was left of his life, but instead, he chose to find meaning in his experience. He chose to help others rather than feel sorry for himself.
If he can do it, I don’t see why we can’t.
Take back control of the space between the stimulus and your response to it. Mind the gap and respond with intention.
Harness the power of choosing your reaction to life!
Until next time,